Arts and Culture in New Jersey
New Jersey's second-largest industry is tourism, generating about $36 billion annually in income. Cultural tourism comprises a large amount of the state's travel industry, with visitors attracted to the state's historical sites, visual arts institutions, and various entertainment venues. The state contains multiple orchestras, dance companies, and opera ensembles, and also is home to major concert halls, performance art complexes, and grand theaters that host touring companies. In addition, the Garden State has dedicated green spaces, parks, and open-air theaters that provide venues for hundreds of music and art festivals.
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts operates within New Jersey's Department of State, funding art organizations, cultural projects, and individual artists in New Jersey. Its generous grant program makes the council the largest single benefactor of the state's art and artists.
New Jersey has many classical ensembles. Under the artistic direction of Jacques Lacombe, Newark'sNew Jersey Symphony Orchestra performs in seven different venues statewide. Founded in 1921, the Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra is the state's oldest professional orchestra. Other classical groups include Bay Head's Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, Summit Symphony Orchestra, and the Garden State Philharmonic, which performs at Lakewood's Strand Theater. The New Jersey Chamber Singers specialize in choral work for small ensembles and performs throughout the Jersey Shore region.
New Jersey supports a surprising number of opera companies, though many have brief seasons. Princeton-based Opera New Jersey is the most prolific company, with a winter concert as well as a lively summer season that takes place at McCarter's Matthews Theatre. The more pop-oriented regional company New Jersey State Opera presents full-scale productions featuring internationally known guest artists. Trenton's Boheme Opera NJ offers opera mixed with a healthy dash of Broadway hits. The State Repertory Opera Company of New Jersey, founded in 1975, presents lesser known operas and reinterpretations of classics.
Princeton's American Repertory Ballet Company, a premier contemporary troupe, is the resident company of the New Brunswick Cultural Center. Union's Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company presents athletic, contemporary work. Ocean Grove's Jersey Shore Arts Center and the South Orange Performing Arts Center host appearances by dance troupes as well as other performance art groups. Other dance troupes include Livingston's New Jersey Ballet, the cross-cultural contemporary Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, the multicultural Umoja Dance Company, and the New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble.
New Jersey has a wide range of visual arts institutions, from major museum complexes in urban centers and university towns to community historical museums. The Newark Museum complex, the state's largest fine arts institution, contains 80 galleries dedicated to art and science. Notable exhibits include American painting, decorative arts, African culture, art of the Americas, art of the Pacific, classical painting, Asian art, and numismatics. The expansive grounds also feature a small zoo, planetarium, auditorium, a historic Victorian home, and a sculpture garden.
Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art in Newark draws upon contemporary visual and performing arts to inspire cross-cultural dialog. Temporary exhibits integrate emerging and established artists of diverse media. Trenton's New Jersey State Museum features four levels of galleries exhibiting and interpreting archeology, natural history, ethnology, cultural heritage, and fine art. Lawnside is the home of the Black Holocaust Museum of Slavery. The "Lest We Forget" collection and educational displays chronicle the African-American slave trade story and variety of experiences. In Tenafly, the African Art Museum of the S.M.A. Fathers has shows displaying the art and traditional handicrafts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick contains 50,000 artworks, with emphasis on Russian and Soviet art and French 19th-century art. Also in New Brunswick, the Museum of the American Hungarian Foundation exhibits Hungarian folk art, fine art, graphic art, photography, sculpture, and historical materials. Bridgeton's Woodruff Museum of Indian Artifacts showcases artifacts from the Leni Lenape Indians, including 25,000 arrowheads found in southern New Jersey. Iron stones on view date from 8,000 years ago. The museum founder, Howard Radcliffe, carefully reassembled the shards from 57 clay pots, which are now on display.
The Jersey City Museum collects contemporary American visual art in diverse media including painting, decorative art, sculpture, metal, textiles, maps, industrial design, photography, printmaking, drawing, and furniture. The Montclair Art Museum preserves American and Native American art, staging exhibits that reveal their interconnectedness. In addition, the institution shows modern and contemporary art. A 19th-century stone mill provides gallery space for Clinton's Hunterdon Art Museum. Established in 1952, this landmark regional art organization has deep holdings in drawings and fine prints.
Morris Museum in Morristown had humble beginnings as a curio cabinet of collectibles in the Morristown Neighborhood House. Its collection has grown to nearly 50,000 objects, making it among the state's largest museums. Collection highlights are European and American paintings from the 1700s through 1900s; contemporary prints, drawings, sculpture, and photographs; American quilts; and a doll and toy collection. Ethnographic and archaeological objects from Native American, African, Oceanic, Asian, North American, and South American cultures comprise the anthropological collection. Additional galleries feature natural science, geology, and paleontology exhibits.
In 1984, sculptor J. Seward Johnson (b. 1930) began planning a sculpture garden that would make the art form of contemporary sculpture more accessible. His Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton covers 35 acres (14 hectares) and showcases 240 objects by established and emerging sculptors from around the world. The displays carefully integrate the natural surroundings with the art installations.
Brookdale Community College in Lincroft holds the Monmouth Museum. Changing exhibitions highlight diverse media relevant to culture, history, and science. Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum began with a gift collection of porcelain and pottery. The premier university museum now contains over 70,000 artworks ranging from ancient cultures to contemporary art, representing regions and cultures from around the world from the ancient eras through the contemporary age. Millville'sMuseum of American Glass, the centerpiece of WheatonArts and Cultural Center, consists of 6,500 works of art glass in dazzling sunlit galleries. Objects span early American bottles and flasks to contemporary pieces.
New Jersey has produced some notable artists across musical genres. Some of the most famous examples in popular music are Hoboken-born legend Frank Sinatra, pop crooner Frankie Valli, R&B and adult contemporary singer Dionne Warwick, Motown group The Four Seasons, and rock bandBon Jovi.
Rock and roll became synonymous with New Jersey with the emergence of Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen rose from and helped evolve the "Jersey Shore sound," a rhythm-and-blues-based music with songs about underdogs and the blue collar worker's life. His heartland rock songs, infused with roots folk and blues, often described his New Jersey childhood, as well as the general economic depression of many of the state's once-industrial towns. Springsteen's 1985 single My Hometowndescribed the racial stratification and declining economy of his hometown of Freehold.
Among the other rock, pop, and R&B artists associated with New Jersey are The Fugees, Whitney Houston, George Clinton, and Kool and the Gang. Punk acts such as The Misfits and My Chemical Romance also hail from the Garden State.
New Jersey, particularly Newark, has seen buzzing activity among jazz musicians, including stride jazz artist James P. Johnson, swing and big band pianist Count Basie, Grammy Award-winning crossover jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bebop and Afro-Cuban trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and celebrated pop and jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan.
New Jersey has produced many hip-hop artists, most notably The Sugarhill Gang, whose 1979 singleRapper's Delight was the first rap song to be a Top 40 hit. The song paved the way for other New Jersey hip-hop musicians, among them Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, P.M. Dawn, K-Def, Faith Evans, Treach, Jus Allah, Lords of the Underground, Poor Righteous Teachers, and Tony D.
THEATER AND PERFORMING ARTS
Major theaters and concert halls in New Jersey host touring theater productions, dance troupes, and solo artists. Newark's Prudential Hall (in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center), Homdel's PNC Bank Arts Center, Rutherford's William Carlos Williams Center for the Performing Arts, Camden'sSusquehanna Bank Center, and Atlantic City's 11 resorts present visiting entertainers, revues, and plays.
Madison's Playwrights Theatre, founded in 1986, has a unique model of nurturing emerging playwrights through workshops, guiding their work to formal production. Hackettstown's Centenary Stage Company is Centenary College's professional actor's equity theater, presenting classic dramas during the academic year. Bloomfield's 4th Wall Theatre presents cutting-edge contemporary work. Madison's Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, one of the state's 25 professional theaters, produces Shakespeare dramas and comedies as well as other works in the classical canon. And accessible, relevant productions are staged at the Summit Playhouse, New Jersey's oldest community theater.
Among the many other New Jersey theater groups and venues are New Brunswick's George Street Playhouse, West Caldwell's Park Players, Montville's Barn Theatre, Cape May Stage, Atlantic Highlands' First Avenue Playhouse, South Orange's Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre, Teaneck'sGarage Theatre Group, West Orange's culturally diverse Luna Stage Company, Long Branch's New Jersey Repertory Company, Millburn's Paper Mill Playhouse, Long Beach Island's Surflight Theater, and Williamstown's Road Company.
Screenwriter, director, author, comedian, and actor Kevin Smith (b. 1970) was born in New Jersey and sets many of his movies there. His first film, Clerks (1994), centers on clerks at a convenience and video store in the town of Leonardo. Follow-up films set in New Jersey include Mallrats (1995),Chasing Amy (1997), the religious-themed Dogma (1999), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001),Jersey Girl (2004), and Clerks II (2006).
The title of the drama Garden State (2004) alludes to New Jersey's nickname as well as to the line from "The Garden," a poem by Andrew Marvell: "Such was that happy garden-state/While man there walked without a mate." The film, directed by and starring South Orange native Zach Braff, concerns a young actor who returns to small town New Jersey after the death of his mother.
Other films set in or filmed in New Jersey include the surreal cult comedy The Adventures of Buckaoo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), late French director Louis Malle's crime drama Atlantic City (1980), Jim Jarmusch's comedy-drama Broken Flowers (2005), drama Cop Land (1997), buddy comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), Robin "Hurricane" Carter biopic The Hurricane(1999), bleak drama The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), inspirational drama Lean on Me (1989), thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), coming-of-age comedy Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist(2008), Independent Spirit Award–winning comedy-drama The Station Agent (2003), the Steven Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds (2005), black comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), mobster comedy Wise Guys (1986), and the gritty drama The Wrestler (2008).
New Jersey's most notable figures involved in film include James Avery, Joan Bennett, Tom Cruise,Lou Costello, Danny DeVito, Jerry Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci, Brooke Shields, Kevin Spacey, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and John Travolta.
The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, based in New Brunswick, sponsors the annual New Jersey Film Festival. The festival screens independent video and film as well as hosting premieres of award-winning films and appearances by filmmakers.
Camden is home to the Walt Whitman House, a wood-frame Greek Revival home in which Whitman (1819–1892) wrote Leaves of Grass, his epic collection of poetry. New Jersey native Amiri Baraka (b. 1934) has written more than 40 books in diverse genres, including poems, essays, plays, criticism, and music history. He gained renown for his revolutionary politics and poetry readings, reflecting the influence of the Greenwich Village beatnik scene and, later, the black nationalist movement.
Other writers who were born in or who worked in New Jersey include cartoonist Charles Addams(1912–1988), children's novelist Judy Blume (b. 1938), innovative fiction writer Stephen Crane(1871–1900), beat poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), double Pulitzer Prize–winning narrative nonfiction and fiction writer Norman Mailer (1923–2007), writer and critic Dorothy Parker(1893–1967), award-winning novelist Philip Milton Roth (b. 1933), journalist and novelist Albert Payson Terhune (1872–1942), modernist poet William Carlos Williams (1883–1963), and criticEdmund Wilson (1895–1972).
Many artists claim New Jersey as their birthplace or a location in which they taught at art schools or furthered their careers. America's first recognized sculptor, Bordentown-born Patience Lovell Wright(1725–1786), crafted wax models as a child. Over the years, she honed her craft and grew to sculpt famous public figures. John Frazee (1790–1852) was the first Native American artist to work in marble sculpture. He worked as a tombstone cutter and gradually taught himself the craft of stone sculpture.
Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886) was part of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, making the then-radical move of leaving the studio and working in the open air. He spent summers traveling to the Adirondack, White, and Catskill mountains, sketching landscapes that he brought back to the studio to study for his oil paintings. Later landscape painters associated with New Jersey include George Inness (1825–1894) and John Marin (1870–1953).
Famed photographers Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) and Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) were both born in Hoboken.
Sites such as Revolutionary War battlefields, grand estates, century-old villages, and architectural gems abound in New Jersey. In the town of Ho-Ho-Kus, the Hermitage is a National Historic Landmark. The Gothic Revival site, remodeled in 1848, hosted Washington during the Revolutionary War. The home features displays of textiles, historic fashion, furniture, decorative art, Victorian era household items, and antique toys.
Cape May's Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts operates the Victorian Emlen Physick Estate. The house museum demonstrates the late 19th-century aesthetic of personalized architecture favored in the Victorian and Arts and Crafts design movements.
Parsippany's Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms stands on a 30-acre (12-hectare) estate. The 1911 house belonged to 20th-century architect and furniture maker Gustav Stickley (1858–1942), who formed a pivotal part of the American Craftsman movement. Charles Smith Olden (1799–1876) began building Drumthwacket in Princeton Township in 1835. The Greek Revival structure, which serves as the official residence of the state governor, has a large portico and six Ionic columns.
The Newark Museum complex holds the Victorian-style Ballantine House, an 1885 mansion with 27 rooms. Two floors of the historic home contain a suite of galleries showcasing everyday household objects from 1650 to present day. Pateron's Garret Mountain holds Lambert Castle. The 1892 structure was designed like an English castle, with interior spaces in the style of America's Gilded Age. Union's Liberty Hall was built in 1772 for New Jersey's first governor. It was a colonial plantation through the 1900s, and then an Italianate country home. Fifty period rooms display American furniture, art, textiles, ceramics, books, portraits, and ephemera.
HANDICRAFT AND FOLK ART
Folk culture and handicrafts in New Jersey reflect its diverse populace through the ages. Madison'sMuseum of Early Trades and Crafts stands in a 1900 Richardsonian-Romanesque Revival structure. Galleries exhibit hand tools and objects showcasing New Jersey's cultural heritage. Oceanville's Noyes Museum of Art exhibits American folk art such as vintage bird decoys, art glass, and clay objects.
East Jersey Olde Town Village celebrates the folk art traditions of New Jersey's multicultural population with workshops, lectures, concerts, storytelling events, and other projects. Recent programming includes Puerto Rican jibaro music, West Indian steel drum music, Bhangra dancing, Polish paper-cutting, Hungarian embroidery, Chinese knot-tying, African-American quilt study, Mexican folk dancing, and Andean music.
HISTORIC ART MOVEMENTS
Although primarily associated with New York, the Ashcan School of realistic painting also had its proponents in New Jersey. The early 20th-century art movement had artists shifting their attention from romanticized subject matter to scenes in poor urban neighborhoods. New Jersey artists such as Everett Shinn (1876–1953) and Robert Henri (1865–1929) rejected formal subject matter in favor of creating snapshots of daily life.
Several New York and New Jersey artists identified with the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Romantic depictions of the Hudson River Valley region inspired the name of the art movement, thought the notable paintings also included images of the region's mountain ranges.
-World Trade Press