Grace Church Van Vorst celebrates its 20th Annual Cathedral Arts Festival

Grace Church Van Vorst in downtown Jersey City, NJ celebrates its 20th Annual Cathedral Arts Festival with an opening Champagne Gala on Saturday, November 14th, 2009. The Cathedral Arts Festival reaches a banner year in its long and cherished history! Founded in 1989, it is the largest and longest-running celebration of artists and the arts in Hudson County. And, the festival has already begun! A series of coffee house performances and open mic events have already taken place as a precursor to the main festival.

The traditional Champagne Gala will officially open the visual art gallery on Saturday, November 14th and will remain open throughout the fall holiday season. The vibrant and stunning visual art gallery, housed in the sanctuary of Jersey City’s beloved and historic Grace Church Van Vorst, remains the heart and soul of this great cultural celebration.

For the 20th Anniversary of the Cathedral Arts Festival, artwork in all media and encompassing all subject matter was considered, including painting, drawing, textiles, sculpture and photography – all to help showcase two decades of creative excellence. “Over 327 artwork submissions from over 69 artists arrived after the call to art was sent out”, according to Mark Guerette who leads the artwork submission and selection process.

“Gifts of the spirit have long been celebrated at Grace Church Van Vorst, and creativity has always been a hallmark of our faith community. Many professional artists call our church their spiritual home. Our jury each year is uniquely and intentionally collaborative. We draw upon the expertise of the creative talent within our walls, and we seek out professionals of note from the art world outside our doors, in an effort to bring together a team that is both qualified and committed to assembling an inspiring and salable exhibition of great quality” says Guerette.

All artwork is for sale with a percentage of each sale going to Grace Church Van Vorst. Proceeds from the sale support the operational and outreach activities of Grace Church Van Vorst. These activities include, but are not limited to, religious services and adult education, Grace Van Vorst Community Services (our non-profit, 501c3) and the Grace Senior Center for Healthy Living, which provides various services to the elderly. And, Grace’s Breakfast Plus Program provides hot meals on Saturday and Sunday for the hungry and homeless of Jersey City.

According to Grace parishioner Bayla Kallstrom, one of the founders of the Cathedral Arts Festival, “Twenty years ago, Grace Church had just completed a renovation which opened up the sanctuary so that it could be used for–among other things–performance, banqueting, dancing, and gallering art. As soon as we recognized the possibilities, we soon discovered that Jersey City was a cornucopia of talent.”

“Originally, the Festival was called the Cathedral Arts Market. It was based on the concept that once upon a time, cathedral spaces belonged to the entire community and served it in many ways–places of worship, socializing, commerce, etc. We wanted to create something that reflected our congregation’s theme of “Community, Diversity and Creativity.”

“All was capped by an elegant black tie gala in our new sanctuary–quite an accomplishment in pre-gentrification J.C.– which had great food, champagne, music, and a list of attendees that truly reflected the eclectic, exuberant and varied nature of our community. (One wag referred to our festival as the “jewel in the middle of the swamp”.)”

As per The Reverend Nick Lannon, Curate of Grace Church Van Vorst, “The Cathedral Arts Festival is one of the best ways that we, as a church, can give back to the community. We open our glorious sanctuary to the talent of Jersey City and beyond. Come, appreciate the wonderful art, and help us, as we raise funds, give back to the community in other ways: helping those less fortunate than ourselves, both spiritually and materially.”

Mr. Chi Modu, professional photographer and one of the Wardens of Grace Van Vorst says, “It’s not often that a church, which is primarily known as a place of spiritual guidance and worship in the community is also looked to as a place of artistic expression and creativity. This is only possible due to the uniqueness of the Jersey City community. We are honored to be able to be a source of creative inspiration to the local community and a legitimate venue for both new and established artists to show their work. We look forward to another twenty years of art at Grace Van Vorst in Jersey City.”

Not only does the Cathedral Arts Festival receive participation from local artists, just about everybody from the congregation volunteers in some capacity or another, so it’s truly a great community building event where lifelong friendships are made. Also, local Jersey City businesses have been very supportive of the Cathedral Arts Festival. Major sponsors in the recent past have included Panepinto Properties, Pershing, The LeFrak Organization, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, and The Provident Bank Foundation among others. Also, a beautiful program guide is put together allowing smaller businesses in the community to advertise in support of the festival as well. Support from the city of Jersey City and Hudson County has been received in the past as well as from local politicians.

The community at Grace Church Van Vorst mirrors the great diversity of Jersey City; performing and visual artists; professionals and trades people; straight and gay; Asian, Black, Latino, Indian, Filipino, and white all worship together in a progressive, inclusive, urban congregation. Creativity permeates all aspects of church life-from innovative multi-media worship to the use of our landmark building as a center for education and performance. Community, Diversity and Creativity are the hallmarks of parish life at Grace Church Van Vorst. Regular services with Holy Communion are held every Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM. All are welcome to attend. The festival will end with the closing of the gallery on Friday, December 4th. It will be a fall extravaganza this year not to be missed.

This Cathedral Arts Festival Champagne Gala Opening takes place on Saturday, November 14th at 7:30 pm at Grace Church Van Vorst – located at 39 Erie Street and 2nd Street in downtown Jersey City, NJ. Admission to the Gala Champagne event on Saturday November 14 is $40 in advance via Tickets at the door the night of the event will be $50.

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