“This is Christine,” she said into the phone, half smiling at me. She listened. “Ohhh,” she said, “OK. Let me stop you. My name is Meredith Burns. I’m Christine’s successor here at Art House Productions…”
Wow, I thought, I wonder how many times a day she has to have that conversation. Because, let’s be honest, Christine’s are big shoes to fill.
Christine Goodman founded Art House Productions 16 years ago, and built it up from an open mic in a basement to an arts institution throughout Jersey City. She’s responsible for Your Move (the annual dance festival), STAGES (theatre programming for youth), the beloved JC Fridays (Jersey City’s quarterly citywide arts festival) and much, much more. In short, for many Jersey City residents, small business owners, vendors, artists, and even government officials, Christine Goodman was Art House.
Until she wasn’t.
A few days before the Snow Ball (Art House’s annual fundraising gala), we received a press release naming Meredith Burns as the new Executive Director.
The news of Christine passing the torch was surprising, but it’s fair to say that friends of Art House had full confidence in the new hire, if only because the Board of Directors (and Goodman herself) demonstrated visible excitement and confidence in Burns.
And so, on this sunny afternoon, I sat down with Burns to learn more about her, and her vision for Art House moving forward.
“JC Fridays is tomorrow,” she started, “I think everyone is very familiar with it now. I want to hit some places in Greenville.”
I looked down at the map in my bag – 18 different neighborhoods are showcasing artists at multiple venues each during tomorrow’s celebration. Greenville seems like a good place to start.
“You know, we’re in this transition period. Christine has been amazing trying to figure everything out. But it’s a lot. Art House does a lot. We’re moving to a new venue in early May, which I can’t publicize yet, but it’s a similar space with a theatre, a gallery space, and a studio space – which is a great addition to what we had. We’ll probably hold board meetings there, hopefully we can get a piano in there…Everything is up in the air right now. Which is exciting.”
Moving forward, Burns is putting her faith in Art House’s mission, (“Basically it’s to be a cultural institution in Jersey City,”) as the cornerstone of the future, only expanded. “I want it to be the BAM of Jersey City.”
The future of Art House “is about keeping the lights on more. I want something happening at every night.”
More fully realized theatrical productions, sure, but also comedy nights, poetry and spoken word events, and music.
“The open mic will be expanding – right now it’s the first Thursday of every month. We want to keep the spirit of the open mic – it’s inclusive and it’s collaborative – but we’re also going to add a comedy open mic, a music open mic, a poetry open mic…These will be curated events – we’ll ask artists to submit to that.
“And the variety show type of feel that the open mic has now – that spirit of collaborating – that will keep its original time slot, and it will be at our home base location. But the previous three will be at locations around the city, including one in the Heights and one in Bergen-Layfayette.”
Burns, who has deep roots in Jersey City (her father was a firefighter here for 33 years), wants ArtHouse to be “an important theatre in New Jersey.”
“People drive from all over the state to get into New York, then they pay for parking, and pay even more for tickets. There’s no reason Jersey City can’t be their destination.”
Big welcome to Meredith Burns. We can’t wait to watch it grow.
Photos provided by Art House Productions.