• Why Mana Contemporary {Jersey City} Is the Coolest Place Ever

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    When you enter or even walk up to the Mana Contemporary building, it’s pretty impressive-yet-daunting being nearly 2 million square feet in size at time of completion. From outside, it appears to be nothing but an old factory or warehouse {which is what I proceeded to tell my Uber driver when I was sure she had the wrong address as we pulled up}. Nope — it just turns out that I was totally in the dark about where and what I thought the Mana Contemporary was [888 Newark Ave, Jersey City — art center extraordinaire]. But I digress.

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    Last week, we were lucky enough to attend the James Beard Foundation’s “JBF Greens: An Evening at Mana Contemporary” at the Mana Contemporary building — and it was that fun, we had to share all about it. To give you some background, Mana Contemporary is an insanely large art center that was formerly a tobacco warehouse in Jersey City, and it is now a place that artists can exhibit their work as well other fun creative showcases from the community. The night we attended was in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation’s JBF Greens  — dedicated to showcasing various foods and delicacies local to the area {to foodies under 40}. So being under 40 and really into food + wine, here’s how it all went down.

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    Upon arriving, you’re greeted by a wall of exhibits [INCLUDING but not limited to Marilyn Monroe’s exhibit which contains one of her dresses!] — and on this special occasion, rows of wine glasses for all attendees. So you grab your wine glass, get a map, and voila! It’s time to start tasting. This DiGiovanna wine was TDF, fyi.

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    ^Labels for your glass, so simple yet genius!

    The event was a walk-around tasting curated by JBF Greens and Mana Wine at Mana Contemporary, so we had some freedom to roam some of the exhibits. Everyone with a ticket got to enjoy art on the five levels of the building + a variety of wine tastings and plates from top New Jersey restaurants {Kitchen Step, Choc-o-Pain, Ani Ramen, and the newest Chef Pino restaurant — Porter Collins just to name a few}. So we basically got to enjoy food from these restaurants and wine tastings on every floor while perusing the art on each level. It was SO cool.

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    ^A peek into the varied exhibits

    With a map in hand, we were able to taste wines all along the way as well as get guided tours of select galleries.

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    That’s just one stop of about ten. Not kidding.

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    Choc-o-Pain treats between tastings, goes perfectly with some white wine, obv.

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    Vino, vino everywhere. Really enjoyed talking to the guys from Cool Vines — definitely check them out in JC!

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    Back to the food. This Ani Ramen pork bun made this sometimes-Vegan eater never want to look back at vegetables. Holy yum. FYI, Ani Ramen is super popular in Montclair, but it is opening a second location in downtown JC.

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    Porter Collins {run by Chef Pino, which is coming to uptown Hoboken this January} was there, dishing out some rabbit bolognese — again making me totally shy away from wanting to eat vegan, even if just for a few minutes. Soooo good. Can’t wait for them to open!

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    More wine. This time lambrusco. DELISH [it’s bubbly red from Italy if you’ve never tried!].

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    ^Rice balls from the Ryland Inn. Yum.

    Although this was a special night filled with art and food, visitors normally receive unparalleled access to all projects occurring inside Mana, and you get to experience a range of art-making techniques and presentations first-hand depending on the evening. A total hub of creativity, Mana really feels authentic, non-pretentious, and real in the realm of showcasing contemporary art — which is super cool, especially in a world filled with art equaling pretentiousness, right across the river.

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    Case in point: do you know any other art galleries that allow you to sit and drink wine inside of their exhibit?! Didn’t think so.

    From their website:

    Founded in 2011, Mana Contemporary is one of the largest and most innovative contemporary art organizations in the United States. Through its integrated architectural design, Mana offers exceptional services, spaces, and programming for the greater creative community. Its rapidly expanding flagship location in Jersey City originally built in 1890, will eventually encompass a footprint of more than two million square feet.

    Cray cray. And we are lucky enough to be witnessing it. Can’t wait to see the next rounds of exhibits.

    Have you been to Mana Contemporary? What did you think?


    Written by:

    Jen is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hoboken Girl. She started the site to discover and share the wealth of things happening in Hudson County. Her roots in the area extend to her maternal grandparents, who owned two textile factories in Weehawken and North Bergen. When not planning the next Hoboken Girl event/volunteer project or editing her life away, she can usually be found shopping at local boutiques, eating an Insta-worthy meal, walking her French bulldog + rescue pup, or watching the latest murder doc on Netflix with her husband.


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