SICA Lines Up Another Shot

Owner “Sica” buyer, for way-out House of Ideas: Doug Ferrari’s Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in Long Branch edges ever closer to a planned Asbury relo, with a mini-golf gala lined up for August.

For a fella named Ferrari, his marque is anything but status-symbol. In fact, his personal style simply flies in the face of any Hermes-scarved stereotype associated with a cutting-edge art gallery owner. Time was, he even sported a ‘stache that would not have been out of place on Wilford Brimley.

Given his obvious strengths in the economy and mileage departments, we’d pin him as, say, a sensible Kia Rondo over some stallion-stud Continental driving machine.

We kid Douglas Ferrari, of course. The true fact of the matter is that few among us have ever possessed the moxie, the mojo, the fine madness to have mortgaged our home in a quest to transform a drab old olive oil cannery into an uncanny ideas factory. And that’s precisely what the art teacher and sculpture connoisseur did, as founder and curator of the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in the way-off-Broadway realm of downtown Long Branch — a genuine cultural oasis that’s hosted a slew of forward-thinking visual art exhibits, in addition to dance troupes, open mics, spoken word slams, conferences, classes and sonic entertainments that would likely find a sympathetic stage nowhere else in Shore creation.

It was SICA that brought the annual SculpToure display of outsized, outdoors, out-of-limits 3D artworks to the boardwalks, boulevards and building-tops of the Friendly City. SICA that furnished a first forum for several musical acts that have since staked their place on the local scene and the music biz at large. SICA that offered ultra-convenient, second-floor studio space to artists, filmmakers and media people. SICA that sponsored competitions and exhibit opportunities for high school and college age creatives from all over NJ; SICA that opened its doors (and its cozy cafe space) to dance troupes, video artists, performance poets — as if any of it represented a license to print money.

Still, if that concrete cavern of quirky crannies and stairways-to-nowhere remains something of a Best Kept Secret to the general pube-lick some seven years after its 2004 opening, it’s also no secret that Ferrari has long had one foot out the door of Long Branch — with the aim of relocating lock, stock and  barrel to Asbury Park. While not quite there yet, Signor Ferrari has found his cause championed early and often by AP Mayor Ed Johnson, whose efforts have included lending his name and his tournament-grade hook to last winter’s Mayor’s Bowl fundraiser at Asbury Lanes. This August, Hizzoner tees off in support of SICA once more, via a planned event tentatively titled The Mayor’s Golf Outing.

Clockwise from top right: Visionary owner-curator Douglas Ferrari; a gallery-floor scene from the 2008 group installation OF THE CLOTH; a flyer hyping last winter’s Mayor’s Bowl fundraiser; Montagna & the Mouth to Mouth entertaining at the SICA cafe.

Scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, August 17, between the hours of 6 to 9pm, this Masters of the Mini takes to the lush links of Asbury Eighteen Mini-Golf on the boardwalk, with room for up to 18 teams of four players, and plenty of opportunities for hole sponsorships, prize donors and other fundraising vehicles at this putt-putt Pebble Beach.

Various details are still in the works and a formal announcement has yet to be made — but if this golfball gala is anything like the Mayor’s Bowl at the Lanes, it promises a level of support and encouragement that’s as humbling as it is helpful. That January 21 event brought out teams representing the city of AP, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, boardwalk developer Madison Marquette, several nonprofit arts and activist entities, and a slew of in-town galleries, businesses and professional firms — all this on one of the coldest nights of the year (and it don’t get much colder than on the brrracingly breeze-blasted “No Man’s Land” block of Fourth Ave).

The object of all this affection, and the apple of Ferrari’s eye, is the proposed second-coming SICA in the Lake Avenue building that also harbors Chico’s House of Jazz. While it’s reportedly going to take more than a modicum of renovation and reconfiguration to prep the place — and such a move would be some months away even in the most favorable of circumstances — the city’s biz and arts community has rolled out the welcome wagon for Ferrari; practically baked him a Bundt cake they did.

In the meantime, Ferrari hasn’t exactly abandoned the place into which he’s poured so much of his heart and soul. The ambitious Broadway Arts District project may have succumbed to the economic Ebola pandemic — and the sympathies of the LB city government may have plainly favored the slicker precincts of Pier Village — but SICA has soldiered on into summer, with a schedule that includes a monthly Sudden Movements showcase of dance and movement artists (next event’s August 20); a Let It Out! series of forums “for poetry, prose or just ranting” (August 5); another in a series of Third Fridays Open Mic sessions (August 19), and the monthly “open mic series for teenage talents” known as High Mic (July 23). The annual Fresh Meat, Young Blood group show remains on display through August 21 — and the 2011 edition of SculpToure can be found where you sometimes least expect it, at sites around Long Branch and Asbury town.

Check the SICA website for updated details on the Mayor’s Golf Outing — including sponsors, food and bev vendors, participating teams, sign-ups and possible “19th Hole” afterparty.