Expert Ease: Kenny Schwartz

“It was now or never,” asserts Kenny Schwartz, the entrepreneur, and highly-regarded arts patron who among other endeavors turned a vacant building in Red Bank, New Jersey, into the popular Detour Gallery.

“I saw the progressive demise of the historic Fort Monmouth Army barracks that had operated full tilt from 1917 until 2011. It was a city-within-a-city and becoming a ghost town. Something had to be done.”

After preparing a detailed proposal of all his ideas, Schwartz presented it to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), the governing body charged with determining its fate.

He would purchase the six derelict barracks and turn them into studios and galleries for art, dance and music; and transform one into a house for an artist-in-residence program.

Schwartz would also purchase the adjacent two-acre Soldiers Park, which he envisioned as “a sculpture garden, maintained in perpetuity, featuring works by American and international artists,” Schwartz continues.

Describing the restoration underway, Schwartzsays the first thing is gutting the two-story barracks and redoing the interiors in an airy, spacious manner. Then comes the fun part: huge murals for the exterior walls. “We’ll have a competition,” declares Schwartz, “to decide who will paint them, though I’ve already promised one to Dain.” He’s referring to Brooklyn’s renowned street artist known for the intriguing portraits that have been part of New York City’s visual landscape for years.

“I can’t tell you what each mural will depict,” says Schwartz, quickly adding, “but I do want to dedicate one to the fort and the men and women who served their country, here and elsewhere.”

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