Artistic Weekend at the Jersey City Mural Festival

After more than a year without in-person events, which meant numerous cancelled art events, Jersey City hosted its first major outdoor art festival. The Jersey City Mural Festival introduced 50 new murals around the city on June 5-6, with most of them under the highway overpass to the Holland Tunnel.

jersey city mural
One of the older murals downtown (which covered an older mural)

Jersey City already had plenty of murals, including a huge one of David Bowie looking out over the traffic at the Holland Tunnel and a Shepard Fairey blue wave over the Grove St. PATH station. But there’s always room for more color in a city that lacks green space.

It was a hot weekend to be outside, but it was still worthwhile to get outside and see the new murals as they were being painted. On Saturday, I headed to Mana Contemporary near Journal Square with my friend. We grabbed a beer from Ghosthawk Brewing with two limited edition labels to celebrate the festival — the labels were designed by local artists. The session IPA was also really good and the brew date on the can was Friday. We stood in the shade and watched the artists work on the murals while waiting for the free tour of the galleries (and free air conditioning).

ghosthawk brewing
Special labels for a tasty local beer

The tour of Mana Contemporary is always worth taking, and they have added more frequent tours (pre-pandemic it was only once a week). Much of what was on display the weekend after Memorial Day was not my style, but art is subjective and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from enjoying what’s there. The space is a lot more interesting when they open up for the seasonal artist studio tours, which were obviously cancelled this past year.

mana contemporary
Not many people wanted to be in the sun

There were some more murals painted around Journal Square, but I haven’t checked them out yet (wait for the weather to cool down a bit).

On Sunday, I headed downtown with another friend for the larger gathering of artists. It was certainly a more interesting venue beneath Route 78 — this is not an area people normally walk either. A few of the murals were painted on sides of buildings that aren’t visible from the road or for any pedestrians unless they go into non-traffic areas that aren’t particularly welcoming.

Jersey City mural festival
Party under the highway

If you’re wondering why an art festival would be held in the parking lot of a moving and storage company, it’s because Moishe is a huge art collector — he’s the reason Mana Contemporary exists. The parking lot was home to the 902 Brewing beer garden and a few additional murals — few people stayed in the parking lot with their beers because it wasn’t in the shade.octopus mural jersey city

We were offered a slight respite from the summer heat as almost of the murals were under the overpass, thus in the shade. Even in the shade, my first stop was at Stack Creamery that had set up shop to offer ice cream sandwiches. Chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel ice cream. As much as I wanted some real food, this was the best option for the day, particularly as the line was long later in the day when my friend wanted to try it (they were also out of some ice cream and cookies).

There were other food options, but ice cream sounded a lot better that hot Sunday than any of the food trucks that were around.jersey city mural festival

It was a lot of fun walking around and discussing the murals — which ones we liked and why some weren’t as impressive. There were also some in less conspicuous corners that we had to point out to each other.

jersey devil mural
Of course there was a Jersey Devil mural

There was one large mural that we thought was just a pattern of colors — it wasn’t until later in the day when we were standing farther back that we recognized the pattern created the image of looking directly into a tidal wave.

david mural
One of the smaller murals in the festival

The best part of the Jersey City Mural Festival was watching the artists work. Most of them had cherry pickers or other mechanic lifts to assist in reaching their work, but we found some who had extended paint rollers — I imagine it takes a lot of practice and patience to use a 20-foot paint roller without making a mess.

jersey city mural festival
Check out the paint roller

There’s a map of all the murals around Jersey City for visitors and residents to check out.

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