As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came upon a post that was captioned “Art builds bridges.” This statement cannot be more fitting as Mayor Ras J. Baraka of the City of Newark plans to announce the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) report on September 12th at 1130am in City Hall.
The leading organization behind this is Newark Arts. Everyday this week I will feature and introduce you to staff.
Today I introduce you to Executive Director, Jeremy Johnson and Executive Assistant to Jeremy V. Johnson and Office Manager, Ruby Annette Evans.
In an interview with them, they both reiterated the mission of Newark Arts, “Powering the arts to transform the lives who work, live and play in the great city of Newark, New Jersey.”
Johnson explains, “We are like the electricity that powers the house and without the electricity, they (appliances) don’t work. We bring the power to the arts, funding to the arts, art folks together by helping make Newark a city of the arts that brings it to Newarkers and people beyond Newark.”
He adds, “Newark Arts helps facilitate this by bringing together people and initiatives that help make the city stronger through lots of partnerships. He says, “We are like a bunch of artistic cats. We corral them together.”
He emphasizes that this could not be possible with their greatest ally, The Mayor. Mayor Baraka, who is an artist himself from the beginning of his administration has supported the arts in all it’s forms. He created The Office of Arts, Cultural Development and Tourism that is led by Gwen Moten.
Newark Arts also helps artists by giving them a voice. Evans who is the “eyes and ears keeping him apprisedof all matters” of Johnson, says, “We are the mouthpiece for artists who might not have the opportunity to be seen, heard, or for people to witness their great work and contributions here in the city.” She emphasized that “If they (artists) connect with us, then we can connect them to other opportunities.” She cited the example when “corporate sponsors call looking to fill their walls and spaces” the organization in turn reaches out to the artists.
After speaking with Johnson, it is evident his love for the arts and Newark are one in the same. He says, “Art helps the economy and make our city grow, healthier, safer, more beautiful, more educated, a more prideful city.”
He cited a number of ways that this is already happening to a city that has had it’s unfair casting of negative perceptions over the years. On any given Thursday summer evening, there is NJPAC’s Sounds of the City. Other days dogs are bringing their humans to the movies at The Newark Museum and the next day gathering with folks watching the eclipse and learning from the astronomers at the museum’s planetarium. When driving, drivers can take in Gateway To Newark (Portraits) mural along McCarter Highway or a number of them on once blighted buildings around the city.
As Newark moves forward, Johnson does have a wish list for Newark Arts and the city. They include: “More young people to have more arts in their lives by having people invested in the city’s youth join and participate in the Newark Arts Education RoundTable (NAER), that are making things happen.” Another is for “artists that call Newark home and will remain their home as they build their craft as they find art lovers to enjoy their art.” For neighborhoods: “to have funding and dollars to bring art to far flung areas of Newark that don’t always get the attention and help they need…who could be inspired by art if they could access it more.”