So, this young investment banker walks into a bar and says, “I’d like to host a free art show for my friends here.” The bartender takes one look at the investment banker and says, “Only in Asbury Park.”

I don’t think there is any crueler fate I can think of for an artistic or creative-type of person than being sucked in to the drudgery of a five day work week cooped up in a lackluster, corporate, soul-sucking office space. But, hey, you’ve got to pay the bills somehow. Right?

So, what do you do when you get sick of your corporate job, want to hang out with your friends, drink a beer, and also remain resourceful? Host a pop-up art gallery. In Asbury Park. At a bar. For your friends. At least that’s what Kirsten Chen did. Chen, a 24-year-old Ocean Township native, organized and hosted her 2nd “By the People” art collective this past Sunday in Porta’s infamous “boom-boom” room.

forthepeople5Event organizer Kristen Chen

Chen works for an investment firm in Manhattan, but says she is a little tired of the corporate world. “After a while, you realize it’s a little bit of a game.” She found that she had so many talented friends she began organizing what she calls “art for the sake of art” pop-up gallery projects. She hosted her first one on a rooftop in Manhattan, but decided for the second pop-up gallery she would revisit her home at the Jersey Shore. “We thought we’d go to Asbury Park this time, you know? It’s coming back.” Chen fronts all of the money for the event and doesn’t charge the vendors to rent the space – because – unlike the culture of her corporate job – she isn’t in it for the money. Plus, most of the vendors are her friends. If not, they are friends of friends.

forthepeople3Katy Hirschfeld 

Katy Hirschfeld , 25, graduated from Ocean Township High School one year before Chen. She currently works for an art gallery in Texas, but comes back to the tri-state to show her work and see her friends for Chen’s pop-up gallery events. “It brings us together, community-wise.” She defines her artistic style as “grungy.” Most of the art she makes is some form of collage. “I’m into grunge and grittiness. I go through magazines and it just happens. It’s like I black out and when I wake, the piece is finished.” Hirschfeld  is of the same opinion as Chen, there is something artistic afoot in Asbury Park, amassing strength. “When I was in high school I didn’t know anyone who lived in AP, and now most of the people I know live here.”

forthepeople4Christopher Florentino, center

Christopher Florentino, a 30-year-old Brooklyn native, moved to the area and co-manages the Knowledge Bennett Gallery, a storefront-slash-art-space at 408 Emory Street. He met Chen through a mutual friend that graduated from college with her. He describes it as “an art gallery, for clothes.” But, he’s not really into clothing design, per se.  “I’m just a designer. Clothing is a good way to get my art out.” Florentino was drawn to Asbury Park because of the diverse culture and, yup, you guessed it, the resurgence of an art scene. “I love the culture here, and the art scene is getting bigger every day.”

forthepeople2Artwork by Katie Herschefeld

Chen loves the space Porta’s “boom-boom” room has to offer and plans to host more pop-up galleries there, as well as in other spaces Asbury has to offer. For now, she is content paying her bills and hosting pop-up galleries, but plans for her full-time career include doing “something else – something that makes the world a little bit better of a place.”

Seems to me she’s already started.


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