Thursday, January 24, 2013

Firehouse Gallery Comes Alive with Art by Jennifer Levine

Posted on January 24, 2013 by Ally Blumenfeld

Earlier this month, ValleyArts Connect blogger Brandon Monokian chatted with artist Jennifer Levine as she prepared to open her new exhibition at the ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery. Check it out here

On Thursday, January 17th, Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood was welcomed into the ValleyArts neighborhood with an upbeat and delightful opening reception hosted by Richard Bryant and Gayle Mahoney of ValleyArts Inc. The artist herself and collaborator Scott Massarsky were both present at the reception, giving gallery-goers the unique chance to ask questions and chat about the art before them. And there was certainly a lot to chat about! From the large, textured, almost collage-like paintings on wood panels to the small and colorful repurposed wine bottles, every piece in the gallery could hold the viewer captive, intriguing and nearly begging him or her to learn the story that each piece contained. 

With upwards of forty pieces within the main gallery space and the adjoining hallway, there were many stories to be told. In the art of Painting the Neighborhood Levine has created entire worlds for the viewer to explore. Even more exciting, however, was the world into which Levine allowed viewers a special sneak-peek: hers.  “Painting a Song” – a fifteen-minute film created by Levine and Massarsky – was shown about halfway into the night, a choice which added tremendously to the gallery experience. 

Christine Bennett (right) and Nicole Boscarino (Left)
at the opening of Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood
During the video, musician Massarsky plays his guitar while Levine uses his music to generate images and feelings which she almost effortlessly conveys on her canvas. Christine Bennett and Nicole Boscarino, two Montclair State University students present at the opening, remarked that watching “Painting a Song” allowed them to better understand Levine's art and encouraged them to look at the work in a new light. Indeed, curious eyes wandered back to the paintings and tableaus after the film was over, re-engaging themselves after seeing the histories behind the stories.

It was an inspiring night at the Firehouse Gallery, which itself served as a perfect backdrop to Levine's colorful and thoughtful work. Her art appears to exist at the intersection of purposelessness and purpose, as seemingly haphazard brush strokes form a narrative. Amongst all this is then the idea of repurposing, as Levine repurposes defunct side tables and French doors just as well as she repurposes music to create visually stunning and complex art. For more, keep up with Jennifer Levine at For more on “Painting a Song” click here, and to see the actual short film click here.

Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood runs now until February 24th at the Firehouse Gallery, located at 580 Forest Street, Orange NJ (free admission). Gallery hours are from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, 12:30pm to 4pm on Sundays, and by appointment.  

Ally Blumenfeld is a working writer, dramaturg, and photographer based in Montclair, NJ. Two of her original one-act plays have been produced Off-Off-Broadway. She is currently the Gallery Coordinator for the ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery. Follow her on Twitter at @allyblume.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ValleyArts District Provides New Opportunities for Performing and Visual Artists

Companies Sought to Perform at Luna Stage; Planning also Underway for Visual Arts Co-ops and Shared Spaces

ValleyArts Inc, the arts service and activist organization of the ValleyArts District, seeks to expand opportunities for both the performing and visual arts by helping Luna Stage find new companies to perform there, and by creating artistic co-ops, shared studio spaces, and shared gallery/retail spaces.

The ValleyArts District is a 15-square block area located in Orange and West Orange NJ surrounding the Highland Avenue Train Station. The District is easily accessible by car or rail from all points in New Jersey and NYC.

Most of the ValleyArts District's creative programs and activities are housed in 46 arts spaces that have already been built through the arts-driven economic development initiatives of HANDS Inc -- the non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of Orange for the past 27 years.

HANDS Inc expects to reach its goal of building 100 arts spaces in the ValleyArts District within the next few years. All are designed to be permanently affordable, thereby avoiding the all-too-frequent pattern of artists being driven out of the very neighborhoods whose values have risen because of the presence of a creative community there.  

Shared Performance Spaces are Available in the ValleyArts District Now

For performing arts companies, the opportunity now exists to perform on an ongoing basis at Luna Stage, utilizing the company's 99-seat theater, 50-seat black box theater, and/or the rehearsal hall. Performing arts companies are sought beginning in 2013 on a long or short-term basis for schedules that complement the regular Luna Stage season.

Founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Jane Mandel, Luna Stage moved to the ValleyArts District in 2010 after 18 years in Montclair. In the past year celebrated performers at Luna Stage have included Frankie Faison, Suzzanne Douglas, and Andre Braugher. Luna Stage is located at 555 Valley Road, West Orange NJ. 07050.

An Expression of Interest survey for performing arts companies wishing to utilize the spaces at Luna Stage can be found at

All inquiries will be answered. Expressions of Interest are non-binding. Companies interested in two or more weeks per season will be invited to enter a formal proposal process.

Shared Visual Arts Co-ops and Studios will be Available in the ValleyArts District Soon

For visual artists, ValleyArts Inc is now inviting expressions of interest from artists who would like to work with the District on its efforts to create artist co-ops, shared studio spaces, and shared retail gallery spaces.

Two new buildings currently under construction by HANDS are expected to come online in the next six to nine months. These include the Kelli J. Copeland Artist Lofts at the corner of Freeman and Jefferson Streets, and The Powerhouse, on Nassau Street.

These renovated buildings will have spaces suitable for the creation of spacious arts co-ops and shared studio workspaces. Initial plans call for ValleyArts to play an enabling role to develop, organize, equip, coordinate, and market the co-ops. 

ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery
photo by Ally Blumenfeld
Research recently conducted for ValleyArts by Seton Hall University indicates interest in the development of co-ops in numerous visual arts disciplines.

ValleyArts is now organizing groups of artists to help plan affordable arts co-ops in four arts disciplines that have evoked strong early interest. These include painting, printmaking, digital media, and jewelry making.

The development of arts co-ops in other arts disciplines will also be considered based on responses to our online survey of artist needs and interests. Please visit to complete the survey.

Cost to participate in one of the new arts co-ops (including access to shared studio space) is expected to be less than $200 per month. In addition, ValleyArts will make available to co-op members business professional development training and consultation through Rising Tide Capital and other arts business consultants. Master Classes by artistic disciplines are also being planned.

The ValleyArts District is already home to Luna Stage Theatre Company, Arts Unbound, the ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery, YEMA Gallery, Oualie Gallery, Garden State Urban Farms, ORNG Ink Teen Arts Center, Hat City Kitchen Presents, and more than 25 visual artists who live and/or work in the neighborhood. The District also shares strong ties with the Orange Board of Education and hosts a variety of education programs both in and outside the public schools.  

For more information on the ValleyArts District, please visit

Any questions you may have can be directed to:

Richard T. Bryant
Executive Director
ValleyArts Inc. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

PHOTOS: Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood opening

Enjoy these fun photos from the ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery 
opening of Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood.

All photographs taken by Ally Blumenfeld and Brandon Monokian. All art by Jennifer Levine. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Painting the Neighborhood (and a Song) with Jennifer Levine

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Brandon Monokian

Art by Jennifer Levine
Opening this Thursday, January 17 at the Firehouse Gallery is new exhibition Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood. I got a chance to chat for a bit with the artist herself, the wonderfully talented and sweet as can be Jennifer Levine in her home studio. 

Levine is a woman of many talents; a performer, musician, and puppeteer to name a few, so it’s no surprise that when she creates visual art she explores different textures and materials in a style called “mixed media.” Her mixed media technique finds her using a combination of acrylic paints, oil sticks, and collage eliminates such as newspaper and xerox photos. “I use a lot of stamps and different glazes to get different textures which makes it more collage like,” says Levine of her process. “I think from the very beginning i liked the aesthetic of collage.” She went on to say “I didn’t have any formal painting training so it just seemed natural to use what was around. I like the aesthetic.” That aesthetic has helped to create her signature artistic look, presenting people and places in a vibrant and whimsical way.

Paintings are not the only thing you will see at Thursday’s opening of Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood. A short 15 minute film Painting a Song she made with musician and artist Scott Massarsky will also be presented. Painting a Song captures the creative and collaborative process of Levine and Massarsky, as he plays music which inspires her painting. “I was listening to his cd’s a lot,” said Levine of her painting process, when one day she decided to ask him “Why don’t you just come over and play while I paint?” The end results of which you can see by watching Painting a Song below... just a fair warning, prepare to be amazed! 

Click here for to watch Painting a Song
Life will not be slowing down anytime soon for Levine. After her show at the Firehouse Gallery (which will run through February 24), Massarsky and Levine will team up again for a show at The Art Garage in Montclair featuring art inspired by Massarsky’s musical reaction to two films about the Holocaust. After The Art Garage, Levine’s work will provide the visual landscape for a new book about a transgender child. It will be an educational piece used in the New York City school system to educate about gender identity.

To keep up with busy and talented Jennifer Levine and her projects, please visit Jennifer Levine: Painting the Neighborhood  opens January 17, 6-9PM (free admission) and runs through  February 24 on Saturdays 10am-4pm, Sundays 12:30-4pm; or by appointment. The Firehouse Gallery is located at 580 Forest Street, Orange NJ 07050
Jennifer Levine's studio

Brandon Monokian is currently featured in the Page to Stage documentary produced by the Princeton Public Library as well as their TEDx series as a guest speaker. Up next his play Grimm Women which recently played Off-Off-Broadway will be playing in Philadelphia. For more info: or twitter @brandonmonokian