The art world in Manhattan and Jersey City is very different. Often compared yet rarely merged, art in these cities is vastly different in terms of buyers, sellers, and artists alike. While in Manhattan you may come across well-known artists of the past century such as Mr. Brainwash or Banksy, in Jersey City you will probably come across artists who are lesser-known, as well as lesser-paid.
For resident artist at JCTC Merseles Studios, Lucy Rovetto, Jersey City is not just Manhattan’s pit stop across the river; it is her home. Raised in Greenville, a small community located in the southernmost part of Jersey City, Rovetto always pictured herself as an artist, even when it seemed she needed to take a break from the scene altogether.
“My upbringing was very strict Christian and my mom thought that art was the devil, so she wasn’t behind me even going to school for art. But I always did it. I always doodled on my walls. My parents were supportive, but they were also patiently waiting for me to realize that art wasn’t the way to go. After awhile, I think they saw that I wasn’t going to get it out of my system,” says Rovetto.
During her time pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts at New Jersey City University, Lucy was selected to work as an intern for what had just become the Jersey City Museum, located on the fourth floor of the local library.
“So for six months while I was in school I worked in permanent collections where they taught me how to change and organize shows,” says Lucy. Upon graduating from NJCU, she stayed true to herself by not following the crowd, when all of her friends decided to dive straight into graduate schooling. Instead, Lucy stayed at the museum to work.
“When I graduated they kept me as a freelance art handler. I got to understand that aspect of the art process. It became a freelance job, and then they hired me as a photographer for their newsletter. But, then I got tired. I didn’t feel like I belonged. So I left.”
The term ‘leaving’ wasn’t just a decision to leave the museum and get a new job. Lucy wanted a change, even if it meant leaving the art scene she loved so dearly. So, she decided to travel. For about ten years, Lucy spent time in South Africa, on and off, where she was able to experience life outside of Jersey City.
“I met a sculptor while there (South Africa) and started working with him. I never got my legal permits to work there, so I would stay for six months, come back, and stay on a visitor permit,” says Rovetto. “The longest I ever stayed in one shot was probably a year. The I would come back and work in a restaurant. I always wanted to travel.”
By leaving her home and visiting a foreign place, Lucy realized that the decision to pursue art in her youth would undoubtedly remaining a part of her present, as well as her future. When Lucy came back to Jersey City, she noticed the growing art scene that reminded her so much of what it was like before she left.
“Everyone is comparing Jersey City to Manhattan or Brooklyn now. A lot of people have hopped across from the city and are now living at the Jersey City Waterfront. They’re not looking here in this direction to buy art, you know? I think they will eventually, but they’re still going into the city, because that’s where the money is, and that is the real difference between New Jersey and New York,” says Rovetto.
“I don’t know if this is just me, because I’ve traveled, but I feel like I’m a woman of the world; not just of New Jersey or New York. I want to show here and all over the world. If I could show in New York, that would be cool. But imagine showing all over the world! That would be great! Jersey City also brings that out of you, because of the diversity.”
Lucy also just came back from what she called a ‘simply amazing’ trip in Colombia because of the rich culture. She feels that without her time spent abroad, she wouldn’t have been able to appreciate her home of Greenville like she does now.
“There’s something about leaving and then coming back that makes your experience as a human being richer, Rovetto says. “You have to learn the rules so you can break them better.”
Photo Credit: Yasleen Trinidad