Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creative Grove Ends Year


The weather turns increasingly frigid with each passing second. The holidays are winding down; a new year begins in a few days and the forecast is for snow tomorrow.

But as it does for most Friday afternoon-into- evenings,Creative Grove rolls on. Due to the freezing temperatures and the fact Christmas was just a few days ago and the peak of the shopping season so obviously done, the vendor presence was lite. Few commuters lingered in the chill on their way home from the PATH for the New Years holiday weekend.
The Creative Groves before Christmas can be packed, but on this the final Friday in December, traditionally the last Creative Grove of the year, attendance is lite. An ongoing, consecutive Friday art event to achieve collective goal – a space where community coalesces – requires consistency, but that also means while some Creative Groves are packed with shoppers and vendors and abundant energy, other Fridays are scarcely attended and the vibe is muted.

The last outdoor event at the Grove PATH Plaza of the year was the Last Creative Grove of the year. The motley, free-form and Technicolor flea market that fills our Fridays with new life goes into Hibernation until spring.

Seems like only yesterday, the first Summer-like Friday ofthe year, Creative Grove was packed with tables and customers, drum circles, children and hula hoops. Time flies, another year concludes and one way to mark the time in Jersey City is the weekly Creative Grove.

Like the Farmers Market and Groove on Grove, Creative Grove is a multi-generational, multi-ethnic and somewhat low-key gathering point where community is visibly manifested.

Creative Grove lasts for more months of the year than other outdoor local events. It braves harsher weather conditions. But more so than any consecutive or even one-time J.C. event, indoor or out, at the end of the day when the final account is tallied, Creative Groves gives a wider variety and number of artists, designers, crafts makers and other DIY types an opportunity for commerce.

There’s always a DJ, occasional live music and vendors selling art, crafts and food. The now nearly ubiquitous food trucks are parked on the periphery. Activities for children are almost always part of the weekly event. Creative Grove has a home grown feel, but alongside the NJ/NY born-and-bred are international artists, this event is also a unique hybrid of the local and the global. There’s really nothing quite like it.



Maybe because it’s every Friday, we can take Creative Grove for granted. Pulling it off every Friday requires constantly navigating through and negotiating with the municipality, downtown real estate interests, and the often eccentric personalities of the vendors. Not to mention that most people, like me I admit, come more to hang out than to purchase. Community support can be intermittent at best and Creative Grove lacks some key advocates that other local art events possess. Any financial pay off is meager.

Organizing the weekly Creative Grove means oodles of frustration and under-appreciation. And yet, here it is, every Friday, for all of us to experience and enjoy.

Uta Brauser, proprietor of Fish with Braids and an artist in her own right, is the Creative Grove creator. I’ve written about her a few times, most recently at the opening of her new gallery space, so I’m a little short of words of esteem. I just wan to say thanks, farewell to the 2012 edition of Creative Grove and a heart felt, see you next year.

Uta’s booth, comprised of two or three canopies, is both a pop-up gallery and the nerve center of the weekly event. She makes sure the children’s events are not too rowdy, the sound level of the DJ stay at a reasonable volume and the vendors are happy with their tables and locations. As the sun sets, Uta assembles portable lamps so the fair is illuminated as evening descends.

On warmer, more crowded evenings, when there’s dozens of vendors, and Creative Grove is a-buzz, Uta is constantly shifting gears, dealing with Creative Grove business as well as a the constant flow of customers. Her booth showcases her fashion creations, which recently includes some outlandish apparel but is always more focused on her popular line of funky, one-of-a-kind headwear. It also is a mobile gallery for a select group of artists. Recently, she is exhibiting more examples of her illustrations. She seems to be in a highly productive phase of her visual art. Images on view combine accents of Asian-inspired minimalism with a Frank Miller pop-sensibility. There were a series of nude women whose heads were a skull –death mask juxtaposed with a maternal ideal. Femininity as the source of life coexisting with the ultimate realty of lifeless bones. A larger drawing, also new, showed apparently topless women, jeans, sitting on a floor or maybe a futon, paused in introspection. The work is melancholic and moody; feminism sans ideology.

Uta mentioned that for next year, expect more art events to augment and enhance Creative Grove and Fish with Braids.


In spite of the chill, the lack of customers and only a smattering of vendors, the last edition of Creative Grove lasted to its 9:00 pm closing time. Jersey City can be tough for a weekly art/crafts flea market. Places like Union Square have a sizable local following and is a destination for hordes of non-local potential customers. Jersey City will never – well, at least not yet or for the foreseeable future – attract the same kind of numbers, from both here and the nearby, that a Union Square does. But what Creative Grove lacks in commercial potential, it more than makes up for in community.

See you again Creative Grove, some Friday sometime after February.


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