FRENCHTOWN, N.J. - ArtYard in Frenchtown has been around for five years, but 2022 is set to be its most exciting year yet.

The nonprofit has expanded to become a hub for creation and collaboration.

"We are an art exhibition space, a residency program with two buildings that can house about 15 to 20 artists at a time," said Jill Kearney, the founder and executive director of ArtYard and the curator of the exhibition Invisible.

A dance group from Manhattan will be the first residents moving in in March. Also that month in its new, main building is the opening of the McDonnell Theater, with 162 recycled seats and a chandelier made of water bottles.

All kinds of artist talks, performances, workshops and festivals are scheduled. Portraits called "artist ancestors" take up some seats to allow for social distancing.

"George Nakashima, a local peace activist and carpenter and lover of wood," Kearney said as she showed WFMZ who was featured in the portraits.

ArtYard features its own unique treasure hunt. There are three "VSGs," very small galleries, hidden throughout the building. There is one that you open like a mail box and peek through. Inside the walls, you find mini pieces of art that are swapped out with each exhibition.

Staff is preparing for Invisible, which is the exhibition opening Saturday.

"These are works that explore aspects of invisibility from the invisible labor of women, to the invisible harms that have befallen the environment, to invisible emotional states, such as grief or anxiety, perhaps given the moment that we're all living through and enduring," said Kearney.

Cuban artist Sandra Ramos worked on her installation called Heart of History for a year. It includes video projections and letters from local children.

"The idea of the piece is to reflect critically about history," said Ramos. "We have the local history that is so many times like less known and hidden."

Another artist transformed garbage washed up from the remnants of Hurricane Ida into sculptures and printed them on a banner.

There are also gumball machines that dispense poems.

"You can take it home with you, or if you want to see it vanished before your eyes," said Kearney. "You can drop the poem into this receptacle that will be full of water and watch it disappear."

The art is free to check out, but you will need tickets for shows, and 50 cents for the poems.

"We've sort of grown from just art exhibition to art exhibition, poetry, festivals, literary events, dance...a lot of outdoor programming during COVID," said Kearney.

Monica Banks, Willie Cole, Phebe Macrae Corcoran, Vasiliki Katsarou, sTo Len, Kaitlin Pomerantz, Kelly Popoff, Sandra Ramos, Gabrielle Senza, Pavel Urkiza, Kawita Vatanajyankur and Natalija Vujošević are all set to have art featured in the Invisible exhibition.

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