Hoboken musician Ronald Ramos has a special love for the visual arts, and it’s that passion that helped launch and develop Hoboken’s annual Digable Arts Festival. That’s D-I-G-able as in “can you DIG it?” Now in its third year at the Monroe Center, the festival continues to thrive bringing in new artists of various mediums with Ramos at the helm.
“I love it, it has always been about the art,” said Roland Ramos, festival organizer. “Other festivals are about the music with a couple of details about the arts. This festival is about the arts first.”
Born in Astoria, Queens, Ramos was raised inTeaneck. His father was a physician with a practice in Union City, and enrolled Ramos in Hoboken’s prestigious HudsonSchool, where he studied music and philosophy.
“My mother would wake me up every morning and begrudgingly drive me from Teaneck to Hoboken,” said Ramos. “Hudson School was a school for the gifted. When I have kids I hope to send them there.”
Ramos went to high school in Teaneck and afterwards attended Fairleigh Dickinson University. He graduated from Ramapo College, where during his time in school would play in a band three times a week and worked two jobs. From there he went to work for AARP, and later started two senior adult care facilities – Adult Care in Union Cityand Sweet Home Adult Medical Day Care inClifton.
However, his true calling had always been in the arts and music, and although the Digable Festival has only been around for three years, its roots started to spark up several years ago on the blank walls of Ramos’ Hoboken apartment.
“I moved back to Hoboken seven years ago with an artsy girl,” said Ramos. “I was living in North Arlington and she wanted to move to a place with more culture. We found a good deal in Hoboken.”
According to Ramos, the relationship did not work out, and she took all of the art from their spacious apartment leaving the walls bare.
“I was living in this apartment with no art on the walls,” said Ramos.
Not long after, Ramos was tired of seeing his walls empty and started throwing parties for a group of friends and asking them to bring art and of course drinks. Eventually he started inviting local artists to showcase in his apartment.
“It got so elaborate and started packing the house, so I rented the apartment next door with a special lease [just to showcase art],” said Ramos.
From there Ramos started hosting Hudson County art shows in Jersey City. In 2009 he did a show called Pile of Tricks and a show in 2010 called Love My Life. The show had 400 people turn out to its opening party. Ramos wanted to bring that energy to the visual arts back to Hoboken, which he said had not been around since the 1980s.
“We should have more culture than we do [inHoboken],” said Ramos. “We have been known for our music and our history, but we should be known for our art. We should be making history.”
According to Ramos, there are really only a few galleries catering to the visual arts in the area.
“These galleries are homogenous,” said Ramos. “The visual arts are grossly underrepresented. There is not enough of an art crawl in Hoboken. It was important to bring this focus closer to home.”
Ramos held the first Digable Arts Festival at the Monroe Center in 2010, and had a huge turnout. So much so, that the festival ran overtime because nobody wanted to leave. The festival was kept more subdued the following year and now in its third year the evolution has come full circle, which can be seen in the quality of the exhibits and the bands.
“We planned out everything,” said Ramos. “The reason why it looks so good is because we have a curatorial committee that picks [everything] and makes for a [full] aesthetic experience. We needed something like this in Hoboken.”
The festival committee is working in partnership with the Monroe Center, and Ramos is also working to help further develop the artists’ community in Hoboken.
“There is something about Hoboken that can’t be replaced,” said Ramos. “One of the initiatives that I am taking on is 720 Creative Studios.”
The company will provide artists low rent studio space in Hoboken from $150 to $200 a month. So even if you can’t live in Hoboken, at least you can work in Hoboken.
“It all comes down to economics,” said Ramos. “If you price out artists, [they] can’t live here. This is the promise of the future.”
The latest Digable Arts Festival was held in April, but you can still catch Ramos playing guitar and running his jam sessions called The Tempest at The Lampoon in Jersey City.
“That’s my art,” said Ramos. “I would love to bring that back to Hoboken.”
For the latest information on the arts festival, visit: www.digablearts.com.