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September 29, 2023
September 29, 2023, Jersey City, NJ - You no longer have to go to the Met to see art by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. In fact, you can see four of the famous artist’s works right here on Sip Avenue in Jersey City at Hudson County Community College (HCCC).
Donated by the Carol Adler Trust, the Toulouse-Lautrecs are not only the newest additions to the 1,882-piece Collection, but they are also among the most important given the artist’s stature and prominent place in art history. The best known of the four pieces is May Belfort, an 1895 lithograph in color depicting its namesake, an Irish singer who rose to fame in Parisian nightclubs in the 1890s. The other pieces include Le Tocsin La Depeche, another 1895 lithograph in color, and two 1898 black-and-white lithographs, Yvette Guilbert dans la Gluem, and Linger Longer, Loo.
Toulouse-Lautrec was a prominent figure within the Post-Impressionism movement that arose in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a reaction to Impressionism. The movement included other prominent artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. He is best known for his depictions of the bohemian scene that thrived on the fringes of respectable society in late 19th century Paris.
Andrea Siegel, Ph.D., the Collection’s curator, called Carol Adler “A great friend of the Collection, and someone who dedicated her life to art and philanthropy.” Siegel also discussed Adler’s heroic work helping musicians, oppressed by the Soviet regime in the 1970s, to escape to the United States for artistic freedom. Carol Adler came from a family of activist philanthropists. Most notably, in the early 20th Century, her ancestor Julius Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington to quietly fund over 5,000 schools for African American children in the South. The effort has been called “the most important initiative to advance Black education in the early 20th Century.” Honoring that legacy, the Carol Adler Trust donated 12 important works to the college, including the Toulouse-Lautrecs.
A community college is perhaps not the type of location one would typically expect to be home to works by world-class artists, so you could be forgiven for being surprised to find works by artists like Toulouse-Lautrec in the Hudson County Community College Foundation Art Collection. But while the Toulouse-Lautrecs instantly find themselves in the conversation as some of the most important pieces in the collection, they are hardly the only works by world-renowned artists. Last week, the HCCC Foundation Art Collection received a donation of a Renoir lithograph and a Pissarro drawing, which will be installed near the Toulouse-Lautrecs, right outside the College’s art history classroom.
Other pieces that have historical resonance include landscapes from the Hudson River School, a movement of American painters that thrived in this area in the mid-19th century. Looking for something a bit more contemporary? The collection features works from renowned artists like Shephard Fairey (the artist behind the Obey Giant and Barack Obama’s iconic “Hope” campaign poster) and photographer William Wegman (even the most self-professed philistine has likely seen his famous compositions of his pet Weimaraners). There are also works by Robert Rauschenberg, Joyce Kozloff, New Jersey’s own Willie Cole, and many more. Look carefully enough in the Gabert Library, located at 71 Sip Avenue, and you’ll even find a Picasso lithograph.
In addition to pieces by these renowned artists, the College’s acquisition strategy has increasingly focused on strengthening its collection of works by modern and contemporary American and New Jersey artists. As a result, HCCC’s Foundation Art Collection is becoming a hotspot for donations of works by established artists with New Jersey roots like Doug + Mike Starn, Kiki Smith, Ben Shahn, and Joan Snyder.
The HCCC Foundation Art Collection also features extensive collections of works by African artists and art of the African diaspora, Asian and Asian-American artists including large numbers of pieces by Japanese and Filipino artists, Hispanic and Hispanic American artists, and Middle Eastern artists. There is also a collection of works by and about Native Americans, and a collection of prehistoric artifacts and stone tools from the local Lenne Lenape people.
Philanthropists Benjamin J. Dineen III and Dennis C. Hull, for whom the Dineen Hull Gallery on the top floor of the Gabert Library is named, were instrumental in helping the HCCC Foundation Art Collection become what it is today, as it grew from just 25 pieces to over 1,800 installed across ten campus buildings just ten years later. Mr. Hull and the late Mr. Dineen amassed an impressive and extensive art collection in their home over the years, with a special focus on New Jersey artists ranging from paintings by Jon Rappleye to tire sculptures by Chakaia Booker. They viewed themselves as stewards of these hundreds of works before passing them on to the College to share the gift of art appreciation with future generations of students. Mr. Dineen, who was heavily involved in the College’s Art Committee during his lifetime, compared donating his collection to the College to seeing one’s children go off into the world, and found it very rewarding.
Unlike some college collections, the HCCC Foundation Art Collection isn’t under lock and key in a dusty storage area. Under the leadership of long-time curator Dr. Andrea Siegel, the entire Hudson County Community College campus has evolved into a living art museum, fulfilling a goal dear to the heart of former HCCC President Dr. Glen Gabert. The stewardship and growth of the collection endures today thanks to the support of current HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber, a staunch arts advocate. Students walk through a curated collection with pieces by Miriam Shapiro, Fritz Scholder, Faith Ringgold, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and more on their way to class each day, fulfilling Mr. Dineen’s vision of great art for all.
Studies show that art makes the most social impact where economic inequality is greatest. Hudson County Community College serves more at-risk students than any other community college in New Jersey. Two-thirds to three-quarters of HCCC students report facing issues such as food insecurity, housing insecurity, and even homelessness. In this sense, the art collection is well-placed to have a significant impact on the lives of students who stand to gain the most from exposure to it. Hudson County Community College is laser-focused on removing the barriers to success that these students face, and the art collection is a small but powerful way that the college inspires its students and enriches their college experiences as they work towards a brighter future. Each year, Hudson County Community College serves 20,000 students, with over 90 degree and certificate programs and a wide range of Continuing Education and Workforce Development certificate programs and courses. The college is committed to promoting student success and upward socioeconomic mobility through academic pathways that lead to transfer to major four-year institutions, and workforce development that empowers students to embark on fulfilling and sustainable career paths.
With this growing treasure trove, Hudson County Community College’s Foundation Art Collection is a destination worth visiting. Luckily, it’s just a quick ride across the Hudson River by PATH, and just blocks from other prominent arts destinations in Jersey City, making it both a destination unto itself and one easily fit into a day of checking out many places in the area’s flourishing art scene. Even better, this underrated collection is open to all -- you can come and see it for yourself for free; the College offers free tours on a weekly basis. Furthermore, HCCC’s Foundation Art Collection will be included in Art Fair 14C’s 34th Annual Jersey City Art and Studio Tour (JCAST) in October, with guided tours on Saturday, October 14th and Sunday, October 15th. The tours will begin at 1:00 p.m. at 71 Sip Avenue on both days.
If you’d like to arrange a tour of the Hudson County Community College Art Collection, please email Andrea Siegel at asiegelFREEHUDSONCOUNTYCOMMUNITYCOLLEGE.
If you’re interested in checking the collection out online, visit https://www.hccc.edu/community/arts/foundation-art-collection/index.html.