Jersey may be the Garden State, but sitting in gridlock on the turnpike is no walk in the park. Instead it’s a walk through . . . an art gallery. In place of the usual beer ads and movie posters, this summer two billboards went up that feature scenic landscape paintings. “When I was living in NYC, the whole concept of New Jersey was this barren wasteland, and I can understand why,” says Gary Godbee, whose painting of an idyllic farm now graces a billboard outside Trenton. “But New Jersey is a gorgeous state with amazing variation, and that’s what we’re trying to show people.” Godbee, who now lives in Westfield, NJ, and Hoboken artist Tim Daly inaugurated the Palisades Highway Art Gallery.
In the coming months, 10 new billboards will go up around the state featuring other artists’ visions. And while traffic might be the bane of commuters everywhere, it’s actually key to enjoying these billboard paintings. In fact, the artists whose work is on display might be the only people in Jersey praying for gridlock. “A car is not the best place to appreciate art,” says Godbee. "And if you’re whizzing along at 60 it hardly registers. But if you’re stuck in traffic and can really see the art, then maybe you’ll think, ‘OK, this drive is not a total waste of time.’ "
Unlike with most art galleries, Jersey drivers can actually choose which paintings and photographs they want up on the “walls.” Voting is open until Aug. 7 at drivewithasmile.palisades.com, where hundreds of the most scenic Jersey landscapes can be voted on. Most are pretty flattering to the Garden State, so don’t expect the North Jersey urban wastelands to be appearing on the billboards. As for the danger that art-loving speed demons might keep their eyes on the paintings too long and forget to watch the road, Ed Fernandez, the CEO of auto insurance company Palisades – the sponsor of the highway art gallery – says not to worry. “There’s a lot documentation that billboards don’t distract drivers.” -Art Bistro
This is the best news to come out of NJ in a while. What with corruption and destruction all but taking over the newspapers, this article is a breath of fresh air, and a boost to NJ artists everywhere in our state. It's a first in the whole nation, and I expect other states will be taking up the challenge soon. Woo-hoo!