Newark Arts Builds Bridges In Newark

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.”











My Reflection On Why I #❤Newark

20170831_003935In the last few months, I have become a rather recognizable face in Newark. Some know my name, others do not, but follow me on any one or all of my social media pages. I did not intend for that to happen, but with some (okay a lot of) motivation by friends, the constant negative media reports and love for my adopted city–someone had to step up and advocate and showcase the Newark I like so many who live here, LOVE.
I began informally chronicling Newark for 8 years ago as a response to my New York friends thinking I was crazy visiting this city for what initially was Newark Bears baseball games. They, like I heard and read what the traditional news was reporting about what was happening here, but I never observed any of that on my excursions to and from Newark Penn Station. I would always pick different ways to walk whether it was up Market Street turning right on Broad Street or along McCarter Highway. After awhile, I became curious to see what else was happening in this city. I learned about Newark Riverfront Revival’s $5.00 boat tours along the Passaic River, The Newark Museum, NJPAC‘s Sounds of The City free summer concerts The Newark Public Library, and much more. That October weekend, I had read a listing about the Newark Arts Open Doors, I found myself inside the WBGO studios, The New Jersey Historical Society–where a quote from Frederick Douglass was posted in one of the exhibits, ” If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” A fitting quote for this city as it’s being redeveloped and in some instances developed. I was falling in love with this place and I owed it all to my love of baseball.
I eventually left New York and moved to Belleville, but spent a lot of time in and out of Newark by bus as I do not drive. I not only did I begin to learn about it’s history, but also the contributions Newarkers of past and present made and were making to this nation and the larger world. Eventually I would board random buses to view what I read about. Like the day, I took the #5 Bus to see for myself the streets that were named for The Newark Eagles, the team that won the 1946 Negro Leagues World Series. But enough about baseball, for now.
On March 20th of this year, I attended Mayor Baraka’s State of the City and found myself sitting amongst supporters of his who knew him when he was a principal. Some even claimed to know his mother, Amina  and father Amiri which I admit at the time had only heard of, but not knowing their legacy in Newark. I went there with an open mind, but also to hear from and eventually fully support Mayor Baraka who was now my mayor too. I had finally moved out of Belleville and that month marked my 11th month as a Newark resident. I had spent much of last year attending many events and activities as part of Newark’s 350th Anniversary Celebration chaired by by Junius Williams. I learned a great deal and continued to post photos and reflections of what to me was fascinating. I had the same friends who was thinking I was crazy tell me, “you should become Newark’s ambassador.” I laughed it off until I got home that night and viewed a FOX 5 reporter’s Facebook Live video of her short time here that evening.
Now mind you Ms. Evers was on the corner of Broad and Market Streets during her video and just a few blocks from NJPAC, she spoke with only three people in what looked like rush hour. Her report was negative and continued to cast this city’s torrid reputation as being truthful. I publicly invited her on a tour of not only what she missed during her short visit, but also the Mayor’s address. She dismissed my opinions and never took me up on the offer to return.
This inspired me to create Newark CentricCity By BrickCity Emigree on Facebook that launched on March 21st and this blog here with accompanying pages on InstagramTwitter, and Reddit to give Newark and Newarkers forums to shine brightly. It’s been a labor of love, as well as a real look inside the city from an outside perspective. Though I never feel like an outsider. Along the way, I have met some wonderful people from all walks of life and in all kinds of professions, learned about stories history books and news accounts forgotten about or twisted, discovered that there is really no need to leave Newark to find fun things to do. These activities include FREE if not low cost art exhibitions at any one of the city’s galleries and studios, concerts in the parks and the newly built Clinton Avenue Community Sound Stage, walking tours, talks, art making workshops, video production classes, 3D printing classes, film festivals like the upcoming Newark International Film Festival on September 8-10th, poetry readings, joining a kickball league, kayaking, dancing at the library, playing hockey with the New Jersey Devils, and so much more. These and more are on my pages so that way when folks look back on Newark they will note a much better reputation it has than the news has been giving this place. Slowly, I have been reading and hearing better, but they still have a long way to go.
If ever in doubt, I encourage to like and follow my pages as you will find a daily social calendar of the events I know happening before they happen, interviews with Newarkers–what they’re doing and how to get in touch with them, and reposts of NewarkCentric info and resources. Should you wish to be featured or want to reach me, my contact info is below.
Also, please stay tuned because I am not only working on bringing readers new blog posts, but also creating NewarkCentric Events.
A special thank you to Newark residents, Graphic Designer and Artist Sindy Snchz for creating and designing my business cards and Julia at StickEmUpInc for printing them.
Peace and Love,
Suzanne Joblonski