Home is Where You Hang Your Hat
In an increasingly dynamic world filled with over-consumption, starvation, debt, terror- ism, and a laundry list of other issues, art stands as a reminder that the communication and understanding of our surroundings through the objects we encounter defines our experiences and creates the reality we live in.”
I wrote this quote eight years ago for a Fuse Gallery press release. Fuse Gallery was an under-the-radar artists-run space in the East Village. Has a lot changed since then? Yes and no. I constantly overhear people talking about the “old” New York and how things are so different from before. I find this fascinating. What would New York City be if it didn’t change? I see change as an inevitable aspect of our society and culture; it happens everywhere. In 2010, I was invited to visit an “arts complex” in the Journal Square section of New Jersey called Mana. It was a half-renovated, turn-of-the-century factory building that housed a few artist studios and an electric bike rental operation. “What is this place?” I thought as I left, slightly puzzled as to what was going on there. In conversation, I told people about this “Kunsthalle” complex and many asked, “What do they do there?” I wasn’t quite sure myself, except I did see a glimpse of a new plan being mapped out.
Not surprisingly, space has become a valuable commodity in our urban environment. People are constantly dealing with where and how to make their visions come true. Lofts, galleries, alternative spaces, and artist studios have come to define a certain aspect of the New York experience. Old SoHo, West Chelsea, Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, Harlem—the list of cool places continues to expand regionally. Does New York constantly redefine its center, feeding off the ebb and flow of what is considered “new”? Can this perpetual redefinition of “the contemporary” be challenged?
In 2014, I was asked to be part of a new residency program at Mana. I returned to Jersey City and did not think I was visiting the same place. It was now a maze of creativity. Dozens of working studios, art storage facilities, a framing shop, traveling exhibition spaces, not to forget the master silkscreen printer and amazing casting foundry. It was a growing artist community defining itself by change. There was room to grow; nothing seemed permanent. Richard Meier moved in; other people came and left. Work was made; work was destroyed; work was shipped far and near. It seems that once it started, it kept going and going, like the iconic NYC taxicab, either stopping or passing you by.
SHELTER SERRA is a California native and studied studio art at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.