New work by Donna Kessinger arrives for Jersey City Pride Month at Mana Published: Jul. 27, 2022, 10:30 a.m.

By David Mosca | The Jersey Journal

June may be LGBTQ+ Pride
Month, but August is Jersey City Pride Month and Art House Gallery and Mana
Contemporary are celebrating with “Not The End of The World…Yet”, a solo
exhibition of new work by Donna Kessinger from Aug. 4 to Aug. 28 at Mana
Contemporary. Art House and Mana are also teaming up with the Office of
Cultural Affairs of Jersey City for this endeavor.

Kessinger is a working
artist and curator in the New York metro area and encourages collaboration
between her emerging artists and their communities. Her projects mainly focus
on works that result in a marriage of art and commerce in the form of possible
interventions, performative works, and public art projects which also can be
executed seamlessly into traditional gallery exhibitions.

“My paintings are a part
of letting the world pass through me and onto the canvas,” says Kessinger. “The
process changes slightly with new technologies, but has stayed the same for
nearly 30 years, involving layering of unfocused abstract imagery, textures or
following the light in my studio, removal, sealing it with wax or in recent
work leaving the images exposed.”

In 2021, Kessinger began
spending time on a new series of mid-sized works layered with water-based oils,
traditional oils, wax mediums, house paint, and spray paint. The paintings were
made on linen with three more grid based painted series on smaller canvases.

“Donna’s work embodies a
timeless serenity that will capture your attention from a distance,” says Art
House Gallery Director Andrea McKenna. “Almost posing as futuristic landscapes,
the work seems familiar yet not recognizable as traditional. It will pull you
in and allow your senses to create a new reality.”

Early in her career,
Kessinger was mentored by Marsha Tucker, Alanna Heiss, Jenny Dixon and Kate
Millett. She is also familiar with operations relating to women’s artist
colonies ranging from top tier to smaller museums, traditional galleries, and
alternative art spaces.

Her feminist media-based video artwork has
been cloned and archived on Rhizome’s Artbase at the New Museum. Her work can
also be seen live on and
has been screened at the Jersey City Museum of Art.

A reception will be held on Thursday, Aug.
4, from 5 to 7 p.m. The Art House Gallery shows are always free and open to the
public. The show will be curated by McKenna with viewings made by appointment
on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m. You can contact
Andrea McKenna at to
set up an appointment. Mana Contemporary is located at 888 Newark Ave., Studio
351, 3rd Floor, Jersey City.

Published: Jul. 27, 2022, 10:30 a.m.

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.

ChaMatawan Gallery and Studios

ChaShaMa Matawan: A Space for Artists

By Elsie Johnson

As part of Monmouth Arts’ 50th Anniversary, we’re taking time to showcase some of the nonprofit member groups that form the foundation of Monmouth Arts’ creative community. In this installment, we’re looking at ChaShaMa, an organization that provides spaces for artists to work, with locations in New York as well as in Monmouth County’s very own Matawan. We checked in with ChaShaMa Matawan’s Artistic Director Donna Kessinger for an update.

For those who aren’t familiar with ChaShaMa Matawan, tell us a little about your nonprofit.

Chashama was founded in 1995 by Anita Durst. The initial focus was on the production and presentation of new theatre; however, once we realized a bigger issue, we changed our focus to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. These spaces are then used for artists, small businesses, and free community-centric art classes. We currently have studios throughout New York City, upstate New York, and Matawan. By offering affordable studio space, our program supports the artists’ creative development and process. Give one example of a way you’ve seen your organization’s work make a difference. Recognizing that a lack of affordable space was the biggest threat to sustaining a diverse cultural environment in New York City, we began to work toward securing studio and presentation space in Midtown Manhattan, an effort that was eventually expanded to Matawan. Our organization has made a difference by giving artists work and presentation spaces, as well as providing free art workshops in underserved communities. Currently, we present 150 events a year, have a workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops. How are you operating right now in regards to reopening? Have you made any adaptations due to COVID-19 that our readers would be interested in hearing about? We have been closely observing the latest COVID regulations, but we’ve been fortunate enough to remain open during the pandemic, allowing artists to work continuously during the past year. In fact, we currently have some new art exhibitions that are being presented right now with all necessary COVID precautions. Can you share an interesting anecdote or something about your nonprofit that would surprise people? Something interesting that most people don’t know about our location in Matawan is that it sits on the edge of the waterfront where the ‘Jaws’ story originated in 1916. We’re right on the edge of a beautiful marsh, which is another nice feature for our artists. What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2021? By providing “Space to Create,” ChaShaMa Matawan is looking forward to bringing innovative, cutting edge art exhibitions that express the hope that is generated from arts-based healing, encouraging new growth in our local arts community.

Monmouth Arts has a great network of arts supporters. How can our members and readers support your nonprofit right now? ChaShaMa has several artist studios that are currently available to rent – below market rate! And our exhibition space is free with a refundable deposit. Anyone who is interested should contact Chashama Matawan Gallery Director and Curator Donna Kessinger at for more information.

Our current exhibition, Dreaming of Bees, is running through November 14th, with a closing reception on the 14th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. It’s a collaborative exhibit featuring original works and interactive elements by Brian Hallas and Stephanie Sommerlad Bello. Visit us and check it out!

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