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Detour Gallery Fort Monmouth
Jun 08, 2018

Fort Monmouth Takes on Art

Fort Monmouth Detour Gallery

Fort Monmouth was once well known for being a military hub and a vital resource to the surrounding towns. That all changed in 2011 when Fort Monmouth shuttered its doors and left Monmouth County with over 1,000 acres of empty land and abandoned buildings. The Fort will soon be bustling once again, thanks to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, which has developed plans to turn the area into a mini community, with cultural, retail and residential facilities.

One of the most interesting projects is being developed by local businessman and art lover Kenneth Schwartz, who purchased six former Army barrack buildings in Eatontown and plans to convert them into a diverse arts community. A long-time lover of art and owner of Detour Gallery in Red Bank, Schwartz hopes to create an inclusive, creative environment that will attract people from around the world.

A well-known entrepreneur in the Monmouth County area, Schwartz is best known for his ownership of the area’s World Auto Group car dealerships and two local pubs, McDonough’s and Old Glory, located in Keyport. His first love, however, is art, and he has been collecting for nearly 50 years. He bought his first piece of art in 1969 from the original Inkwell coffee shop in Long Branch, and never looked back.

Schwartz’ vision for the artist community that he intends to create is simple: “I want it to be like Woodstock without the pot,” he joked.

Schwartz envisions an artistic and cultural gathering place that will be a setting for conversation, both literally and visually. “I’d like it to be a catalyst for communication; an inclusive place where people can exchange ideas and create,” he said.

Schwartz, who has always enjoyed restoring old buildings, had a feeling when he saw the buildings that he could turn them into something special. “I’ve always had a good gut instinct on business ventures,” he said, “and I always saw business as way to build something else.”

With art as the driving factor, Schwartz sold portions of his World Auto Group dealerships and purchased six box-shaped barracks on about four acres. He also purchased the adjacent two acres referred to as Soldiers Park. The buildings need updates, repairs and renovations, which Schwartz hopes to begin soon. He plans to turn the park into a sculpture park featuring works by American and international artists. The park will be a focal point, since it’s located on Avenue of Memories, which is visible to traffic on Route 537.

Schwartz has plans for painters to create eye-catching murals on the outside of the barracks. He would like at least two of the murals to pay homage to the history of Fort Monmouth and the military who once called the Fort “home.” One of the buildings will be a short-term Artist’s Residence, where artists can live and work for no cost for up to 90 days.

“I’m not an artist,” Schwartz said, “but I want to create opportunities for emerging artists and help them achieve their goals and create great works.”

Fort Monmouth

The other four buildings will be rented out at a low cost to other artists, musicians or the like. Schwartz wants to make it a place that allows other people to carry out their creative vision. Schwartz will allow other artists to rent the space directly from him and then carry out their own personal vision, hopefully making a bit of profit in the process.

“This isn’t about adding more business to my business,” he said. “With this project, I’m trying to lay the groundwork for artistic freedom.”

Anyone with a proposal or an idea for the remaining barracks can email Kenneth Schwartz at Kenneth@monmouth.com. He is open to any ideas as long as they are of a cultural, artistic, musical or other creative background.