Jersey City Artist’s Studio Tour, Saturday, October 13 @ 2 PM:

For the Backstory on 111 First Street – NJ Room

JERSEY CITY, N.J.   October 2, 2012 – Calling all local arts aficionados! The New Jersey Room at the Main Library, 472 Jersey Avenue, 3rd Floor, is the place to be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 13, the first day of the 2012 Jersey City Artist’s Studio Arts tour, when urban historian David Goodwin will be presenting, Enter the Artists: The Early Years of 111 First Street.

In the late 1980s, a community of artists began gathering in a former tobacco factory and warehouse at 111 First Street and provided a spark to ignite the arts and culture scene in Jersey City. Unfortunately, the artists of 111 First Street were forced from the building in 2005 after a long, bitter struggle involving the building’s ownership as well as the city. This discussion introduces the tangled story of 111 First Street as a studio building and a cultural community and presents a history of the building and its residents from the 1980s through the 1990s, when the arts emerged as a pivotal force in a renascent Jersey City.  [Synopsis by John Beekman, assistant manager, New Jersey Room]

“We are thrilled to offer the artist community and its supporters the history of one of Jersey City’s missed opportunities, 111 First Street,” said Cynthia Harris, manager of the New Jersey Room.

This presentation is based on Goodwin’s Masters thesis. His thesis Abstract, verbatim: "For nearly twenty years, 111 First Street, a former tobacco warehouse, stood as the vibrant center of the arts community in Jersey City, New Jersey. The owner of 111 First Street evicted its resident artists in 2005 and demolished the building in 2007. Artists are often viewed as an integral component to the gentrification process. However, the case of 111 First Street suggests a possible alteration to the typical, gradual process of gentrification and challenges the established scholarship on the relationship between artists and gentrification. This thesis will use interviews and  original research to recreate the narrative and history of 111 First Street, focusing on the events surrounding its demise and its ultimate destruction. Additionally, this thesis will utilize 111 First Street to highlight any resulting gaps in current gentrification theory."

David Goodwin’s interest in 111 First Street originally occurred from a purely random, transitory perspective, described here: “When I first moved to Jersey City, I would often ride the light rail and I witnessed the gradual demolition of 111 First Street from my seat on the train. At that time, I knew nothing of the history of the building and its community of artists. Several years later, I read a short article on 111 First Street in a local magazine and I found myself wanting to know more about the building.  Eventually, I realized that the story of 111 First Street was destined for the proverbial dustbin of history unless someone began documenting the building. This prompted me to weave 111 First Street into a seminar paper.  My professor suggested that I expand it into a thesis.

“I approached the story of 111 First Street from the point of view of an urban historian. I also consider myself an urbanist; that is, I believe that cities at their best offer their residents variety, culture, community largely absent from the suburbs. Arts and artists hold a valuable place in the urban landscape and can potentially change the composition and essence of an area for the better.”

David Goodwin is an urban historian and a librarian at Fordham University School of Law. He holds degrees from St. Bonaventure University, Drexel University, and Fordham University. He lives in the Heights section of Jersey City.

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