Presenting the JC West Side Billboard by Santiago Demecio Chavez

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Today’s post features a new public art project organized by VCS faculty member Amy Wilson in Jersey City’s West Side district.

The project’s inaugural entry is a mural located at 760 West Side Avenue by VCS student Santiago Demecio Chavez, sponsored by the JC West Side Community Alliance (WSCA) with Ando West Indian & African Market, which generously provided the space for the display. The piece was installed a week ago, and will remain on display through at least early August, with other installations to follow at the same location later on.

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Santiago at work on the West Side Billboard.

Here’s some background from Amy Wilson and an artist statement by Santiago Demecio Chavez. Amy comments:

The West Side Billboard is the first in a series of public art projects connecting SVA/VCS students and the community of Jersey City’s West Side. As a long-term resident of this neighborhood, I am excited to help connect young artists to spaces that can use their input, and will welcome their contributions. It was exciting to watch people walking by while Santiago was installing, and see them cheer him on and be very excited by the idea of art in a public place. There are several other collaborations I’m planning, and I can’t wait to bring more art to this neighborhood!

    The location of the West Side Billboard at 760 West Side Avenue in Jersey City.

The location of the West Side Billboard at 760 West Side Avenue in Jersey City.

And here are Santiago’s comments about his design for the mural:

When I first visited Jersey City, I noticed things both positive and negative. I saw houses and buildings that had fallen out of repair – some had even been abandoned. I saw a strong tension between the establishments that have been up-kept and those that have fallen into disrepair. I also noticed a large empty lot that made a big swath of the area seem rather vacant. After exploring the neighborhood more, I noticed many beautiful things as well: lovely houses that contained visual hints of rich histories, amazing parks and recreational facilities, and some of the most beautiful rose and flower gardens I have ever seen. Furthermore I interacted with a lively and diverse community that spanned a number of races and class backgrounds.

In my piece I wanted to bring the beautiful into the unkempt. I have drawn references from an abandoned building on Westside Ave and the empty lot. The abandoned building across from Ando’s market can be seen rebuilt and overflowing with the objects that fill a house and support a family, professionals, or a creative community. I have also created a vegetable and flower garden that references the beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces I experience in Jersey City’s West Side. Here is a picture full of life and color, an idealized version of Jersey City’s West Side, or any thriving neighborhood.

You can find a few more images of the billboard at the WSCA Twitter feed. The project looks great, and I’m looking forward to seeing more like it in the neighborhood over the coming months.

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Visual & Critical Studies