Faith Ringgold; Coming to Jones Road #1: Coming to Jones Road, 1999. Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border. 57x87 inches
(ENGLEWOOD, NJ) -- In 1992, artist and activist Faith Ringgold and her family were met with racist hostility from their new neighbors after they moved to Jones Road in Englewood, New Jersey. Thirty years later, Gallery Bergen, the art presentation space of Bergen Community College, will document and seek to redress this shameful welcome with a presentation of Faith Ringgold: Coming to Jones Road. The exhibit, curated by Tim Blunk, will be on view from January 26 - April 27, 2023.
In her Coming to Jones Road series, Ringgold created work to transform what was a hostile reception from her neighbors into a story of survival and transcendence. In paintings, serigraphs, lithographs, and mixed media works using quilted fabric and painting, Ms. Ringgold celebrates her ancestors and their journeys along the Underground Railroad that brought her to Harlem and then finally to her home and a studio in New Jersey.
Having lived most of her life in Harlem, Faith and her husband, Birdie Ringgold, moved to Jones Road in Englewood in 1992. She longed to have a garden and to build a studio to pursue her artwork fulltime. She was met by hostile neighbors who organized themselves to try to prevent her from building her studio. She ultimately prevailed, but was taken aback by the racism she faced in her new home. Instead of creating work based in anger, she decided to find a way to create something uplifting that would honor all of those whose sacrifices carried her forward. About Jones Road Ms. Ringgold says, “I have tried to couple the beauty of this place with the harsh realities of its racist history to create a freedom series that turns all of the ugliness of spirit, past and present into something livable.”
As the country continues to grapple with the effects of COVID, an upsurge in protests reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Supreme Court deliberations over the rights of women, Faith Ringgold’s work continues to acquire resonance, inspiring both activists and artists. Curator and director of Gallery Bergen, Tim Blunk speaks about the generation of this exhibition at Gallery Bergen: “We think of this exhibition as a kind of atonement for the hostile reception Faith Ringgold received in Englewood in 1992. We want her to know that she is revered here, we honor her and that going forward, we will build on her legacy.”
Sister Exhibition at the Puffin Cultural Forum: Gallery Bergen is collaborating with the Puffin Foundation Ltd. in presenting a simultaneous showing of prints and smaller works by Faith Ringgold at the Puffin Cultural Forum at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ. The opening reception at the Puffin is scheduled for the first week of February.
Ancestor Journeys: A Faith Ringgold Inspired Oral History and Theater Project: This exhibition will be the centerpiece of an extensive humanities project undertaken by BCC faculty and community organizations. Led by Professors Christine Eubank and Maureen Ellis-Davis, students will collect oral histories from the African American communities of Bergen County and surrounding area documenting their own “ancestor journeys” that brought them to northern New Jersey. These histories will then become the raw material for a work of verbatim theater where history is rendered into dialogue for the stage.
Jazz Suite Commissioned: Renowned composer/bassist Rufus Reid has been commissioned to write an hour-long jazz suite dedicated to Faith Ringgold; this music will be the backdrop for the theatrical presentation at Bergen’s Ciccone Theater on April 27, 2023.
Faith’s Childhood Bedroom: A Children’s Reading Room and Makerspace: In collaboration with the National Coalition of Black Women (Bergen/Passaic Chapter), the Black Child Development Initiative - Paramus Affiliate, the Bergen County Division of Children’s Services, and the BCC Child Development Center, Gallery Bergen is creating a children’s room across from the exhibition for readings from Faith Ringgold’s collection of 17 children’s books and artmaking based on the themes of these stories. The room will be open to the public in February and will accommodate visits from childcare providers and Headstart programs. Faith’s Childhood Bedroom is funded through generous grants from the Puffin Foundation Ltd. and the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.
Community Collaboration: In addition to the organizations listed above, Gallery Bergen is also working on these projects with the support of the Englewood Public Library, the Teaneck Public Library, and the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.
Gallery Bergen will host an Opening Reception in honor of the artist on Thursday, January 26 at 7:00pm. The public is invited to attend. Gallery Bergen is located on the third floor of West Hall on the main campus of Bergen Community College (400 Paramus Road) in Paramus, New Jersey. They present exhibitions and performances by BCC students and faculty as well as curated exhibitions that connect with their community, their curriculum, and the important issues of our time.