Be a part of Newark’s annual citywide arts festival. Opens Doors is looking for proposals.

opportunities cardOn the heels of their annual meeting and reception, the Newark Arts Council has officially released their invitation for participation in the 15th annual Open Doors Citywide Arts festival, the series of art-related events that draws thousands to Newark each fall to take in visual, performing, and literary art in the city.

That invitation comes in the form of open calls for five distinct categories of programming. In addition to the call for established galleries and museums to list their Open Doors-related exhibits and events, the Newark Arts Council is soliciting participation by individual artists, art studios, and those who would like to propose and execute special projects and events.

This year the festival, which runs from October 20th through October 23rd, will be produced collaboratively by the Newark Arts Council and Gallery Aferro. It promises to be a banner year for the festival, which also coincides with Newark Celebration 350, a yearlong celebration of the city’s 350th anniversary, and the biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry festival, which is the largest such festival in North America. Artists living and working both in and outside of Newark are welcome to respond to the open call. All proposals are due to Evonne Davis ( by August 1st at 5 p.m.

See the details for Open Calls below.

Artist Opportunity

This call is for individual artists who want to be considered for exhibition and other opportunities,
2016 Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival NAC Announces Five Open Calls for Participation June 14, 2016 including curator review, during Newark Open Doors. Opportunities for individual artists include consideration for curated exhibits, access to temporary space in which you can individually showcase your work, art fair/project style during October 20-23, and having your artwork shared with curators.

Submission of this form does not guarantee you space. Please submit works that are representative of what you would showcase during October. Incomplete applications, work that has been exhibited during Open Doors in previous years, and works older than 3 years will not be reviewed or considered. Works will be insured under the Newark Arts Council’s policy during the time they are on view in the exhibition space. The Newark Arts Council provides no support for preparation of work, i.e. framing, wiring, any related supplies or transportation. Works submitted must be ready for display.

Special Projects

This call is for people who want to create pop up exhibits, either in spaces you already have access to, or in spaces that you get access to by working with the Newark Arts Council. Proposals can be from Newark-affiliated culture workers, or from culture workers outside of Newark.

All pop up exhibits fully registered by the deadline will be included in promotional listings. Pop ups are defined here as exhibits that take place in temporary or non-traditional spaces.

We are requiring ALL exhibitions, including pop ups, to have consistent minimum hours that they are open, in an effort to improve the Open Doors visitor experience. The Gallery Crawl will be Friday, October 21 from 5-9pm, Saturday, October 22 hours should be at minimum, 12-6pm and Sunday, October 23 Open Studio hours should be at minimum 12-5pm.

The Newark Arts Council will provide insurance.

Open Studios

This call is for Newark artists who have studios and will have them open on Sunday, October 23rd.

We are requiring everyone to have consistent minimum hours as follows – Sunday, October 23 11am-4pm. The reputation and potential of the entire festival rests upon positive visitor experiences, thus we must provide them with accurate and trustworthy information about when they can visit spaces.

The images and information gathered in this form will be used actively by NAC staff to promote artists’ studios and the festival, including via a social media campaign featuring exhibits and artists. Please supply images that you feel great about!

Call for Events and Event Proposals

This call is for galleries and individuals to list and/or propose public programs and events for Open Doors 2016. Events can be, but are not limited to, screenings, workshops, artist talks, performances, readings, concerts, happenings, etc.

Please indicate if you have a space in which to hold your event, or if you want to hold an event but are looking for a space in which to hold it. We cannot guarantee space for events but are working to connect event producers with available spaces.

Open Doors Contact: Evonne Davis — or 862-234-5782

Newark Arts Council announced new collaborations and opportunities for artists at Prudential Center event

art cardYesterday evening, the Newark Arts Council announced upcoming initiatives and artist opportunities at its 2016 Annual Meeting and Reception, which was held in a ground-level event room at the Prudential Center.

The announcements included recipients of the council’s ArtStart grants. Now in its 15th year, the ArtStart program has made more than 150 grant awards ranging from $500 to $3,000 and totaling more than $400,000. This year’s list of recipients includes Newark Print Shop’s Print Club and the Rafael Hernandez School’s Look Out World Immersion Murals. The grantees will receive funding to continue their programs and projects and ultimately stimulate arts and cultural activity in the city’s neighborhoods and local schools. (See a full list of grantees below.)

Daniel Cherry, III, who is Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer of both the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils, welcomed the group and emphasized collaboration as a key to continue growing the arts in Newark. Cherry also underscored the Prudential Center’s commitment to the arts in Newark, noting that the organization will continue to be “a patron, resource, and friend” to the city’s arts community.

Newark Arts Council’s newly minted Executive Director Jeremy Johnson then highlighted this year’s upcoming Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival, which will coincide with the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the continuing celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary. The annual festival, which will occur from October 20th to October 23rd this year, is known to attract thousands of art enthusiasts to Newark for a variety of open gallery events and exhibits.

According to Gallery Aferro Director and Open Doors partner Emma Wilcox, this year’s festival will center on creating a unique user experience for visitors, promoting cultural tourism, and engaging the community. To encourage the latter, the Newark Arts Council has listed an open call for artists, galleries and event proposals on their website. Interested parties can submit proposals for special events during the weekend-long festival, or nominate artists to participate.

“The arts are thriving and we have to make sure they stay a part of Newark,” said Johnson. “We have to work with outside forces and inside forces to fight for the artists. It’s not a given in every city that as cities grow and get better artists stay at the core, and we have to make sure that happens in Newark.”

ArtStart grantees:

Visit the Newark Art Council’s website to nominate artists, galleries, open studios and special projects for the 2016 Open Doors Festival. The Council announced in April that it had received a historic $1 million grant from the Prudential Foundation.

Gallery opening will feature photography work by homeless men and women in Newark

art cardPhotojournalist, muralist and filmmaker Akintola Hanif, founder and editor-in-chief of Hycide magazine, worked for ten weeks with homeless men and women in Newark to train and mentor them as they documented their lives and surroundings in photographs.

Tonight, a selection of those photographs will go on exhibit with the opening of “We Are Forever: Images Through the Eyes of Homeless Photographers” at Gallery Aferro (73 Market Street). The exhibit will run through June 11.

The project began with Bridges, an organization that operates in Newark, Irvington, Summit, and New York City and has provided services to homeless men and women for nearly thirty years. In June of 2015, Bridges won the Newark Arts Council’s ArtStart award. Bridges used the grant to fund digital cameras, and worked with Hanif, who has for years forged relationships with and documented the lives of homeless men and women in his own work, to teach them photography and photojournalism skills.

This model has been tried in other cities, often with stunning results. Homeless photographers in New York have had their work displayed at the city’s Department of Homeless Services, and a group of homeless and former homeless men and women staff a magazine in Oklahoma City. Projects in Washington, D.C. and Nashville put cameras and composition skills in the hands of homeless children.

Read about any of these projects, and it’s clear that photography instruction is important but secondary. The primary mission is to help give homeless men, women and children the skills to develop and project their own voices and visions, and to build empathy born of respect for homeless people’s agency among the broader community.

For Hanif, relationships were at the core of the “We Are Forever” project as well. “[The] Hycide Bridges photography program has been my most humbling and fulfilling experience in my entire career as a photographer,” said Hanif, according to a statement from the Newark Arts Council about the exhibit. “I don’t see my students as homeless people. I see them for their hearts and intentions and that is the place we connected from.”

The photographs featured in the exhibit will also be available for sale via Bridges’ website, and all proceeds will benefit the photographers.

“We Are Forever: Images Through the Eyes of Homeless Photographers” opens at Gallery Aferro (73 Market Street, Newark) on Thursday, March 26th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and runs through June 11. The exhibit and opening are free and open to the public.

Image source: Bridges homepage

Newark high school winner of Congressional Art Competition will have work displayed in U.S. Capitol

art cardCongressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. held an awards reception Monday afternoon at the Newark Museum to recognize the winners of the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District.

The overall winner out of 60 pieces of art submitted from 16 high schools in New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District was Newark’s own Lawrence Armour, of Arts High School.

“I am always impressed by the creative pieces our local students submit and look forwarding to sharing them with our community and the entire country,” said Payne, Jr., according to a statement. “This year was no exception.”

Congressmen Donald Payne, Jr. pictured with art contest winner and Arts High School student

Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. pictured with art contest winner and Arts High School student

The annual nationwide contest is sponsored by the Congressional Institute in order for members of the U.S. Congress to recognize and encourage the artistic talent of their constituents. Since the Congressional Art Competition began in 1982, over 650,000 high school students have participated.

Armour’s winning submission, entitled “Digital Arts,” will be displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol for Members of Congress, staff, and visitors to see. In June, Armour will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a national ceremony with other winners from around the country.

The second- and third-place winners in the district were Shawna Reid, from Jersey City Arts High School, for her submission, “Paralysis,” and Jaleel Kerr, from East Orange Campus High School, for his submission, “Seven Deadly Sins.”

Award reception images via Flickr.

Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project creates window into the scope of the city’s art scene

art cardMany artists have called the city of Newark home, from literary giant Amiri Baraka to visual artist Jerry Gant. Newark is a city rooted in art, and the influx of programs like Newark Open Doors, and the increasing availability of galleries and art spaces, have contributed to what feels like a revival of art in the city.

Even with these developments, a quick Google search of “Artists in Newark, New Jersey” will only lead to a flurry of articles about gentrification and a list of gallery spaces, instead of a conclusive list of who and what to look out for in the Newark art scene.

Artist Colleen Gutwein is changing that with The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project. Although Gutwein’s project focuses primarily on visual artists, she has built a digital Rolodex of the city’s finest photographers, painters, sculptors and much more.

“I realized that this community is what I’m part of, and this is what I should be focusing on, and that’s what makes a good documentary,” said Gutwein of the project.

Jerry Gant

Artist Jerry Gang, photographed by Colleen Gutwein

The project features portraits of various Newark artists in their studios or landmarks around the city. According to the project description on her website, Gutwein hopes the documentary project will create a window for the world to view the scope of the Newark art scene now, as well as to preserve the culture for future generations to look back on.

Although the term “documentary” immediately connotes moving images and historical undertakings, the intimate images that Gutwein captures help viewers visualize art in Newark today, by looking at those who create it. Instead of sound and text, Gutwein relies solely on the image to capture this moment in Newark’s art history.

Gutwein, who also has worked as a documentary photographer in Cambodia, is very much part of the community that she is currently documenting. The photographer is an artist-in-residence at Newark’s Index Art Gallery, and most recently curated last year’s Forum in Form exhibition.

When asked how the project came about, Gutwein recounted a conversation with Index co-founder, Dave Smith. “You’re always working on documentaries all over the place, you should document what’s going on here, in Newark,” Gutwein recalled Smith saying.

Through a grant from the Puffin Foundation, Gutwein started the project, and three years and almost 70 artists later, The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project is still growing. All the images featured in Gutwein’s project are shot with an antique 1940’s Jem Jr 120 box camera, manufactured by J.E. Mergott Co. in Newark.

“I was thinking, I’m a photographer shooting artists in Newark, how do I make this project more Newark-centric? And I found these cameras on eBay, and I thought, ‘This is perfect.'”

Although Gutwein’s project is mainly visual, the finished work, which will culminate in a book and an exhibition, will feature some text about the artist’s relationship to the city. Gutwein also uses the featured artists as referrals for other artists in Newark who she can feature in the documentary.

“It’s a community project — it’s not just about me — and I’ve learned so much about my community by doing this. There’s such a huge list of artists in the city and the project keeps growing because Newark keeps changing.”

Although Gutwein hopes to release the final project next spring, she wants to continue to use the website to document the growth in Newark’s art community.

“The website has become more than just, ‘Look at the photos I’ve taken.’ It’s using the city to connect the artists, and it has become a tool for people who want to get into the arts scene in Newark or who want to see an artist in Newark. They can go to this place and see all the artists and learn about their work.”

Featured image: Gladys Grauer, photographed by Colleen Gutwein. Learned more about the project at

Yendor Productions and Rutgers-Newark will unveil a mural on Hawthorne Avenue next month

Rutgers University-Newark and Yendor Productions have announced a neighborhood block party to commemorate the unveiling of a brand new mural. The festivities will take place starting Wednesday, May 11th at 3:30p.m. at 239 Hawthorne Avenue, and will include food and music. The unveiling is free and open to the public.

The mural was commissioned as part of My Brother’s Keeper Newark. The lead artists for the project were Ibrahim Ahmed and Malik Whitaker. Ahmed graduated from Rutgers-Newark, was a senior muralist at City Without Walls Gallery, and has exhibited his work at a number of city galleries, including a solo exhibition at Solo(s) Project House, and group exhibitions at City Without Walls and Gallery Aferro, in addition to other projects around the world. In addition to murals and other public art pieces, Whitaker is currently working on the Brick City Project, for which he paints vibrant Newark scenes on bricks that are meant to represent positive aspects of the city.

Ahmed was assisted by Steve Green, who created the abstract mural on University Avenue between Raymond Boulevard and Academy Street.

Working with the local artists, community members, and professors Anne Englot and Rodney Gilbert, Rutgers-Newark students helped collect and research materials to design the mural and plan the unveiling. Gilbert and his organization, Yendor Productions, have also supplied the project with materials and funds.

According to a statement about the event, the South Ward mural aims to visually depict the community’s young men rising up and helping one another obtain their goals.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Steve Green was a lead artist on the mural. In fact, Ibrahim Ahmed was a lead artist, and Green assisted him on the project.

Gallery Aferro’s roving portrait studio will meet Newarkers where they are

art cardGallery Aferro, the art gallery located downtown at 73 Market Street, is gearing up to reach a lot deeper into Newark with its latest project. I visited gallery co-director Evonne Davis inside the home of that project — a van that has been outfitted to function as a mobile portrait studio — yesterday outside One Newark Center at McCarter Highway and Mulberry Streets. The Gallery Aferro team was preparing to debut the portrait studio in time for the official kickoff toast for Newark Celebration 350, which would be held 22 floors up at the Newark Club just two hours later. Evonne talked to me about plans to use the mobile studio to capture photographs of Newarkers all around the city throughout the spring and summer.

Andaiye Taylor: So where are we?

Evonne Davis: You are inside of Gallery Aferro’s mobile portrait studio!

Andaiye: And what’s the project all about?

Evonne: Aferro always had a mobile attitude. We really want to do things that are not inside a whitespace gallery.

We’re going to do [Newark] Celebration 350 portraits in here. Instead of having people come to us, were going to go to the neighborhoods. We’ll let them know about our downtown location in the process, but I’m interested in capturing people in places like the laundromat on a Sunday morning. We want to get a real interaction with everyday citizens of Newark doing everyday things.

There are a lot of other portrait projects and photographers that have inspired us, like Akintola Hanif, Tamara Fleming, and Colleen Gutwein, so we’re hoping to link to things they’re working on as well. In October, we’ll present “three hundred fifty portraits of Newark” during Open Doors [the annual citywide art festival].

Andaiye: You probably know that there was a panel discussion at Aljira yesterday about the new Express Newark space [soon to launch in the redeveloped Hahne’s building]. There was a conversation about how galleries interface with the broader community. How does the portrait studio address that?

Evonne: Gallery Aferro was started by three kids from art school that felt marginalized by the greater art community. I come from incredibly creative, working class people who wouldn’t necessarily go to an art gallery because they didn’t feel like it belonged to them. It’s one thing to have people feel welcome at an art gallery, but I think they need to feel like an important part of what’s happening there.

And we’re so busy with the gallery and programs that we don’t always get to go out and see all of Newark. So this is also that opportunity to get to know people in their own element.

Photography is about looking at things and looking at people. I’m not talking about a gaze — I mean using it a way to be known and have your story known. Newark is its people. The citizens of a city are the city. That’s what we want to show with the mobile studio.

Andaiye: Have you set a schedule yet? Do you know what the cadence of your outings is going to be?

Evonne: We have a couple events confirmed, and we’re working with our board members – real Newark-centric folks – to find more community partners. We’re starting with events because it’s a good way to access a lot of people, but we’re also thinking about other ways to find people, like talking to Teixeira [bakery] about parking out in their lot and taking portraits of people who work there. We’d love to get to Vailsburg, where there’s a beautiful mural on a wall next to the park. I’d love to do something in Weequahic Park.

You’re sitting in just three weeks of work. There was a lot of planning among us before that, but we only confirmed that we were definitely doing this a few weeks ago. So we didn’t want to approach people and get them excited, and then come back and say it wasn’t going to happen.


Evonne Davis poses inside Gallery Aferro’s mobile portrait studio a few hours before its debut.

Andaiye: Can people raise their  hands and say, “I want to participate?”

Evonne: We made a flyer that we’ll distribute. We have to think about budget and timing, so we’ll make the arrangement if it’s something we’re able to do. In September, we’ll have to go into production mode to get ready for the exhibition.

Someone presented the idea of putting the three hundred fifty photos in this van and making it a mobile gallery. That could be interesting.

Andaiye: You mentioned other photographers who inspired the project. Where did you get the inspiration for the mobile aspect?

Evonne: I’ve always done things mobile. With Aferro, we thought we were going to be around for one year, but it’s been ten. So I’ve always thought about movement. As a curator, I’m not interested in traditional spaces. I’ve done shows in a wedding tent and in the back of a car. I think nontraditional spaces are more democratic.

Learn more about Gallery Aferro at Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



West Ward Diary #9: For one artist, a tale of two Newarks

They say there are two Newarks. My neighbors and I have long believed this is true. We see one Newark on the news. We see another in our quiet, gentle, tree lined street, where we look out for one another and we celebrate our differences.

After going to the art gallery celebration of Newark’s 350th birthday, I now see two other versions of the idea that there are two Newarks.

I feel ashamed to admit that my first visit to Gallery Aferro was only recently. I should not have waited. It is a magnificent place, with artist studios on three different floors. They say you can tell when a city is having a “rebirth” because the artists come. It is one thing to appreciate art in a museum. It is quite another thing to appreciate art, and then have the wonderful opportunity to speak directly to the artist!

I chatted with a gentleman in the basement of Gallery Aferro. He told me he does not live here in Newark, but that he does rent space here. As he spoke about his art, his process, and his life as an artist, I ruminated on a conversation I had last year at 27 Mix. (On Halsey Street. If you have not been there, then go. Now. Don’t wait!)

The artist at 27 Mix told me he did not have to come to Newark. He grew up here. He described two experiences of being an artist from Newark instead of being an artist in Newark.

First, he told me how he teaches free art classes for a kids’ program in Newark. He said he loves how the children’s faces light up as he opens a new world to them. He said he would always give that class even though he doesn’t get paid for it. Even though nobody ever bought or even learned about his own art because of it.

Then he told me his experience of “the other Newark.” He said he once took some of his work to a newer gallery downtown, back when they first opened. He described feeling hopeful and excited as he approached what he saw as a glamorous and well-heeled gallery. He said he imagined being one of the local artists highlighted there.

He described how good he would feel having visitors ask him questions about his own art. About his life and experiences. About his own story as an artist. He imagined himself having the very experience I was currently having with the artist at Aferro who rents space here in Newark.

The 27 Mix artist (for I never learned his name) reported the gallery said they had “a long waiting list.” His story reminded me of a scene from the movie Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts’ character visited a high-end boutique and asked if a garment came in her size. She was told by the saleswoman, “It’s very expensive. You should leave.”

It made me see how sometimes the notion of “two Newarks” can have a science fiction feel: two cities occurring at the same time and place, but one is entirely unable to perceive the other.

I admit I waited for years for the artists to come to Newark. I felt so excited when they “got here.” My tiny New York mind was only able to perceive them because they used social media, because they rented space, because they paid money. I now see the artists were here all along.

Frankly, this experience makes me wonder how many other amazing things I am unable to perceive about Newark. One day I hope to have clear enough vision to truly see both Newarks.

How to enter the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for high school students in our district

opportunity cardToday, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) announced that New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District is participating in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition.

 “I am pleased to announce that high school students from New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District will once again have the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents in the Congressional Art Competition,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “Every year, I am impressed by the creative pieces our local students submit and look forwarding to sharing them with our community and the entire country. I wish all participants the best of luck, and I eagerly await their artwork.”

The competition is open to all high school students in New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District. (Exceptions may be made for schools that have 7th through 12th grades on one campus.) Participating students must work with their school’s art teacher to participate.

 The final winner will be determined by a panel of local experts, and the winning student’s work will be displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol for members of Congress, staff, and visitors to see. The winner will also travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a national ceremony with other winners from around the country. An awards reception will also be held on Monday, May 2, 2016, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Newark Museum.

Each submission must be two-dimensional, no larger than 28” X 28” X 4,” no more than 15 pounds, original in design, and prepared for hanging. Each student may submit only one piece of artwork. To learn more about the competition and to see the official guidelines, visit the Congressional Art Competition’s website.  A release form and submission checklist are also available online.

The Student Release Forms are due to Congressman Payne, Jr.’s Newark office by March 30. All artwork must be submitted to Newark office by April 6. Those with questions regarding the 2016 Congressional Art Competition may contact Samantha Washington at (973)-645-3213.