Works by Kathy Polenberg, above, and other local artists are showcased as part of the rejuvenated Red Bank Art Walk event on Friday.  

It looked for a while as if it might never regain its footing — but after sitting out the past couple of years, the Red Bank Art Walk makes its return this Friday, hot on the heels of the borough’s selection (by Smithsonian Magazine) as one of the top three Best Small Towns in the USA for culture and quality of life.

A three-hour, self-guided tour through the downtown Green and points west, the Art Walk is both rejuvenated and reconfigured in its 2012 incarnation, with a new cast of participants joined by several “non-traditional spaces” where Art Happens, from restaurants and retail stores to at least one transformed place of worship.

Going on between the hours of 6pm and 9pm, this first in a projected new series of events is being spearheaded by a relatively recent arrival to town — Gallery U and Boutique, the rather Unique and Unorthodox artspace that opened its doors at 80 Broad Street last year.

Jon Fried and Deena Shoshkes of  legendary NJ band The Cucumbers make a rare Red Bank appearance at Gallery U on May 11, during the Red Bank Art Walk.  

A companion to an existing Gallery U in Montclair, the Red Bank space is managed by Robert Langdon and operated by Livingston-based Universal Institute Medical Rehab Therapy Center, a facility specializing in the treatment of patients with brain and spinal cord injuries. UI established the two galleries as part of their vocational training program for adults with traumatic brain injuries, and quickly generated buzz that centered around the success of the program’s therapeutic aspects, as well as the high quality of the art featured in such well-received group shows as Awakenings — a recent exhibit that incorporated pieces created by the Institute’s disabled clients.

That show was curated by Ben Danzi of Rumson, and featured contributions from Eileen Kennedy of Red Bank, as well as Long Branch-based Kathy Polenberg — herself a former head injury patient, and a seemingly tireless creator of indoor/outdoor art, theatrical scenery, residential flourishes and other amazing stuff in evidence throughout the greater Green and beyond. The artist known as “Polekat” returns to Gallery U for Promenade, an event that boasts a live musical performance (and super-rare Red Bank appearance) by Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried, co-founders of The Cucumbers — a reborn combo familiar to fans of the 1980s Hoboken scene, as well as listeners of the late and lamented WHTG-FM.

Also featured in Promenade are works by Alexandra Alger, Lisa Budd, Jill Caporlingua, Bill Cohen, Lauren Curtis, John Darvey, Karissa Harvey, Kathleen Heron, Jonathan Hernandez, Robert Langdon, Marci Shrewsbury Lopez, Adena Macri, Onix Mora, Marilyn Rose, Kristian Sacca, Randy Schaeffer, and Erik von Ploennes.

Elsewhere on the Art Walk, Bolivia-born “action painter” David Banegas offers live demonstrations of his specialty at his Banegas Fine Art Gallery (43 Broad Street), while Gallery 135 inside Monmouth Street’s Red Bank Community Church presents a first look at one of Red Bank’s best kept secrets: a newly rebranded exhibit space curated by associate pastor and contemporary artist Reverend Gerda Liebmann. Up at  McKay Imaging Gallery , an exhibit of “New and Unknown” works by Red Bank legend Evelyn Leavens is open for public perusal (see redbankgreen‘s feature on that ongoing installation, LEAVENS GETS LINEAR).

Also on the tour will be such long-established borough spaces as The Art Alliance of Monmouth County and Beacon Fine Arts Gallery on Monmouth Street, as well as Chetkin Gallery on Wharf Avenue. They’ll be joined for the Art Walk by such art-friendly restaurants as Front Street Trattoria, No Joe’s Cafe, Good Karma Cafe, and Jon Bon Jovi’s nonprofit JBJ Soul Kitchen. In fact, all participants in the Red Bank Art Walk are encouraged to contribute non-perishable food items to donation boxes set up at various venues on the Walk, with a collective donation being made to Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean following the event.

Strolling art aficionados can pick up free street maps of Red Bank along the route, highlighting Art Walk locations, and, as an additional mark of distinction, each venue will also be displaying red balloons outside their doors.