Old Town, New Attitude: Boonton Satisfies Art Lovers
Usually, when I get the familiar itch to satisfy my artistic cravings on any given day, my habit has been to turn toward New York City to find galleries and new artists to check out. I might get lucky somewhere in Morristown or Montclair, but in general, North Jersey hasn’t had a history of offering much in the way of fine art (while we haven’t been devoid of places like this, it does take some digging). Recently, however, I’ve noticed a bit of a resurgence in the arts and culture scene in Morris County.
Have you heard of a small town called Boonton? It’s okay – most people haven’t, either. But a collection of artists, galleries, and art enthusiasts has been making a push to get the word out about what this area has to offer anyone looking for a little more involvement in the art community. It’s undergone a bit of a revitalization as a town and as a burgeoning art center, so opportunities to participate in the new scene have quickly been presenting themselves.
On September 16th, Boonton held its first annual Art Walk, an evening that offered a tour of Main Street, the main drag that hosts an assortment of galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and an old-school movie theatre. The night aimed to give Boonton a much-deserved boost in its reputation, billing the town as “classic, imaginative, and a bit unexpected,” and the evening included special events, debut exhibits, wine, chatting with artists, and a reintroduction to a town that had previously been skipped over in terms of artistic pursuits. The event had over a thousand attendants, all of whom got to enjoy free booze and finger food while perusing the several establishments opening its doors for the event. (For a full list of participants – and a list of places you should probably check out – they’ve got a handy little brochure here.) Considering the limited size of the street, such a high volume of people means a pretty successful night, and it looks like more events are lined up to keep the town’s momentum going.
November 4th is the next major date for the Boonton art scene, featuring a Girls Night Out from 4-9 p.m. with a ton of activities planned and – yes, don’t worry – more wine. Some events include a book signing at Bobby’s News & Gifts with Concetta Bertoldi, Zumba and Burlesque classes at Little Black Dress, a Kate Spade Trunk Show at Eyewear by Evie, and opening exhibit receptions at the five main galleries along the strip. You’ll find all of these when you’re strolling down the narrow sidewalks – Broadfoot & Broadfoot, S.H.E. Gallery, Skyclad Gallery, Speakeasy Gallery, and Compton Photography Gallery, as well as a few other artistic spaces like ARTeffects and the Urban Dweller. These are by no means the only reason to hang out in Boonton, but they’re worth making the trip to check out the latest installments and mingle with the crowd involved.
Take, for example, my personal favorite of the mix – S.H.E. Gallery recently enjoyed its first year of being open with an exhibit showcasing Kim Martin‘s oil paintings. S.H.E., which stands for Supporting Human Equality, is “dedicated to supporting human equality by promoting art and artists that exemplify social justice and respect for all people of the world.” Ten percent of the gallery’s profit goes directly to organizations that align with their mission statement – currently, they support CARE, a humanitarian organization that works alongside poverty-stricken women, and Women for Women International, which supports war-torn regions with several forms of aid to help rebuild the areas in need. The concept behind the gallery is pretty inspiring, and the installments they choose are beautiful and keep the focus on art as well as social justice and humanitarianism.
This and all of the others on Main Street have created a bit of a playground for the art-addicted to flit from space to space, since they’re all so close together and run their businesses cooperatively. The result is a community of art lovers who’ve invited us, the enthusiasts, to become part of and contribute to. It might be a little outside of the main vein of New Jersey’s typical art hotspots, but for such a tiny place, Boonton’s offered up quite a bit to keep art appreciators entertained and engaged. Check out the Boonton Main Street homepage for more information about upcoming events, or check out a list of the shopping, food, and entertainment options to get that art fix we all need from time to time.