Plan to develop art community at Fort Monmouth parcel underway

EATONTOWN – A man who claims he is not an artist is seeking to transform six World War II era buildings on the Fort Monmouth property in Eatontown into an artistic hub he has described as “Woodstock without the pot.”

Although Kenneth Schwartz, 67, said he does not create art, he said he has admired and collected artwork since he was 17.

In an interview, Schwartz, who owns the Detour Gallery in Red Bank, said that in 1969 he saved $500 from a part-time job and purchased a portrait of a court jester he saw on the wall of the Inkwell coffeehouse in Long Branch.

That painting was the first piece of artwork he purchased.

“I loved that painting and I worked close to a month to get the money,” Schwartz said, noting that he has since misplaced the painting. “I have always been interested in art because I am astounded at how people could do it. You know, I just have no talent for that. I find (artists) really amazing and always have.”

Schwartz, who said he has an appreciation for art in different forms, previously explained he purchased four acres at the former U.S. military installation and said the development of an artistic community there could act as an “incubator” for ideas and collaboration to thrive.

In 2017, the Fort Monmouth Revitalization Authority (FMERA) approved a purchase and sale agreement and a redevelopment agreement with Schwartz.

“It’s really cool because most of the fort is either sold or spoken for,” Schwartz said. “(The artistic community) is going to be very spectacular … In Monument Park, which is part of the property, I am going to have a sculpture park … I will put out the word for sculptors who have giant (sculptures) to submit them and install them there.”

Schwartz said a development application will be presented to the Eatontown Planning Board or the Eatontown Zoning Board of Adjustment.

“You hire a lawyer who knows what to do and you pay the bills,” Schwartz laughed. “Then one day, (the lawyer) will call you and say ‘let’s start construction.’ ”

Previously, Schwartz said part of his vision is to convert five vacant buildings to studio, performance and gallery space. The upper level of the sixth building would be reserved for four artists who are visiting from other states and countries and want to take part in a 90-day artist’s residency.

The free residency, Schwartz said, will allow artists to live, work and collaborate with other artists visiting and living at that location. He said the visiting artists will have gallery space on the first floor where they can display and curate their work.

Schwartz said he has received inquiries from individuals in Norway and Italy who have shown interest in participating in the international residency.

“I am getting requests from all over the world, but I cannot do anything until I put a shovel in the ground,” he said.

Schwartz said part of his vision for the artistic community includes painting murals on the exterior of the six buildings. He is accepting emails from muralists. Schwartz said he has already selected a group of muralists to paint one building.

He said the theme of the murals will be organic, dependent upon the artist, and eclectic yet appropriate.

“I have a vision for doing this, but I’m not an artist. It’s the artists themselves who are going to make (the murals) synergistic and organic, with my approval,” Schwartz said.

Artists who are interested in contributing an outdoor sculpture or painting a mural may contact rune@detourgallery.com.