In every city I've lived in new museum shows and elaborate cultural events created buzz. Trustees, board members, politicians, and artistic pundits would all crawl out from their meeting rooms to support (if only for the price of admission) the latest event on the artistic calendar. The newspaper would be there, snapping grainy photographs of the elites in action, and though I didn't always agree with the deference given to social rank and financial power at these happenings, their media presence ensured the status of both the hosting institution and the art they advocated for.
The Jersey City Museum had it's annual Artrageous Ball two weeks ago, and the press hasn't even whispered. According to the museum, 200+ people attended the event (its biggest fundraiser of the year) including the mayor, other government officials, and high-ranking professionals with a soft spot for the creative. Regardless of how I feel about the tangled web of artist/museum/patron relations--this is news.
Events like this are more than just fundraisers providing money needed to keep cultural organizations up and running (the museum will put these proceeds towards operating expenses- not such a sexy sell), they are reminders that the arts are a powerful force deserving of community recognition and respect. When the Jersey City Museum's press releases never go any further than it's own website and a few message boards, that's a failure--not of the organization, but of the local media. In fact, it's an affront.
I know art is sometimes difficult to understand and that the Jersey City press as a whole is wobbling already, but the reason we as a community tend to undervalue the Museum and our own artistic production is due in part to a lack of media attention. The museum contributes to the health and vibrancy of this community, but we so rarely hear about it that it's easy to forget what it has done, what it's working towards, and what it stands for. But the fact remains that it is a museum, "a permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity...", in charge of representing the finest art Jersey City has to offer and exposing it so we--the public--can better understand our own existence here and now.
Museums can put on bad shows too (and it's important to recognize that), but the press has got to step up to the plate and say "art matters". It's not the quality of Jersey City art that is sub par; it's the media coverage that makes it so.
PS. I write art features for JCI and they actually run them; thanks for covering the art news the Jersey Journal and Hudson Reporter often don't. If you've got an idea for a story-drop me a line.