Hoboken’s Affordable Artist Colony

Times have certainly changed just west of Manhattan. An expensive retail and residential market has made the idea of an affordable Hoboken a thing of the past, yet the Monroe Center for the Arts has emerged as a reasonably priced solution for many local artists in search of studio space and visibility.

In 1990, the founders of the Monroe Center transformed the former Levelor Blinds factory into a reliable workspace for painters, photographers, performing artists, fashion and jewelry designers, potters and florists. Together, these artists cultivate their relationship with the community, offering a wide range of workshops and classes for children and adults who share their penchant for art. On select days, artists also allow the public to access their studios for free and get an intimate look at their work. View their calendar for more information on the year-round events.

One such event occurs on a quarterly basis, on the second Sunday of that month, when Open Studio Days are held, and guests are able to appreciate first hand the original craftsmanship of resident and visiting artists. Camille Cesari’s jewelry for example, abstract portraits by The New Yorker’s cartoonist Drew Dernavich, rustic pottery by Howard Viuker, or in depth sketches of angels by Ed Tadiello. Tours often cover over 20 resident artist studios, and meet just as many visiting artists. While visiting artists are limited to a smaller space, the sample of their art can be very compelling, like Heather Gargon’s children’s illustrations for adults, and Sona Yeghiazaryan’s impressionistic landscapes entitled “Stories of Color.”

While visiting artist David Huggins’ UFO paintings may evoke a dramatic scene from the X-Files, they also offer an insightful look into the artist’s psyche. Whether you accept his paintings as autobiographical or metaphorical, they clearly show how the impact of personal experience can affect our imagination.

Consider another perspective on how realism influences painting in resident artist Robert Policastro’s trajectory from realistic portraits of live models to imaginative tiger paintings. Policastro explains that artists need to learn basic drawing techniques: “Once you learn how to draw,” he says, “you can get into different mediums.” Yet the detail that made his experience as an artist most universal, was the way comic books had inspired him to pursue a career in fine arts. His first drawings were based on the Batman logo; he copied it repeatedly until he learned to master it.

How to get there: The Monroe Center of the Arts is located on Monroe Street between 7th and 8th Streets in Hoboken, adjacent to the Ninth Street/Congress Street Light Rail Station. Take the PATH train to Hoboken Terminal, then take the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail towards Tonnelle Ave Station, and get out at Ninth Street, which will be the second stop. (720 Monroe Street, Hoboken, NJ, 201.795.0663, monroecenter.com)