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JCAST returns in person

In the glistering white gallery on the second floor of 150 Bay Street, where the hallways and studios were a maze of art, artists shared thoughts on their works. One artist focused on womanhood and childhood in acrylics and watercolor that reflected her state of mind during a pandemic. Another had no particular theme, but said art is therapy.

Everyone was glad to be back in person for the ever-popular Jersey City Art & Studio Tour.

JCAST returns

The Jersey City Art & Studio Tour (JCASTreturned in-person for 2021after going virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At the beginning, when I started about two months ago, we were uncertain as to how it would hold because of COVID and restrictions, and sticking with what the governor has told us like the guidelines,“ said curator Donna Kessinger. ”It’s been really fun. We had a great turnout.”

One of the main events of the citywide tour was the JCAST Community Gallery at ART150 at 150 Bay Street. The gallery featured a mix of local and international artists.

Theda Sandiford is a mixed-media and fiber artist who created “Emotional Baggage Carts.” Photo by Mark Koosau. The carts are woven with nontraditional materials such as paracords and zipties. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Artist Theda Sandiford does mixed-media and fiber arts and has been at JCAST for almost 10 years. One of her works is called Emotional Baggage Carts, where she weaves nontraditional materials such as paracords and zipties on shopping carts.

“I definitely want people to touch my work and interact with it,” Sandiford said. “Because when they see the materials and what it’s about, they get to confront some things for themselves. A lot of it is about emotional release; that’s what I get by making the work, and I hope people get that when they interact with it.”

Artist Deb Sinha doesn’t have any singular focus, executing work from figurative to plain aire paintings.

“I was telling someone yesterday, I did not know who Picasso is when I was growing up,” Sinha said. “So for me, it’s like a whole world to to learn, look, and visit. A lot of people have already done that in their 30s. So for me, I’m still mentally young. I’m learning and experimenting.”

Deb Sinha says he’s learning and experimenting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

This year was his second JCAST. “It’s very fulfilling,” he said. “I joke, to make art is the cheapest therapy you can get.”

Some expressed their pandemic struggles through art. Alexandra Alvarez, who does acrylics and watercolor, made a series of paintings based on her psychological journey.

“I felt like [lockdown] was a very hard situation for children”, said Alvarez, who has a daughter. “Being stuck in the house without meeting other children was very hard, and that’s why I get inspired for this series.”

Hellen Cha-Kim specializes in watercolor and teaches at Alvernia University and online at Princeton University. She originally did oil paintings until she changed to watercolor seven years ago.

Alexandra Alvarez created works based on her experience during the pandemic lockdowns. Photo by Mark Koosau.Hellen Cha-Kim has been doing watercolors for seven years since switching from oil painting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

She debuted at JCAST in 2019. After being virtual last year, Cha-Kim said it was good to be back. “We are still in the state of COVID, so economy and health-wise, I don’t think it’s going to be that active than before COVID,” she said. “But people started back up, especially Jersey City becoming very active with art; I’m so excited about that.”

For updates on this and other stories, check and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.