Home LifestyleCareer All About Mana Contemporary Art Facility in Jersey City

All About Mana Contemporary Art Facility in Jersey City

by Sarah Griesbach
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Mana Fine Arts in Jersey City is a two million-square-foot arts facility with a portfolio of services that includes art collection management, climate-controlled storage, crating, framing, shipping, conservation, and restoration. For the artists and art organizations renting light-soaked studio spaces amongst their mentors, peers, and protégés, Mana Contemporary is home. Read on to learn about this exceptional art complex near Journal Square + and some of the artists there.

mana

From Storage Facility to Museum + Work Space

Entering Mana Contemporary, visitors have the opportunity to soak in the radiant glow of the Dan Flavin: cornered fluorescent light gallery installation. If you were to walk further through the first-floor galleries, four large-scale sculptural works by John Chamberlain would immediately grab your attention. Iconic artworks by such high-profile artists, many exhibited by the Ayn Foundation, place the public-facing spaces of Mana in a class of respected museums.

fluorescent light

Mana tenants enjoy the excitement of their professional proximity to art world celebrities like Amy Sherald, who was made world famous by her 2018 portrait of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery. Andy Warhol silkscreen installations and film events pepper the Mana calendar. Master printer Gary Lichtenstein’s Mana studio Gary Lichtenstein Editions represents big-name artists — some of whom, like Vincent Valdez, have exhibited exciting new work on Mana’s massive white walls.

Read More: elevator: Jersey City Art Studios for Local Creatives

Location, Location, Location

The Mana complex is centered around what was once a tobacco processing factory. Moving company mogul Moishe Mana and artist Yigal Ozer opened it up as an art center in May 2011. The spaces were rough to start with but plans for what would be included were ambitious from the beginning. It’s easily accessible by the PATH train at the Journal Square station and nestled into the end of Jersey City’s Little India, providing excellent restaurant and grocery choices just steps from the facility.

mana contemporary

Mana studio spaces do not come cheaply. The rents are not subsidized. This isn’t a nonprofit organization, it’s a business that feels like a campus. Though Mana is a tax-paying, for-profit venture, some tenants are 504c3s. Groups like the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation and the Morina Foundation have long provided opportunities through residency programs, financial support, educational programs, and invitational exhibitions.

kaminsky foundation

While Mana is not designated as a public charity, it serves many important public services. Its future viability may be its most important promise. Unlike burgeoning arts districts in many fast-developing urban areas, Mana’s large complex of buildings are unlikely to move through an era of arts focus to become something else. That common fate often results in artists losing their spaces as they themselves make the real estate more valuable before finding it unaffordable. At Mana, rents may increase, but the long-term dedication of the space to the arts should be dependable.

Opportunities Abound

Every year, the Kaminsky Foundation provides around 50 artists free studio space and financial assistance to set up shop at Mana. Cheryl Gross was a four-time resident before using an art grant to become a Mana tenant in her own right. She values all of what comes with her rent, “Being grounded here is very beneficial because you are in a community of artists, a lot of them are well-known, some just getting started. I have fortuitous meetings just walking the halls.”

“Punk ballerina” choreographer Karole Armitage’s contemporary ballet company Armitage Gone! Dance is a permanent resident at Mana. Sculptor Ben Keating’s on-site metal-casting facility works with anyone with an idea to cast just about any object in bronze. The International Center of Photography maintains an extension of ICP’s operation in Manhattan which allows visitors to their Mana location to access the center’s impressive collection of daguerreotypes, gelatin silver and digital chromogenic prints, and documentary photography. Fashion designers, jewelry makers, filmmakers, graphic designers, sculptors, painters, photographers, printmakers, and architectural model makers — the creatives who have taken residency at Mana form a very impressive lineup.

Structural Support

It’s easy for artists to engage with outside regional arts organizations — like Art House Productions, Pro Arts, JCast, and Art Fair 14C — when the team running Mana is as closely connected to those programs as Kristin DeAngelis. Artist Osmeli Delgado identifies the leadership trinity of Kele McComsey, Kristin DeAngelis, and Angel Herrera as critical to the excellent experience she has had as a Mana studio tenant.

Eleven years ago, Osmeli left her architectural career in Venezuela to come to New York City to study art. She’s moved around the area a few times since then, but Mana has become a constant she can count on. Perks like parking availability, freight elevators, and loading docks are no small thing for her, but the biggest benefit of keeping a studio space at Mana is the human connection. When Mana Artist Geraldine Neuwirth sought a group of women artists to bring together in the Language of Color exhibition she curated for Mana last winter, Osmeli received much more from the experience than she could have guessed she might. Her friendship with the more experienced Geraldine, whose studio is just one floor up from Osmeli’s, is a treasure to her.

osmeli geraldine

^ Osmeli Delgado + Geraldine Neuwirth together at the Language of Color exhibition

Artist Allison Green moved into her Mana studio space in 2018. Allison uses plant life cycles as her visual language in her lush paintings and turned to the same metaphorical framework when describing her time at Mana. She sees Mana as rich soil for planting her practice and finds nutrients everywhere she looks — from the challenge of presenting her work in the midst of other artists she esteems to working on large-scale canvases that she could never have fit in her former studio spaces or shipped off to exhibit.

allison green

allison green studio

Jersey City Home Sweet Home

Not every Jersey-side-of-the-Hudson artist will claim their precise home location on their artist’s bio. Keep a studio or find gallery representation in NYC, and that distinguished geographic claim is a fair one. There is, however, a growing cache in identifying as a Jersey City artist. Cheryl Gross finds that there are opportunities that come from becoming a bigger fish in the medium-sized pond that is the Jersey City visual art scene. “Every art market is a tough one to crack,” Cheryl observes “but, if you’re good and you’re consistent, exhibitions that lead to sales are attainable here locally.”

See More: A Look Inside the Montclair Art Museum + Everything It Has to Offer

Artist Iris Kufert-Rivo can’t imagine any place better for her to center her art practice right now. She has observed growth in the Jersey City art scene and notes recognition of the city’s increasingly important role in introducing artists to the world. She describes her shared studio space as luxurious and, like so many others Mana tenants, most values the fruitful collaborations and connections she has found there.

mana contemporary

The staff at Mana have organic connections to their sister facilities in Chicago and Miami and participate in each Art Basel Miami Beach. The central role that Mana plays in so many things is certainly part of the draw that has brought a promise and a plan for a new Jersey City Pompidou. The premier Parisian art institution already has three outposts outside of France, but the Jersey City satellite facility will be its first American exhibition space. This choice for expansion can be tied to both the easy PATH ride to Manhattan and the proximity to Mana Contemporary.

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