Newark, NJ – More than 100 residents gathered Wednesday afternoon at the unveiling of an art wall at the Fairmount Heights Switching Station on Littleton Avenue. The switching station itself is a $277 million investment by PSE&G into Newark’s electrical infrastructure built to ensure redundancy and reliability long with Newark’s Switching Station.
The public-private partnership took three years to come to fruition. On Wednesday, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka praised the community and artists for working together to create something beautiful.
“Our community is very vocal. Very loud. Very upfront about what they want and when they want it,” said Baraka. “That’s the great thing about being from Newark.”
Baraka said art was being used to revitalize the city. “The secret sauce is working together and the second piece is art,” said Baraka. “We work. We paint. We draw. We read poetry. Newark is on fire again.”
There were 14 international artists including six artists from Newark who created massive sculptures, mosaics and works of art attached to the façade of the Fairmount Heights Switching Station.
PSE&G cleaned up the previously contaminated site and agreed to hire Newark residents to work on the switching station project as well as committing to beautification of the façade by including artwork.
“This is a huge investment for us and into the community,” Karen Johnson, director of PSE&G communications told TapIntoNewark.
Jhakeyda Floyd, a Newark resident, told TapIntoNewark her life changed because of the switching station project. She was on welfare and previously needed to work three jobs until she was hired by PSE&G as a safety watcher who ensures workers are adhering to OSHA protocols. Now two years later the mother of three is a home owner. Her entire life changed because of the job provided by PSE&G.
Floyd said she was, “Happy to be living proof,” of the success of the private public partnership. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Kevin Darmanie of Newark was one of the 14 artists to create the art wall. His 12 mosaic portraits are now on one of the walls of the switching station.
“It looks good. It looks clean. The works pop off the wall,” said Darmanie. “It seems like everyone is excited about it. It was an empty lot for so long. To see the city take such an interest, it’s a good thing. PSE&G has such deep pockets to really help here.”
Darmanie said he was attracted to the project because he has done murals in Fairmount before but that the switching station will have a more permanent presence.
“As an artist, I wanted to be able to make a permanent mark on Newark,” he said.
Manuel Acevedo a former Newark resident who now lives in the Bronx contributed a massive work of art depicting the word “unity”.
“People can kind of project what they want from looking at the word unity,” said Acevedo. “I wanted to contribute to the city where I was born and raised. I saw the community change and I’ve continued to be a part of it.”