The annual citywide Open Doors art festival will be kicking off here in Newark tomorrow at The Gateway Project, located on the main concourse of 2 Gateway Center. I asked Jade Lien, Manager of Programs and Info Services at the Newark Arts Council, and Rebecca Jampol, founder and director of The Gateway Project, about what visitors can expect from this year’s Open Doors. Read on to learn more about some of this year’s programming, and what Lien says Open Doors has done for the Newark arts community.
Andaiye Taylor: Is there an organizing theme behind this year’s Open Doors? I saw the theme “Literary Greats” in some of the announcements about the festival.
Jade Lien: The Open Doors festival itself never has a theme. Our goal in hosting this event annually is multidimensional: to showcase the artists and art spaces in Newark; to expose Newark residents to art forms and displays they may not get a chance to see elsewhere; to attract art seekers and patrons to Newark that may be unfamiliar with the terrain here; and ultimately to unify our community.
In previous years, we’ve brought in a curator who will produce what we’ve referred to as the “big show.” After many years of both following that format and digesting the input of our arts partners, we switched gears and instead have begun to partner, each year, with a local gallery or organization to produce a blockbuster exhibition and subsequent series of public programs related to the event.
You may recall that last year, we had the Market Street Convergence project, produced in conjunction with Gallery Aferro. This year, we have partnered with The Gateway Project, the brainchild of curators Rebecca Jampol (Solo(s) Project House) and Jasmine Wahi (Project for Empty Space). It has been The Gateway Project’s overarching theme this past year to produce exhibitions with a literary theme.
[Solo(s) Project House’s exhibit] Prologue-Epilogue made sense for our partnership for two reasons: it still fell in line with The Gateway Project’s exhibition series this year, which has touched on novels like The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, and it also connected on a deeper level with current conversations within the arts community about the new and the old. The exhibition’s focus and selected works resonate with the concept of a narrative, which was attractive to the Newark Arts Council because our work helps to tell the story of the arts in Newark. Open Doors seemed like a natural place to present such a program, because its history within the community is a long one.
ART: Rebecca, what can visitors can expect from Prologue-Epilogue?
Rebecca Jampol: Prologue – Epilogue speaks about the relationship of past to present, present to future. We have asked artists to create a narrative. Some directly focus on the Newark Art Scene while others are culturally specific or creating in a universal context.
Nick Kline’s storefront installation is from the series “Newark Will See it Through”, a larger, ongoing body of work from the Newark Municipal Archive, which itself is derived from the Archives & Records Management Center, City of Newark, NJ. Many of the photographs were found with tracing paper hinged to them, hand-drawn pencil-lined crop marks, coded instructions and notes, or sometimes acetate film with red shapes (a pre-digital technique used to select or mask areas for offset printing).
These [vestiges] were created by an editor and used for reproducing images in a variety of governmental agency publications. These artifacts were not originally intended to be seen in this manner, so Kline’s photographs become a historical look at the process and intentions of the editor.
Monica Jahan Bose’s multimedia installation dually reflects the cultural parable of Bangladesh. It stems from an ongoing project she is doing with women on one the smaller islands, Katakhali, and is inspired by her grandmother, who was married at age seven.
Grace Graupe Pillard is exhibiting 22 large-scale portraits of artists and tri-state area figures created between 1984 and 1986. Contemporary life is chronicled through the creation of large cutout pieces, which are installed on multiple walls. The individuals portrayed in these murals feature diverse juxtapositions of age, sex, class, race, and vocation to produce a “human theater of types, gestures and emotions.”
ART: Jade, besides the number of attendees, what would you say is the mission of Open Doors? What can Open Doors bring to the city that makes it all worthwhile?
JL: As I mentioned earlier, Open Doors really is about highlighting the work of our amazing, multidisciplinary arts community and bringing everyone together—artists, curators, gallerists, performers, and others in the creative class—to do what we love: create.
Open Doors has been a real vehicle for change within the arts community in Newark. Many now-permanent spaces in Newark began as pop-up spaces in the early years of Open Doors. That part of the festival — temporary space — is really made possible through the relationships we’ve built with many developers here in the city, the Hanini Group and Berger Organization to name a couple. Getting the buy-in from the business community helps to legitimize the arts and attract new support for the community, which in turn enables us to expand our reach and scope of work, whether that means increasing our marketing, or producing larger public performances or projects (like the Quarter Mile Print projects and other collaborations).
Open Doors demonstrates the true economic impact of the arts, as it brings thousands of people into Newark who dine, shop, use transportation, and patronize local businesses.
Newark’s landscape is changing, both physically and metaphorically. Arts enthusiasts from all backgrounds and locales are excited about what’s happening here, for better or worse. Regardless of the temperature of their feelings about what’s happening in Newark, people are talking, and to me that’s always positive. Everything starts with a dialogue.
To me, Open Doors is like a big conversation, a way for Newarkers and others to engage around arts and culture, putting a vibrant spin on things. As the Newark Arts Council continues to grow the festival and work with the local community, we believe we’re helping the city open itself up to new possibilities and take a seat at the table in the New York metro area.
ART: What exhibits are you most excited about this year? What do you think will really get participants talking?
JL: There is so much I’m excited about for this year!
Obviously, I’m excited about the collab with The Gateway Project. That space is so big and complex that it allows for anything to happen. Rebecca and Jasmine are such talented women, and I know that everyone will be delighted and surprised by what they experience.
I’m also looking forward to our partnership with Brick City Speaks, a collective of poets who perform monthly at Hell’s Kitchen in the Ironbound. They are working with visual artist Brendan Mahoney to produce two events at a pop-up location on Halsey Street. Their first program is a tribute to Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou (happening Saturday, October 11, at 127 Halsey Street). The second program is called METADATA. It looks at poetry as data, and art as metadata, and brings together artists and poets for something that will be unusual, but hits a real sweet spot in terms of artistic mashups and new concepts and trends.
They’ve also got Dodge poet Catherine Doty in residence for that program, which is super exciting and a great prelude to the upcoming Dodge Poetry Festival (shout out!). I think Brick City Speaks is also a great tie-in to the City of Newark’s “Poetry Month” initiative.
I can’t wait to see the first Open Doors exhibit at Index Art Center’s new location. Their large space has enabled them to host multiple studios, main exhibitions, musical performances and really neat large installations. Seeing how the Market Street hub has come alive is exciting and heartwarming for me. The Newark Print Shop, Gallery Aferro, ECC’s Africana Institute, and SEED Gallery are doing so much to enliven that strip of downtown. I’m thinking about it right now, and realizing how there will be upwards of 100 artists – probably more – showing work and performing in that one area. The Newark Arts Council is so happy to see what started as almost grassroots exhibitors just explode into true anchors of the arts community.
ART: In what ways can people participate in Open Doors besides just attending gallery shows? Any special plans for social media or other ways the crowd can get involved?
JL: Yes! Here’s my shameless plug: we’re holding our first-ever Instagram photo competition. We’re looking for three types of photos: Best Shot of Newark, Best Shot of Artwork/Gallery Installation, and Best Group Shot. The full breakdown of categories and rules can be found here.
To participate, all you need to do is follow @nwkartscouncil on Instagram and tag your photo with #OpenDoorsPhotoContest. We’ll review and select winners once Open Doors is over. We think this is a great way to source photos of the event, see the event from other people’s perspectives, and engage in a visual dialogue with the community.
The best part? We’re giving away $100 to the winner in each category, so you have a chance of winning up to $300! The rules are easy: photos must be posted between October 9th to 19th, you can’t submit a PicStitch or photo collage, and you can’t submit a video. By submitting, you agree to the rules we’ve outlined (see the site).
Outside of that, there’s a public performance held at the Newark Museum at 4:15 on Friday, October 10, involving the work of Dahlia Elsayed. Anyone can participate, and you can find info about that here.
For poets, musicians, singers, and rappers, there’s an open mic night on Saturday, October 11 at Center Stage Cuts. Performers can sign up at the door, and will perform with an award-winning live band!
ART: Any tips on how to make the most out of Open Doors?
JL: First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who is participating, and everyone who’s helping to spread the word.
Definitely come out to the launch party this Thursday, October 9th. There will be live beats by Mello Mel, performances, food and drinks, and the best of the arts community. It’s a great place to get started if you’re not really familiar with Newark and the art scene. It starts at 6, so come after work or class and hang out Newark style!
There is so much to discover, but we’ve designed our maps and shuttle guides to help people feel comfortable and to experience the city as carefree as possible. Everything you need is on our website, and all maps and schedules are available for pick-up at Open Doors Headquarters (at The Gateway Project, 2 Gateway, Main Concourse) and at all participating galleries.
Look out for the orange flags, which mark participating locations, and door signs indicating venue and map number. Pick-up shuttles will be in front of 2 Gateway (Mulberry and Market Streets, across from TD Bank). Volunteers wear bright orange t-shirts that say OPEN DOORS VOLUNTEERS, so if you’re confused or need information, find a volunteer and ask for help, or go to any gallery, and they’ll be able to help you out. We’re a welcoming community doing what we love for the public’s enjoyment!
One stop shop for Open Doors information: www.newarkarts.org/opendoors
Get in touch with Jade via email: email@example.com
Connect: On Facebook – facebook.com/nwkartscouncil | On Instagram – @nwkartscouncil | On Twitter – @newark_arts
Call the council: 973-643-1625