We continue our series of interviews with the people in New Jersey that make great entertainment happen. Thank you to Executive Director, Meredith Burns of Art House Productions in Jersey City who let us know how the company's is dealing with the current times and about their upcoming plans.
Burns began her career as an actor working off-broadway and regionally at theaters such as Pregones Theater/PRTT, The New Ohio, The Shakespeare Theater of DC, and Sierra Repertory. She is a founding member of Glass Bandits Theater Company, a not-for-profit organization based in Brooklyn, and from 2010-2014 served as the company's Managing Director. From 2014-2017, Meredith built and directed a comprehensive arts and literacy-based after school program at New Voices Middle School in Brooklyn serving upwards of 200 children daily. In 2017, Meredith took the helm of Art House Productions and in 2019 she received the NJCU Leadership Award for her contributions to the Arts in Jersey City. She graduated with her BFA in Acting from SUNY Purchase and is a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. She currently performs sketch comedy on Magnet Theater's long-running house team, The Executives and enjoys spending time with her dog, Maddie, and husband, Mike.
You have an extensive background in the performing arts. How has all of your experience assisted you as the Executive Director of Art House Productions?
I'm an artist first and a businessperson second. I see everything through that perspective and try and use as much creativity and humanity as possible when solving business problems. I believe all of my varied professional and personal experience has helped prepare me to work as the ED of Art House. Specifically though, I have to do a lot of public speaking in my job and in all honesty, I don't particularly love that part. I feel fortunate to have learned many public speaking skills in the acting program at SUNY Purchase that I can call upon. Shout out to Leigh Dillon, Craig Bacon, and my (still to this day) Alexander teacher, Gwen Ellison, for the voice and speech training!
In the past few years, Art House has doubled our staff and nearly doubled programming and our annual operating budget. We're expanding our reach in NJ and NYC and we're working towards the move to our permanent space at 184 Morgan Street in Jersey City (behind the Grove Street PATH) which will happen in late 2021 or early 2022. That said, our roots in the Jersey City community are firmly planted and we are here to serve and collaborate with the diverse group of artists and audiences who live in Jersey City and Hudson County.
What have been some of the most memorable performances during your time as Executive Director?
In the three years I've been at the helm, I've been privileged to see so many wonderful performances and exhibitions, but the most memorable to me at this very moment are Art House's production of Sara Farrington's play Leisure, Lust, all three or the Your Move Modern Dance Festivals that we produced at The Landmark Loews Theatre, the night Gilbert Gottfried headlined our first annual comedy festival, Anita Hollander's one-woman show, Still Standing, and Trix Rosen's photography exhibition on disability and gender in our gallery.
Great! I'd love to tell you about them!
Courtney Little came on board in September as our Producing Director. She's Art House's second full-time employee ever and is involved in nearly every aspect of the organization! She's streamlined our operations, and has brought her marketing know-how to help build sustainable strategies. She's also recently taken over the management of our long-running program, www.jcfridays.com.
Andrea McKenna is our Gallery Director. She is deeply entrenched and well-respected in the Jersey City visual arts community and has built up the visual arts program at Art House to a remarkable level. She's helped spearhead access in the visual arts at Art House by building connections and providing opportunities to artists and students with disabilities.
Miranda Dahl is our Theater Manager and also the co-producer of the Your Move Modern Dance Festival. She is a dancer, visual artist, and production coordinator with a ton of technical know-how.
Lisa Burgos rounds out the team as our Marketing and Admin Associate. She's an actor and singer and interested in learning more about the business side of the arts. She's helped us a great deal in our operations.
Tell us how Art House Productions has adapted to these trying times during the outbreak of Covid-19.
Art House was founded by Christine Goodman after 9/11 as a way to connect and heal the Jersey City community through the arts. We're now dealing with a different threat but similar anxieties and uncertainties, compounded by the fact that we can't meet up in person. Art House is adapting to these new parameters and bringing programming online with the intention to continue our mission and hold true to our values. We will inspire, engage, and entertain as best we can in the digital space, while providing support and space for artists. So far, we're kind of kicking ass in the digital space. Sorry (not sorry) for not being more humble about that, but I'm proud that our Virtual Story Slam in partnership with No Dominion Theater Company is providing much needed human connection, and our Virtual Drag Bingo is giving folks the opportunity to connect online with a large group, see faces, laugh, play, and experience some virtual performance art. This Saturday, April 4th we're adding interactive Stand-Up Comedy which will continue for the month of April and perhaps longer. Nothing will ever take the place of live performance (which is why I'm confident the performing arts will survive this), but Art House's motto is "Home is Where the Art is" and right now the arts are online, so that's where we are.
What are some of your future plans?
The future is a bit uncertain because of what's happening, but we will be eager to announce our 2020-2021 season when the time is right. We're still on track to move into our permanent home in approximately two year's time which will hopefully open up more opportunities for us programmatically as we'll be steps from the PATH train.
What else would you like Broadwayworld NJ readers to know?
Stay healthy! Stay inside! Stay Strong! We can do this. Lean on Art House to help inspire you during this time!
Art House Productions is located at 262 17th Street Jersey City, NJ 07310 on the first floor of the Cast Iron Lofts building. Get in touch with Art House Productions. Visit their web site at https://www.arthouseproductions.org/, Call them at (201) 918 6019 and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To sign up for Art House's mailing list, please click here: http://bit.ly/398W33P.