By Sally Deering
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Art House Productions grew from a post-9/11 open mic night on the top floor of a church, to a respected company of artists performing, exhibiting, teaching and building a creative presence in Jersey City. As Founder and Executive Director of Art House Productions, Christine Goodman oversees INKubator, a play-development program; STAGES, a youth theater program; .JC FRIDAYS, a quarterly arts event held in 50 venues throughout Jersey City; Snow Ball, the non-profit’s annual fundraiser and “THE ART HOUSE TV SHOW” featuring performances by poets, musicians, comedians and performance artists that airs weekly on Jersey City Comcast Channel 51. Goodman’s efforts have been so successful the City of Jersey City gave her the Key to the City in 2007.
Art House Productions began its 13th season this past September and its fall JC Fridays event was just held the first week of December. These days, Goodman is busy getting LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, put on by Art House Productions’ youth company ready for opening night while she plans the upcoming fundraiser Snow Ball to be held January 25th. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with Riverview Observer about her role as Executive Director of Art House Productions and the many projects she and her staff oversees.
RVO: Can you tell our readers how Art House Productions came about?
CG: I founded it 2001in response to ‘9/11’. I wanted to have an event that brought people in Jersey City together that were artistic, I had no idea where to find them, so I held an ‘open mic’ in late September 2001 and that was the first event. In January 2002, we launched our monthly open mic series at Victory Hall, connecting with writers and poets like Reg E. Gaines. (Reg E. Gaines, a Jersey City resident, wrote the libretto and lyrics for the Broadway musical BRING IN DA NOISE; BRING IN DA FUNK.) And in 2007 we moved into our space on Hamilton Park. It started with an open mic and a handful of people; now we have things happening year round and we serve over 16,000 people a year through our programs.
RVO: What is JC Fridays?
CG: JC Fridays is a city-wide arts festival that features artists in all artistic disciplines in venues across Jersey City. It happens four times a year – March, June, September and December – at the start of every season and it encourages local spending and is a wonderful catalyst for neighborhoods to pull together multiple venues as destinations for audiences to come out and explore their neighborhood. It builds participation in the arts city-wide, connects people within neighborhoods and supports local business. For us it was a natural fit. We come from an inter-disciplinary background, so to connect visual artists, galleries, theaters and restaurants, and bring people together that way, is at the core of what we do. It’s been exciting to see the festival expand over the years, from 15 venues to 50.
RV: What is the annual Snow Ball?
CG: That’s our big fundraiser and it helps us raise a large portion of our operating budget for the year. (The next Snow Ball is Jan. 25, 2014.) It’s an important event and a really fun one. What makes it such an experience is that it’s a celebration of the artistic spirit while raising funds and its ‘black tie-creative’. People come in costumes, vintage, their old wedding dress or what they wore to prom if they can still fit into it. We’ll have live Bossa Nova music by the Jersey City-based group “Vespertine” and multiple restaurants will be serving food, wine, beer and dessert. It’s an all-inclusive ticket ($80) and when tickets go on sale in mid-December they can be purchased by going to the website: www.arthouseproductions.org.
RVO: How big is Art House Productions’ staff?
CG: We have an amazing technical director and lightning designer Lance Michel, and our production coordinator Shimeon Nandlal. That’s really the core team that brings our in-house projects to life.
RVO: Is your space at One McWilliams Place a permanent or temporary home?
CG: Where we are now has always been a temporary facility. We’re committed to being a part of Jersey City’s cultural scene for the foreseeable future and would love to find a permanent home. We’re a very active organization and there’s a lot of need for our organization to find adequate space. As we know, across the city there’s a lack of space generally for the arts to present programs on a city-wide level.
RVO: What are you working on now?
CG: On Dec. 12th we open LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. We have 32 youths in our STAGES company, a semester-long program for 4th to 12th graders that meets after school twice a week and puts on two musicals a year. We also just produced an international modern dance festival with 21 companies from across the country and across the world. It was amazing.
RVO: How can an artist get involved with Art House Productions?
CG: We recommend they join our email list. When we do group shows, we have calls for art. For our plays, we hold auditions and those can be found in the trades like “Backstage” or our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/njarthouse.
For more info, go to: www.arthouseproductions.org.