ArtYard’s Executive Director and Founder seeks to expand the definition of community

ArtYard is a beautiful, modern, art center in Frenchtown, New Jersey comprised of exhibition space, theater, and residency program, dedicated to presenting transformative artwork and incubating original new work. The Trenton Journal recently sat down with ArtYard’s Executive Director and Founder, Jill Kearney, to find out why she sees collaboration as an integral part of the arts and her desire to team up with Trenton-based artists and organizations.

What inspired you to start ArtYard?

I basically grew up in a series of places that were the nutrients for this idea. My parents ran an arts center in Chicago for 60 years and I spent my summers in Provincetown, which was a century-old arts colony with a couple of arts organizations that were kind of the centerpiece for the connectors for the community. I always wished that there was something like that here. Eventually, I concluded that if I didn't make it, it wouldn't happen.

What is your vision/goal for ArtYard?

Our mission statement is ArtYard is an incubator for creative expression and the catalyst for collaboration that reveal the transformational power of art. Embedded in the idea was a wish to reach beyond my own silo and to expand the definition of community and bring disparate kinds of people here from different media. [We wanted] to open the creative process to our community to experience it, to witness it, to engage with it, and also to bring a certain amount of mischief and fun while in the process.

How important do you think collaboration is to the arts?

I think it's very important. I think that there's going to be a theme of the next decade or even the next century. It should be collaboration. I mean we've learned now that the trees collaborate underground and we're living in a very divisive, polarized age and I think a lot of popular culture is very ego-based. There is [something] really delightful and liberating about losing sight of the ownership of an idea. A lot of what we do here is bounce ideas back and forth between so many people that by the time it happens none of us can really remember whose idea it was. I [also] think it leads you to a much more interesting place than the things that come out of one brain. And I think we also have a great responsibility to heal this broken world and I believe deeply that the arts are one of the ways I can do that.

Do you see future collaborations with Trenton-based artists or organizations?

Yes, I would be thrilled to collaborate with artists in Trenton. I haven't spent much time there, but I had spent time reaching out and befriending arts organizations in Camden, Philly, and Newark. Trenton is on my wish list. I'm very much open to ideas and to meeting like-minded organizations to see if there are ways we can work together.

What do you want people to know about ArtYard's values?

There are certain values that underpin everything we do: diversity, equity and inclusion is huge value for us because we live in a largely white community. We brought a lot of diverse artists to Frenchtown. We've worked hard to make it a place that isn't monochromatic. A high caliber of work is important to us, but also a kind of playful inviting aspect.

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