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ArtYard breaks ground at Frenchtown’s old hatchery


ArtYard is set to commence construction of its planned 16,000 -square-foot arts center on the site of the former Kerr’s Chickeries at the corner of Front and Lott streets in Frenchtown, N.J.

“We searched everywhere for the right place to launch ArtYard, visiting sites abroad and in the American West before concluding that Frenchtown was the ideal town,” said ArtYard founder Jill Kearney.

“For decades Frenchtown has quietly attracted independent-minded creative types who enjoy living cheek by jowl with fifth generation town families, of whom Mayor Brad Myhre is one. But it’s a low key town that doesn’t trumpet itself. I did not ‘discover’ Frenchtown, but came to realize what was already here, hiding in plain sight.

“From the moment we opened our doors I saw that the town was humming with creative life, with book artists, poets, composers, and award-winning chefs.”

ArtYard is a nonprofit arts center whose mission is to serve as an incubator for creative expression and a catalyst for collaborations that reveal the transformational power of art. Since September 2016 ArtYard has provided Hunterdon and Bucks county communities with an inspired mix of art exhibitions, creative workshops, and film, poetry and music events, bringing artists from Peru, Croatia, Cuba, Iran as well as Newark, Oakland, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Hunterdon County to exhibit or read their work, or collaborate in acts of communal storytelling.

ArtYard has also launched the occasional festival wherein flocks of giant birds hatch out of a giant egg and embark on a matching band-accompanied parade through town.

Since 2016 operations have been housed in a rambling former electronics warehouse on Trenton Avenue behind the Lovin’ Oven, but the building was not ideally suited for a theater facility. It lacked the requisite ceiling height for optimal sightlines for film projection, dance, and theater. So architects Ed Robinson and William Welch designed a building for the old hatchery site, inspired by historical photographs of the town’s industrial roots.

The building will house ArtYard’s enlarged 160-seat state-of-the-art theater, art exhibition galleries, and offices.

Third generation family business W.S. Cumby was selected as the general contractor after a thorough bidding and review process. Demolition of the old building was expected to begin this week, with the building envelope construction proceeding through the summer and expected to be fully enclosed by September.

Final site work is expected to be completed by late spring or early summer 2020. Construction will occur in a mixed-use residential neighborhood, and ArtYard is committed to acting as thoughtful neighbors during the construction process.

Work will generally occur between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.