Exhibition: Coming to Jones Road

Faith Ringgold, Coming to Jones Road #4: Under a Blood-Red Sky, 2000. 
Acrylic on canvas with fabric borders, 78 ½ x 52 ½ in. (199 x 133 cm). 

Born in Harlem in 1930, Faith moved to Englewood, New Jersey in 1992, where she hoped to build an art studio and work full time on her artwork. She and her family were met with racist hostility from their new neighbors who putatively objected to the idea of her building a studio on the property. After a long and public struggle, she ultimately prevailed.

Instead of creating work based in anger, she decided to find a way to create something uplifting that would honor all of those whose sacrifices carried her forward. About Jones Road Ms. Ringgold says, “I have tried to couple the beauty of this place with the harsh realities of its racist history to create a freedom series that turns all of the ugliness of spirit, past and present into something livable.”  In her Coming to Jones Road series, Ringgold created art to transform her hostile reception into a story of survival and transcendence. In paintings, serigraphs, lithographs, and mixed media works using quilted fabric and painting, Ms. Ringgold celebrates her ancestors and their journeys along the Underground Railroad that brought her to Harlem and then finally to her home and a studio in New Jersey.

Thirty years later, Gallery Bergen seeks to document and redress this racist reception with a multilayered, community-based and student-centric presentation of Faith Ringgold: Coming to Jones Road

As the country continues to grapple with the effects of COVID, an upsurge in protests reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Supreme Court deliberations over the rights of women, Faith Ringgold’s work continues to acquire resonance, inspiring both activists and artists. We think of this exhibition as a kind of atonement for the hostile reception Faith Ringgold received in Englewood in 1992, and a small step toward reparations for all African Americans in Bergen County. 

Using the Coming to Jones Road series as its touchstone,  Gallery Bergen’s working group will mobilize an array of oral history, writing, and investigatory activities to create a community-wide exploration of two contradictory poles in the African American experience in Bergen County. These themes include the mostly obscured and hidden histories of slavery, racism, redlining practices, and police repression in Englewood and Teaneck which have existed alongside these communities’ leadership in the voluntary desegregation of their school systems and as a refuge for African American culture. Many significant jazz and R&B musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderley, George Benson, Ben E. King, and Alicia Keys have lived here, as well as the Isley Brothers for whom streets in Englewood and Teaneck were recently named. Faith Ringgold was moving to what she may have imagined as “Harlem-West.” 

With our BCC’s talented faculty and our deep reach into the communities from which we come, we will involve our students in an unflinching artistic narrative of our county’s (and our country’s) story in all of its contradictions. We aspire to examine what reparations and a redress of injustices might mean for all of us going forward. This is the courage and power of art.

Coming to Jones Road featured on NJ Spotlight News, February 3, 2023.

Artist Faith Ringgold gets a welcome — long overdue — in Bergen, by Jim Beckerman, northjersey.com

Gallery Bergen is the visual arts presentation space of Bergen Community College. It is located on the third floor of West Hall on the Paramus campus at 400 Paramus Road, Paramus, NJ.

For more information, contact Tim Blunk, Director, at tblunk@bergen.edu/201-879-8817

Gallery Hours:

Mon: 11:00am – 05:00pm
Tue: 03:00pm – 07:00pm
Wed: 12:30pm – 06:30pm
Thu: 02:00pm – 08:00pm
Fri: 12:00pm – 06:00pm

School and other groups by appointment.