Essex County News

Newark art scene in flux as redevelopment changes city landscape

ec2e89bf4e39fdf7bbeb_TAPintoNewark_Artist_IMG_5648.jpg
Ryan Monroe, a freelance photographer, is moving to Newark's Lower Broadway neighborhood. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
d7902b10c81c9486239e_TAPintoNewark_Arts_IMG_1802.jpg
Lisa Conrad, executive director of the Newark Print Shop, is now looking for another space. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
cebce139cef4d9b315dd_TAPintoNewark_Artist_IMG_1810.jpg
Express Newark, an arts incubator conceived by Rutgers University-Newark in collaboration with the local artist community, opened in early 2017 inside the refurbished Hahne & Co. building. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
69d179c6839a0c9fc952_TAPintoNewark_IMG_1805.jpg
The Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, a Newark mainstay for more than three decades, is going through a reorganization. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
ec2e89bf4e39fdf7bbeb_TAPintoNewark_Artist_IMG_5648.jpg

Artists were urban pioneers in locales like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Jersey City, setting the stage for the economic infusion that dramatically changed the landscape.

With the same surge now happening in Newark, local artists are surveying the scene, wondering what will come, and searching for ways to stay.

"When I moved to Newark, I moved into a very active, inspiring, and underground arts space," said Lisa Conrad, 36, founder and executive director of the Newark Print Shop. "Now, it's a vastly different downtown Newark. Every time that yet another artist space is lost, some will stay. But the city will also lose artists."

Sign Up for E-News

Artists who have helped to lay the groundwork for Newark's ongoing revival are worried that positive change will pass them by. Many of the small galleries that dot downtown are now threatened by rising rents that could force them to close or move.

When Conrad first moved to Newark from Philadelphia eight years ago, the city’s downtown was still affordable. She paid just $187 a month in rent for a share in a combined residential loft and artists' studio above a fried chicken joint on Broad Street across from Military Park.

Since then, the park has been completely refurbished, Prudential’s new office tower opened and the long vacant Hahne & Co. department store has been transformed into an residential and retail destination anchored by an upscale Whole Foods supermarket.

The renovated Hahne & Co. building also includes Express Newark, an arts incubator conceived by Rutgers University-Newark in collaboration with the local artist community. The 50,000-square foot facility includes space for the Newark Print Shop. The shop was founded in 2012 and landed at Express Newark after it opened in early 2017. But now the shop will be on the move again - the time-limited residency that allowed it to have space at Express Newark is up.

"We understand that the Newark Print Shop made a great contribution to the vibrancy of Express Newark and the Hahne’s building and we are thankful for that," wrote Anne Englot, a professor at Rutgers-Newark and the co-director of Express Newark, in an email, noting that the print shop contractually only had a limited year-to-year period of residency at the facility.

"We wish the Newark Print Shop well, we plan to continue to support them, and we will be thrilled to see them succeed as they “graduate” from this incubator because we truly think they are ready," Englot wrote.

Conrad is now readying the print shop for its fourth move in just over five years.

"We're focusing on how we can continue to be a long-term resource for the arts community," she said. "The thriving dynamic here in Newark came from the grassroots, ground up. But our mantra is the same as it's always been - how to find funds and space."

The endless artist search for funds and space has spurred many to move from places like Brooklyn and Jersey City.

"I'm purchasing a whole 1,500-square-foot building in Newark for less than I sold my one-bedroom condo in Bed-Stuy," said Ryan Monroe, 35, a freelance photographer who also works in finance, who is moving to the Lower Broadway neighborhood. "There are still plenty of neighborhoods in Newark that are very affordable. They may not be downtown, because it's a gold mine now. But there are still a lot of opportunities elsewhere."

Monroe believes that if artists want to maintain an active presence in Newark, they literally have to own it.

"There is only one way to avoid being priced out - you have to own. The arts drives redevelopment, and when you own, you get to participate in that redevelopment," Monroe said. "If you have a group of three or four artists, you can purchase a place in the South Ward. I empathize with those who are having a hard time. But you have to ask the right questions about grants and about how the government can help you. If you ask the right questions of the right people, you're not completely helpless."

"Newark is never going to be any more affordable than it is today," Monroe added. "You're going to have to make a decision."

Jeremy Johnson, the executive director of Newark Arts, noted that several arts organizations in the city are going through transitions. The Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, a Newark mainstay for more than three decades, is going through a reorganization. City without Walls (CWoW) has closed its doors, although a movement is in the works for it to reemerge in the Lincoln Park area.

But Johnson also noted that if artists radiate from downtown, the move could give them the best chance to benefit from Newark's revitalization.

"Newark is undeniably in a period of growth and change. I’d like to emphasize that Newark Arts is interested in the arts across our city - not only the arts district downtown, but in neighborhoods in all five Newark wards.  We are working to seed a stronger arts presence, for example, in Clinton Hill, Fairmount, Lincoln Park and more," Johnson said. "Artists and arts organizations have long been at the forefront of the city’s growth. We look forward to working with all partners to ensure Newark remains a city of the arts."

When asked what it's going to take to allow her to remain, Conrad pointed out that ultimately, artists in Newark have to count on themselves.

"Artists need to organize and learn how to access capital that working-class artists don't have - we have to band together and own our own spaces," Conrad said. "That's the only way that artists will not continually have to move around. Otherwise, we're at the mercy of the market. If we can tap into our own creativity and resiliency, we're going to survive and thrive."

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_051fbfdc6005fbc26458_072118silentparty

Sat, July 21, 10:00 AM

Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield

Silent Party

Wed, July 25, 7:00 PM

Washington Park, Dunellen

Free Music in the Park | Princesa - Pop / Latin

Arts & Entertainment

Shakespeare in the Park Returns to Union County Sunday, July 22

July 20, 2018

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce the return of Shakespeare in the Park this weekend. The performance will be presented on Sunday, July 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield.

The Shrew Mechanicals Troupe from The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will present an hour long performance of “Shakespeare Gumbo,” a stirring collection of ...

Plainfield BOE Member on Naming of the New School

July 12, 2018

On Tuesday, June 19, 2018 – I, Carmencita Pile, an elected Plainfield School Board member presented this during the Plainfield School Board monthly business meeting to the public and to the board after being recognized by Plainfield School Board President Mr. Richard Wyatt.

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 12:10PM an email was sent from the Plainfield School District's Postmaster that ...

Residents Taking Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

July 17, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

La Guerra contra los Inmigrantes- Cuando es Demasiado?

July 15, 2018

"Primero, vinieron por los comunistas, y yo no hable- por que no era comunista.

Después, vinieron por los sindicalistas, y yo no hable- por que no era sindicalista.

Después, vinieron por los judíos, y yo no hable- por que no era judío. 

Después, vinieron por mí- y no hubo nadie para hablar por mí."

Este dicho por el ...

Mayor Mapp:  El Programa de Verano de los Jóvenes

El lunes, 9 de julio, nuevas caras alumbraran las oficinas de la Alcaldía. Nuestro Programa de Verano de los Jóvenes por fin comienza, y otra vez los empleados tendrán la oportunidad de ser mentores de un nuevo grupo de jóvenes.

El Programa de Verano de los Jóvenes corre por seis semanas todos los años y les da la oportunidad de empleo y experiencia a ...

Featured Business: Studio 15 Young Plainfield Entrepreneurs Expand Business Once More

“What you see behind me is a life-changing project for myself that I have been working on since January 2017, nearly two years, discreetly; not sharing much about it with anybody. I've had plenty of reasons to give up on this truck; I purchased it pretty much from the ground up from Rashine Mobile, another local city entrepreneur. The truck had no steering column, no computer; it ...

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little (Dog Ear Publishing, 2015)

 

Rich Little is a national treasure; a living encyclopedia of movie stars, comedians, and former presidents all wrapped into one dynamic package. Recently, my husband and I had the good fortune to see Little perform at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, where he has been doing his uncanny ...

Lucia, Lucia by Adriani Trigiani

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2003)

 

If a summer romance novel is what you are craving to read as you sit by the pool or beach, Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia is a perfect choice. Set in 1950 New York City, the novel is about a young woman, Lucia Sartori, who is determined to have a career and be able to support herself, an unusual choice for a girl who was ...

The Anatomy of Escape by Mike Blue

The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure by Mike Blue (Available on Amazon)

 

Imagine that you could just say, “Chuck it,” and walk away from the bonds that keep you tied to what Mike Blue, author of The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure, defines as the restrictive Work-Consume-Die cycle. To most of us, becoming what Blue terms “a ...

The Death of Koko the Gorilla

Koko's Kitten, Koko's Story, The Eduction of Koko all by Dr. Francine Patterson

 

Last night when I heard about the death of Koko, the lowland gorilla who was educated to communicate through American Sign Language by Dr. Francine Patterson, I went numb with grief. I have followed the life of Koko, her two gorilla companions, Michael and Ndume, as well as Dr. Patterson for forty ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly (Naval Institute Press, 2015)

Victoria Kelly's first published volume of poetry, When the Men Go Off to War, is a wonder in that poems can be written so beautifully about the subject of war. Each poem is a jewel, polished and colorful, glittering with elegant imagery, and rich in emotional wallop. The book, divided into three sections, ...