(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions has announced the ten Hudson County artists who will receive Art House Cares Grants. The artists include Samantha Benvissuto, Jasmin Casiano, Zhnai Davis, Benedicto Figueroa, Kent Jackman, Shiva Jlayer, Antonio Martez, Bryant Small, Elizabeth Weitzen, and Lisa Marie Zapata. This grant program is made possible by support from New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund at the Princeton Area Community Foundation.
The program will distribute one-time $5,000 grants to 10 local artists to help sustain their practice and engage the public across Hudson County between July 1 - December 1, 2022. This grant program supports Hudson County-based working artists and cultural workers who were negatively impacted by COVID-19. Hudson County-based artists and teaching artists from marginalized communities, including racial, religious, and ethnic minorities; cisgender and transgender women; gender diverse and nonconforming people; people with disabilities; and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, working in any discipline were eligible to apply. All eligible applications were entered into a lottery, which selected the ten grant recipients at random. Once the public arts projects are finalized, event information will be published on arthouseproductions.org.
The grant recipients represent Bayonne, Hoboken and Jersey City. Of the grant recipients, 90% identify as African American/Black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, or Multiracial; 70% identify as women, genderqueer or non-binary; 40% identify as living with a disability. The grant recipients work in the disciplines of dance, interdisciplinary arts, literature, music, theater and playwriting, and visual arts.
"Art House is grateful to have received funding from the Princeton Foundation in order to support Hudson County based artists as they emerge from the pandemic and produce work for the public again. We're thrilled for the 10 artists who received funding from Art House Cares and we look forward to seeing the work they create and present before the end of 2022," says Executive Artistic Director Meredith Burns.
“Hudson County artists have faced enormous personal and professional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many of them unable to develop and present their artistic practice,” says Producing Director Courtney Little-Vozos. “We are proud to award these grants to 10 talented and resilient artists who will develop low-cost and free public arts programming throughout Hudson County in a variety of artistic disciplines with support from Art House Cares.”
Samantha Benvissuto is a multi-disciplinary artist who explores mental health, racism, sexuality, and disability through poetry, music, visual and graphic art. Having lupus nephritis and mental illness, she has worked through her struggles by using art in whatever medium works for her at the time. The restrictions of her health and disabilities, as well as the influence of her immigrant mother, informs her work and gives voice to her struggles.
Jasmin Casiano is a graduate of Drew University where they participated in the theatre program through playwriting and acting. She also spends her summers being a teaching artist in Drew University’s Advantage Arts program. Jasmin currently works at Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken, where they recently stage managed Alice in Wonderland, Puffs and the 18th Annual 7th Inning Stretch.
Zhnai Davis knew she wanted to continue painting after high school, and she graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from New Jersey City University. With the first experience being acrylic paint she swiftly adjusted to oil painting, where she became inspired from every art avenue such as poetry, painting, and photography. Zhnai fell in love with the textures and colors she created through painting and that helped her develop her own style of painting. Zhnai featured her Embody painting series along with others at the college gallery before graduating. Her work consists of experimenting with other mediums, nude figures, and other materials besides canvas and paper. She’s eager to paint on anything that can be painted. Recently she’s painted on wood and glass and as of lately she’s been focusing on portraiture. During college she interned as a curator at SMUSH Gallery where she gained the skills of curating different creative events. After college Zhnai embarked on a new journey of hosting her very own sip and paints.
Benedicto Figueroa I am an artist at the intersection of worlds. Poet, Parent, Playwright, Activist, Addict in Recovery, Illustrator, Musician, Non-Binary Latine Spellcaster, and Visual Artist: standing at the junction of these identities creates a tension, but also a perspective unique to each and a combined perspective unique to me. In all its forms, my art is an attempt to give voice to an ever changing truth that lives within me. This is where my work speaks from. Through poetry, I explore myself with a focus on truth and accountability. My personal history is the starting landscape for the stories I tell, and the way I tell them is informed by the great responsibility I feel toward my audience. Through illustrations, I give life to stories that can’t live in words alone. With music, I honor collaboration and community, telling my story while ensuring my collaborators get to tell theirs. And through sculpture I aim to reclaim spaces and materials that seemed lost to time, change, and gentrification. I am self taught in all these mediums. I allow my culture and intuition to guide me in my process. The creation of art is necessary to me, a process I cannot live without.
Kent Jackman is the Executive Director of KJ AQUARIUS Productions (Inspiring a Thirst for Creative Learning), which produces theater showcases and arts- education residencies, as well as (craft, clothing, and household) designs inspired by his visual art concepts. This native of Roxbury, MA was trained as an actor-director-writer at Howard University, where he also served as publicity director and then president of the Howard Players student drama association. Kent’s professional acting career has included appearances on stage in regional, repertory, touring, cabaret, and off-Broadway productions - along with film and television appearances including LAW & ORDER, LAW & ORDER: SVU, as well as four seasons as a cast regular on the syndicated APOLLO COMEDY HOUR. In addition, Kent’s parallel career as a teaching-artist has focused on applying theater techniques to improve oral presentation and collaboration skills. Many thanks to Art House Productions for this resourcefully supportive grant opportunity to showcase a new romantic-comedy-musical for Jersey City audiences.
Shiva Jlayer was born in Persia and graduated with a degree in Agricultural engineering from Shiraz University. She was greatly influenced by her father, Mehdi Jlayer, who was a famous painter, sculptor and poet of Shiraz. At an early age she watched her father paint and was inspired to pursue and find her own artistic path. After graduating, in 2011, Shiva continued by taking classes with multiple artists. After moving to the United States in 2014, Shiva enrolled at the New York Academy of Art program and had the honor of working with some of her favorite artists. Her portraits reveal emotions that evoke the human condition underneath the surface. Shiva has a unique style of capturing the vulnerabilities through textural representations and forms. Shiva has won many awards for her paintings and has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Her works can be found in public and private collections including the Seavest collection.
Antonio Martez is an American Beauty & Fashion Photographer based in Downtown Jersey City’s Powerhouse Art District at 150 Bay St. Specializing in cosmetic, hair, skin, product, editorial, advertising, and commercial beauty, and fashion photography. His style of imagery is compelling, bold, passionate, and vibrant with the intentional use of color, light, shadow, and composition in creating striking imagery that engages consumers across multi-channels, bringing passionate and unique stories to life in the beauty and fashion industry marketplace. With use of purposeful and deliberate understanding of light and shadow affinity, Antonio Martez creates imagery that is the true mark of a visual narrator. His work can be seen in advertising campaigns to editorial narratives globally, such publications as Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and L’Officiel.
Bryant Small is an Award-Winning artist and curator, who lives in Jersey City, NJ and balances a social marketing and media career in New York City. Bryant has a love of culture, color and all things sparkling. In his art, he loves to toe the line of free abstraction with vibrant color blending and pushing beyond pretty. His Alcohol Ink pieces are free flowing, unpredictable and levitate from the page. Recognized as a Conception Arts, Global Art Collective 2020 and 2017 Award of Excellence Winner and selected as one of International Art Market Magazine’s Gold List of Top Emerging Contemporary Artists, Bryant has shown his work in several collective and individual shows throughout the United States and has pieces that are part of Private Collections around the Globe. He lives by the words: “Broken Crayons Still Color... and a little glitter and sparkle NEVER hurt anybody!”
Elizabeth Weitzen is an NYU Tisch trained, bi-coastal theatre artist in Jersey City. She is a performer, producer, designer, and movement director. Wrestling with what pandemic egress will look like for her personally, and for both experimental and at-risk performers generally, her recent projects - online interactive experiments, seeking ways to recreate the elusive spark of being in shared space, but more safely; multidisciplinary long form improvisations; global movement collaborations; an anthology of scenes that would organically take place online; a radio play - have been focused on finding a soft artistic landing to the upheaval of the last few years. Her theatre and performance work has frequently explored bodies, sex, queerness, and autonomy. She has created theatre, performance art, and nightlife with body-focused companies like Shag Playhouse and Torn Out Theater, as well as experimental Shakespeare troupe The DLP. Recently certified in two floorwork modalities - Floor Flow and Liquid Motion 2.0 - Elizabeth’s very into rolling around on the floor. Some of her favorite pre-pandemic work includes glittering burlesque balls, site specific gambols, and originating the role of a mustachioed pirate. Elizabeth provides event entertainment of all kinds and has produced and performed in more than 500 events. She also runs several workshops: Nonverbal Consent for Immersive Performers; Retrospectives for Creatives; and Vocal Work for Movers (& Shakers). Elizabeth is passionate about books, shoes, and food. She is honored to be chosen to share her work with Jersey City, a city she loves.
Lisa Marie Zapata is a writer, translator, and performance artist hailing from Hoboken, NJ. Lisa Marie initiated her artistic process as a member of HHS Drama Club under the tutelage of Paula Ohaus and Papermill Playhouse. She has cut her teeth on stages across the tri-state area dancing, reciting poetry, and participating in improv theatre. Lisa Marie centers her artistic process around giving a platform to marginalized voices.
Art House Productions is generously supported by The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, SILVERMAN, The Princeton Area Community Foundation, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, The Hudson County Office of Cultural Affairs, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Alliance of Resident Theatres / New York.
Art House Productions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to the development and presentation of the performing and visual arts in Jersey City, New Jersey. Art House Productions presents theater, performing and visual arts festivals, arts events, visual art exhibitions, and adult and youth art classes.