MontClairVoyant: Painting a Picture of the Arts in Montclair


With the 2019 Montclair Film Festival coming May 3-12, could you make this week’s column mostly about the arts in Montclair?

Auntie MFF

Sure can. Coincidentally, I was just thinking about the ancient art on Anderson Park’s boulders. Those exquisite paintings are so rock-like you can’t even see ’em.

Our distant ancestors were scary-skilled. Anyway, does Montclair warrant its designation as a suburban arts mecca?

Boast Beef

Yes and no, and I’ll explain why. The pros and cons. The ups and downs. The good and bad. The Master and Margarita. Oops — Russian novel intrusion.

The positives: Our town has the MFF, Montclair Art Museum (MAM), Studio Playhouse, Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair Orchestra, Sharron Miller’s dance studio, Wellmont Theater, Clairidge movie theater, Opera Theatre of Montclair, Montclair Music Studio, School of Rock, Parents Who Rock, Trumpets Jazz Club, Jazz House Kids, Essex Youth Theater, Montclair Literary Festival, Bass Arts Studio, art galleries, school plays, music and comedy acts at Tierney’s, varied offerings at Montclair State, etc. Comment?


All good — including the LONG length of that paragraph. Because if people with short attention spans stop reading this column, they’ll have more time for the arts.

Negatives include the shuttered Bellevue cinema, Luna Stage and 12 Miles West moves to other towns, and some current arts entities reportedly struggling to pay higher rents. Also, Trumpets is being sold and it’s not guaranteed to remain a music locale. Thoughts?

Tales from the Downside

Higher rents in our increasingly gentrified town indeed don’t help arts places — and also hurt creative types who have trouble affording Montclair. Living inside one of MAM’s George Inness paintings is only a temporary solution.

But…but…what about the coming downtown “arts district”?

See More at Seymour

The Wellmont is already there, so that’s not being added, and “arts district” rents will likely be pricey given Pinnacle’s history. Many think the whole concept is a fig leaf for more residential overdevelopment, with token arts elements. Yup, skepticism is an art.

What is to be done?

2020 Vision

It would be nice if Montclair’s government gave more backing to the arts. It would also be nice if private money for the arts were spread around more beyond high-profile entities like the MFF and the 1914-founded MAM, which started the same year as Parents Who Bach.

A group you just made up. Any specific ideas to make Montclair more arts-friendly?

Brain’s World

I’d like to see a fairly large performing-arts space — perhaps in a repurposed building — that could be inexpensively shared by local arts entities that don’t have their own venues or big-enough venues. Outer space has lots of room, but DeCamp buses no longer make stops beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Couldn’t such an inexpensive, fairly large, indoor performing-arts space have been included in the “arts district”?

Wellmonty Python

There’s some arts space planned, but what exactly will it be and how much will it cost to rent? Most wealthy developers are more profit-obsessed than arts-impressed, even as they have a “rich” cultural life listening to “Money (That’s What I Want).”

Do you prefer the Motown or Beatles version of that song?

Diane A. Ross

What I really like is that some Montclair High students staged a sit-in April 18 — near the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings — to urge more action on gun control. The art of wanting to live into adulthood.

Do you also like the April 17 withdrawing of the application for that monstrous 60,000-square-foot house in Montclair?

Meg A. Mansion

Very much so, but who knows if some kind of huge dwelling might still be built there. If that happens, I fervently hope the living room has a “Dogs Playing Poker” painting.

But you have mixed feelings about the Township Council’s April 23 vote to prevent Grove Street drivers from making left turns into the coming, history-wrecking Lackawanna Plaza redo. Wasn’t that an important vote for safety?

Turn, Turn, Turn (Not!)

Yes, but it irks me that the TC is now acting so “tough” about a relatively minor issue after making the weak decision to push the much-more-consequential LP plan itself. Maybe the Montclair Film Festival can show the movie “Semi-Tough.”

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

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  1. When I was writing that long paragraph listing Montclair arts entities, I thought and thought and googled — terrified…well, worried…I’d leave one or more important ones out. Turns out I did. 🙁 Thank you, Frank, for mentioning the great Montclair Jazz Festival — which I should have mentioned.

  2. “I’d like to see a fairly large performing-arts space — perhaps in a repurposed building — that could be inexpensively shared by local arts entities that don’t have their own venues or big-enough venues. ”

    I don’t know how much backstage space it had, but the Old Mogul Theater @ 180 Bloomfield Av lasted a hot minute (2015-2016 I think). The Village, way back in the day, was not much on style or space – but it offered a lot, in very compact spaces, for those who were willing to take an evening and a chance.

  3. I remember hearing about the Old Mogul Theater, but never was inside.

    As for the Village, I saw quite a few excellent Off-Off Broadway plays in small spaces when I lived in NYC during the previous millennium. I wonder how many of those mini-playhouses survived the gentrification of Manhattan…

  4. A sensible “don’t.” My wondering was 99% rhetorical. I imagine most of those mini-playhouses have gone the way of the print-version Village Voice that used to list their offerings.

  5. Arts happenings can happen in the Madison Building. It has a historic loft building feel. Montclair Design Week exhibits there and its a fabulous atmosphere & space…. what the art world looks for. Nail Salons and Eyelash Extensions Studios will probably prefer Seymor Street.

  6. Thank you, Frank, for mentioning that building! Sounds like a great space (at 427-429 Bloomfield Avenue, from what I saw from a Google search). I’ve never been inside the Madison Building. Does it have mostly a gallery feel? Does it include any auditorium-like space that could be used for an event such as a concert?

  7. It has the right Soho repurposed loft feel for an art exposition, possibly a smaller concert. I think the Wellmont is great!

  8. The Madison Building is the former home of Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts, so there’s that.

  9. Thank you, latebloomer! That means the Madison Building has a good amount of space — and a distinguished history! My two daughters never took dance, so I haven’t really focused on where Sharron Miller’s studio was/is located.

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