New Space for Familiar Faces
Updated: Jul 31, 2018
By Connie Isbell, Membership & Community Engagement Director, Monmouth Arts
Creative forces have converged in a beautiful fashion in the Bayshore enclave of Keyport. In October 2017 artists Mary Ann McKay and Asja Jung opened Artspace 88, a gallery and studio space -- and in just a few months they managed to transform it into a cultural hub. The gallery has been home to art classes and workshops, a pop-up holiday art bazaar, rotating exhibits and receptions, as well as musical events.
McKay and Jung envisioned a space that could serve as a community gathering place as well as a space to create art, teach art, and display their work and the work of other artists. The 1,200-foot storefront gallery occupies the corner across from Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, a popular restaurant (known for its “Voodoo Shrimp”).
Both Jung and McKay are community connectors, so their collaboration and new space makes perfect sense. The women met in 2015 when Jung moved from New York to Keyport and joined the Keyport Art Society. Area glass sculptor artist Michelle Knox, who enriches the gallery space with her beautiful blown glass sculptures and business acumen, also has her studio at the gallery. “Artspace 88 encourages everyone to visit, learn, improvise, and discover the joy of creativity,” says McKay, whose studio space occupies a tidy and colorful portion of Artspace 88. “We offer new artist exhibitions monthly and feature professional musicians in concert every few weeks. These concerts have been a great addition to Artspace 88 and are very popular in the community.”
Though it may not be evident at first glance, Keyport is no stranger to creativity. The borough boasts an assortment of art-friendly businesses, and the creative spirit there has been guided by the Arts Society of Keyport, which is committed to encouraging and supporting the arts within Keyport and the surrounding areas by promoting community involvement.
Although their location is close to the waterfront and a well-known restaurant, Jung recognizes that Keyport may feel a bit off the beaten path for some in Monmouth County. She stresses that the community is active and supportive, but bringing outsiders into Keyport to experience what the borough has to offer will be critical to the gallery’s longevity. “I had the feeling that something was happening here,” she recalls of when she discovered Keyport. “It’s kind of an unknown place, but people who come here, say ‘Wow, I really like it here!’”
Revitalization Through Art & Culture
Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Bayshore," Keyport is part of an effort in northern Monmouth County to reinvigorate the area's economy by emphasizing the traditional downtowns, residential neighborhoods, maritime history, and the natural beauty of the Raritan Bayshore coastline.
Like other towns along the shore, Keyport has had to recover and rebuild since Hurricane Sandy. One creative outcome has been the installation of a series of sculptures in Keyport’s waterfront park. Constructed from steel and concrete, the sculptures have been painstakingly adorned with bright, intricate mosaics by dedicated volunteer artists from the Arts Society of Keyport. The project, which began in 2013, is ongoing and should be included on any visit to Artspace 88.