January – April 27, 2023

Art exhibition by renowned Englewood-based artist is the centerpiece of humanities/theater projects in northern New Jersey

In 1992, after moving to their new home on Jones Road in Englewood, New Jersey, artist and activist Faith Ringgold and her family were met with racist hostility from their new neighbors as she sought to build a studio on her property. Her response was the creation of her Coming to Jones Road series where she narrates 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.

Having lived most of her life in Harlem, Faith and her husband, Burdette Ringgold, moved to Jones Road in Englewood in 1992. She longed to have a garden and to build a studio to pursue her artwork fulltime. She was met by hostile neighbors who organized themselves to try to prevent her from building her studio. She ultimately prevailed, but was taken aback by the racism she faced in her new home. 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.” 

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. 

This exhibition will be the centerpiece of an extensive humanities project undertaken by BCC faculty and community organizations. Led by Professors Christine Eubank, Lou Rolliston, Maureen Ellis-Davis, and Leigh Jonaitis, students will collect oral histories from the African American communities of Bergen County and surrounding area documenting their own “ancestor journeys” that brought them to northern New Jersey. These histories will then become the raw material for a work of verbatim theater where history is rendered into dialogue for the stage. Renowned composer/bassist Rufus Reid has been commissioned to write a jazz suite dedicated to Faith Ringgold; this music will be the backdrop for the theatrical presentation at Bergen’s Ciccone Theater on April 27, 2023. 

A children’s reading room/makers space will be created on the third floor of West Hall where parents will be able to bring their children to see the exhibition, hear stories from Faith Ringgolds’ 17 children’s books and make artwork inspired by what they have seen and heard.

Collaborating with BCC and Gallery Bergen are the National Coalition of Black Women (Bergen/Passaic Chapter), the Englewood Public Library, the Teaneck Public Library, the BCC Childhood Development Center, the Black Child Development Initiative (BCDI) – Paramus Affiliate, the Puffin Foundation, Ltd., the Bergen County Department of Children’s Services and the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. The Puffin Foundation will be presenting a smaller, contemporaneous show of printed works by Ms. Ringgold at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck which opens February 26 at 4:00 pm.