Art Meets Adventure in Wildwood

Morey’s Piers has a new neighbor. This summer, the Wildwood piers’ thrill rides are coexisting with an artist village of shipping containers.

The experimental project, artBOX, resides on a 10,000-square-foot space on the newest of the Morey’s Piers, Adventure Pier. The artist colony’s glass blowing, speed painting and other interactive exhibits are an unusual sight on Adventure Pier—especially next to hair-raising rides like the SpringShot, which catapults two riders into the air at 75 mph.

The contrast between relaxing and electrifying entertainment was exactly what Jack Morey, the co-owner of Morey’s Piers, had in mind. “I’ve been searching far and wide for alternative development strategy or opportunity. I mean, how many times can you put the same rides on a pier going round and round?” says Morey. “Put artBOX with these extreme rides, and add music to it—it takes on a whole alternative feel.”

Eleven shipping containers—painted with bright hues and images of icons like Bruce Springsteen and Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack—serve as studios for five local and regional artists. Beachgoers can browse the exhibits, watch the artists work and, if they choose, purchase the artwork.

In the midst of the colony, a lone shipping container stands vertically, draped with a giant reproduction of 11-year-old prodigy Autumn De Forest’s painting No Storm Can Stop Us. The 30-by-8-foot work, symbolizing the rebuilding of the Shore, can be seen from a distance. Other repurposed containers house a sushi café, Tokyo 4B, and a performance space for nightly live music from students at School of Rock.

The installation—which runs through September—is in keeping with other efforts by the Moreys to set the park apart. “We don’t want to chase theme parks and try to be like them,” says Morey.

Instead, the nostalgia-oriented Morey family has scattered artifacts from older rides, like pieces of the Coney Island Astro Tower, throughout their piers as a tribute to the Shore’s boardwalk heritage. The boardwalk museum shop, Exit Zero—also housed in a container—sells similar relics from retired rollercoaster rides, including wheels, chairs and even a giant dragon’s head.

Jack Wright, the director of artBOX and owner of Exit Zero, agrees with Morey that these artifacts, and the history behind them, are what separate Morey’s Piers from other contemporary theme parks.

“We expect boardwalks to be tacky and honky-tonk,” says Wright. “We took the best of the boardwalk experience and made it into an interesting, cool shopping experience… The boardwalk is an experience worth preserving.”

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