At Mount Pleasant Cemetery, tours and trick-or-treating on Halloween

This Saturday, October 31, 2015 historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Broadway in Newark will give both residents and visitors to the city an opportunity to celebrate Halloween with candy, trick-or-treating, and a chance to explore some of Newark’s most hallowed history. The cemetery is the site where many of Newark’s best known residents are buried.

Names like Edison, Halsey, Clinton, Ballantine, McCarter and Ward will be brought to life as volunteers recreate memories of the most prominent citizens from Newark’s past. Here are buried Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, Attorney General of New Jersey during the Civil War and later a U. S. Senator and Secretary of State; John F. Dryden, founder of Prudential Insurance Company; Samuel A. Ward, composer of the music for America, the Beautiful; and Peter Ballantine, founder of Ballantine Brewery.

The event organizers invite visitors to come dressed in their best Halloween costumes and take guided tours – or wander alone – through the cemetery. Candy and treats will be free to all comers, and can catch a glimpse behind the façade of one of Newark’s best kept secrets.

The event will kick off at 2:00 p.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. Admission is free, and members of local historic associations and groups will be on hand to share a bit of history about Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will have the chance to view everything from simple graves to elaborate mausoleums designed in architectural styles ranging from Romanesque and Egyptian-Revival to Baroque, Victorian and Art Deco.

The rain date for this event is November 8. This event is being sponsored by the Landmarks & Preservations Committee in cooperation with the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Association; the Newark Arts Council; City of Newark and the Municipal Council; the County of Essex, Joseph D. Vicenzo, County Executive; and Newark Public Schools.

Pictured above: The tomb of New York Mayor George Opdyke, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, 375 Broadway Street, Newark, New Jersey. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NJ,7-NEARK,37-C-1. Used via Creative Commons license.

How it happened: Melvin Sykes gives us the background story about how the M&M’s pop-up shop came to Newark

business cardMars Chocolate announced recently that M&M’s would be bringing a Halloween pop-up shop to Newark. The shop, which is open to parents or guardians and their children through  7 p.m. Wednesday night, saw lines snaking from its 744 Broad Street storefront location around the block to Clinton Street.

Melvin Sykes, a Newark native and residential and commercial real estate agent with Assurance Realty, gave us the background on how the shop came together. Just off the heels of his successful fashion pop-up shop in the same location, Sykes plans to expand the pop-up concept further into the holiday season and beyond.

Andaiye Taylor: How did the M&M pop-up deal come together?

Melvin Sykes: It was a meeting of the minds with Larry Abel and Marie Brown Moore of Emerita USA, who is the landlord of 744 Broad Street, also known as The National Newark Building.  We also worked in conjunction with Newark Downtown District, who provided security and support for the event.

Taylor: How did M&M find you?

Sykes: Larry Abel of Abel McAllister Design, a company that specializes in event production and brand marketing, was in search of a centrally-located space for a client to distribute fifteen thousand costumes to the children of Newark. He came across my Newark Pop-Up Shop signage from the previous fashion event I put together . We met, and the space met the client’s criteria. That client happened to be M&M’s.

Taylor: What are your plans for bringing together more pop-up engagements like this in the future?

Sykes: I’m in talks with various landlords to create pop-up stores and seasonal holiday markets in vacant retail spaces both downtown and in other Newark neighborhoods.

Featured image courtesy Melvin Sykes

Golden era hop-hop lineup will take the stage at NJPAC for ‘Masters of Ceremony’ concert

entertainment cardLater this fall, a lineup of six hip-hop acts who saw the height of their popularity during the 90s, but have pushed their relevance and influence into the present day, will take the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for Masters of Ceremony, a rap concert that will see its second staging this year.

The lineup has almost completely flipped versus the previous show, which took place this past April. That show featured Mobb Deep, Rakim, EPMD, DMX, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, and Kid Capri. The upcoming November 25th show will again star Rakim, and will also feature KRS-ONE, The Lox, Ja Rule, Lords of the Underground and Black Moon.

Tickets range from $54.50 to $104.50 and are on sale now at Ticketmaster.

NJIT surpasses fundraising goal by several million for major campus renovation

newarkuThe New Jersey Institute of Technology, one of the country’s leading public technological universities, has successfully achieved their $150 million fundraising goal for the campus’s transformation, following a massive national campaign. The Newark based university has raised over $153,700,000 two years ahead of schedule.

The funds act as the foundation for the “2020 Vision: A Strategic Plan for NJIT” which will make comprehensive changes to the campus, open new student scholarships, and provide new opportunities for current and future students.

“These historic gifts show strong belief in our students, faculty, programs and community, while providing them with the necessary tools to help solve some of the world’s difficult problems,” said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom. “Our donors understand that we are preparing for what is next in a technology-based economy.”

“This support has helped NJIT become the first choice for so many high achieving students and faculty superstars, all of whom contribute to the vitality of this campus,” said Dr. Charles R. Dees, president of the NJIT Foundation. Around 125 new student scholarships have been established since the campaign began, leading to an all-time enrollment high of over 11,000 students.

Funds have also been allocated to current students in the forms of research grants that will allow students to “explore the leading edge of science, technology and design in their chosen fields,” NJIT said. The funds have also allowed for 17 new faculty members to be hired this academic year.

The goal was achieved through many large and small individual donations from alumni, students, faculty, foundations, corporations and the public. The largest philanthropic gift was a multimillion dollar commitment from China-based UStarcom, Inc. CEO Ying Wu, who is from the class of 1988.

The physical appearance of the campus will be improved over the next few years, as well as internal improvements. These include a new 4,000 seat “Wellness and Events Center,” which will become the new home of athletics, an advanced wireless system, upgraded wet and dry laboratories, and flex space that will encourage multidisciplinary work and student interaction, NJIT said.

Other major construction projects include the Albert Dorman Honors College Residence Hall, which will have computer labs, project studios, a library and student lounges and offices; the Warren Street Village, a three-acre mixed-used complex that has residence halls, dining services, a conveyance store, fitness center, and Greek life duplex houses; a renovated Central King Building that will feature smart classroom technology and become a STEM teaching hub; and a  seven-floor parking deck next to Science and Technology Park.

Changes are already underway on campus, with ground being broken on October 1 for the $19 million Life Sciences and Engineering Building that will “assist NJIT’s major presence in biomedical engineering and other leading fields,” NJIT said.

Featured image courtesy of the New Jersey Institute of Technology

Inside Gifts East West: A gem hidden in plain sight on Halsey Street

What should our next story be? Tell us what you’re wondering about Newark at and we might choose your idea. If you want, you can even help us report!

art card

Gifts East West is one of Newark’s gems. The novelty store is neatly tucked away on the north end of Halsey Street — easily missed during the bustling activities of the day or in the silence that shrouds the area at night.

The store, which is stacked to the ceiling with sculptures and novelty items from Thailand and India, as well as handmade paintings and jewelry by the owners, has called Newark its home for more than 40 years. Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts and her husband, John Watts, run the store together. Watts, originally from England, moved to the city in 1954. After graduating from Arts High School and, later on, Kean University, Watts taught pottery part time at the Newark Museum for 25 years.

The trajectory of Vibulbhan-Watts differs very much from that of her husband. The artist moved to Newark from Thailand in 1969 and graduated with a degree in chemistry from Rutgers-Newark and a masters in polymer chemistry from NJIT.

“I just didn’t want people to dictate my life and use my knowledge and cause harm for their own commercial purposes,” she said.

“It’s toxic,” said Vibulbhan-Watts about the work she did as a chemist. “When you work for a company and you sell the products you make, sometime it might cause cancer. It’s harmful to the people buying these products and to the chemists producing them.”

In lieu of a lab coat, Vibulbhan-Watts picked up a paintbrush and some clay and anything else she could find to make art and before you know it, she was “hooked.”

John & Ing


The small store is dimly lit and if you visit it in the evening, the cool light of the sun as it goes down gives the room a haunted effect, bringing the statues and masks that flood the room to life. The room is brimming with art, paintings of the couple’s daughter when she was a teenager, and picturesque paintings of Thailand inspired by Vibulbhan-Watts upbringing.

It’s hard to capture the entire room in one glance. If one tried to they would miss Vibulbhan-Watts’s portraits. One of a dark-haired President Obama is placed to the side of the room, his 2008 inauguration speech weaved into the painting. Another of Martin Luther King Jr. is not too far, his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech written across the portrait of his face. At the front door of the store is a similar text-based portrait, this one of the famous artist Van Gogh. The painting is a distorted image of the artist’s self portrait; the picture is manipulated to give the effect of his face being sucked into itself. The words from the last years of his life line the picture.

“Ing loves to write the words of the people on the painting,” said Watts of his wife. “She read the six hundred Van Gogh letters, letters he wrote to his brother at the end of his life. She read them all and selected two.”

Although they work independently as artists, preferring to balance each other out with their individual work, they’re a typical couple in conversation: finishing each other’s sentences, interjecting with blandishments when the other chooses to describe their achievements modestly. Even the retelling of how they met was a collaborative attempt. Vibulbhan-Watts, who was still a student at the time, had visited the store to find out where she could purchase fabric. Watts, who had owned the store for a year at the time, recommended some locations. bBut it wasn’t until her final year at Rutgers when she lived three doors down from the store that they reconnected for good.

“From my apartment, I heard some banging and I came out and it was him,” she said.

“I was using my kiln, to make pottery,” he elaborated. “She invited me up to the roof and I ran right up, and that was it.”

“I made some food that was so hot and he couldn’t take it. He didn’t tell me ’til ten years later,” she laughed.

At the end of a store is a door that leads to the couple’s home.They’re workspace is a small room brimming with more artwork. Unlike the portraits at the front of the shop, these aren’t for sale.

“People come and see my art and they leave and they have ideas,” said Vibulbhan-Watts. “You know, like when you go to the museum and you see art and you can’t really participate. So I take a picture of the art and make a poster. I call it The Peace Project.”

The Peace Project is an interactive project. The clay pieces that Vibulbhan-Watts doesn’t sell, she photographs and makes a physical poster from in order to take around to schools.

“I ask students to write and tell me what peace means to them.”

Vibulbhan-Watts’ collaborative project has made its way to schools around the city. From high schools to Peace Parades, people color in the blank spaces of Vibulbhan-Watts’ posters with what they think the word “peace” means to them. Some answers are long-winded; others are short and reactionary.

“Can you imagine if people all over the world write their comments about peace and share this with everyone? We might have no more wars,” said Vibulbhan-Watts on her website. By encouraging this open form of communication through art, Vibulbhan-Watts hopes to create dialogue that might ease some of the tensions that lead to violence and other social ills. “If you saw what someone wrote on a poster, and you saw that they expressed some kind of distress – wouldn’t you be able to help them before they did harm to themselves or someone else?”

Gifts East West is located at 57 Halsey Street, Newark NJ. Learn more about The Peace Project here.

Join former NFL champ and entrepreneur Brad Benson at the 2015 Next Level Conference

Local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs will come together to discuss innovation and successful business strategy at the IFEL Next Level Conference on November 13 in Newark. The conference will feature former Super Bowl winning New York Giant Brad Benson as the keynote speaker.

Benson is additionally known for having one of the most successful Hyundai dealerships in the country, and he will discuss how innovative marketing attributed to his success, how professional sports helped him in life, and how he has overcome failures.

The Next Level Conference is run by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and will be hosted by the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the Rutgers Business School in Newark. The event is meant to help “unleash your bright idea, create and build your business empire, accelerate growth through innovation,” and create a successful exit strategy, according to IFEL.

The conference will be held at 1 Washington St. in Newark from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m, followed by a “Food Expo” from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The evening will conclude with the Next Level Competition Pitch Finals from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

If purchased in advance, tickets are $80 for IFEL members and $94 for non-members. There are also sponsorship and advertising opportunities available. Attendees can register online.

Featured images courtesy of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership

Newark Museum will host full day of events every second Sunday

The Newark Museum is kicking off its new Second Sunday program on Sunday, November 8 from noon to 5 pm. The series, which will run through June 2016, features lectures, performances, artist-led tours, art and science demonstrations and workshops, music, and a special brunch menu. All events are free with admission unless otherwise noted. The Newark Museum is located at 49 Washington St., Newark. On-sight parking is available for a fee.

The November 8 event is in conjunction with the exhibitions The Shape of Light: Gabriel Dawe, Outside the Lines: Color Across the Collections, and Chromatics: Minimalism and Color Field Experiments. Program highlights include:

  • Brunch, catered by David Ellis Events: noon-3 pm. Reservations are required; admission is $19.75 for full buffet brunch and $9.75 for continental breakfast. Call 973.596.6553.
  • “How We See Color”  lecture by neuroscientist and artist Bevil Conway: 1 pm. A neuroscientist who studies vision and color at Wellesley College, Conway is also an artist. He discusses how our brains process color and how that shapes art practice.
  • Newark Museum through the Eyes of Aferro Gallery Artists: 2 pm. Anne Q. McKeown, Aferro Gallery Artist in Residence, tours the Museum and talks about what inspires her and the ways that works in the collection impact her own work as a painter, printmaker and master papermaker.
  • Performance by jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague: 3 pm. Internationally recognized, born and raised in Newark, Montague brings her voice to the halls of the Museum, accompanied by pianist Danny Mixon.
  • Conversation with artist James Little, Artist and Curator Tricia Laughlin Bloom: 4 pm. Abstract artist James Little, featured in Outside the Lines, discusses his use of materials to make tactile canvases in which color is the subject.

For additional information, visit,

Newark, it’s your time to shine (and assign!). Tell what stories to report, and come along for the ride.

Introducing Curious Brick City – tell us what to write, then help us report!

curious bclIt’s been a little over two years since signed onto the web with our first batch of stories. In that time we’ve gone through a few makeovers, added new platforms, brought on new writers, tried tons of experiments and widened our subject matter.
Now we want to incorporate even more of the community into how we write and report stories.

Brick City Live is one of three New Jersey newsrooms that is working with Hearken, a technology platform that lets members of the public assign stories to us, and even accompany us as we do the reporting. Along with our colleagues at NJTV and New Brunswick Today, we’ll be opening up the editorial and reporting process to all of you. Our version of this technology is called Curious Brick City, and here’s how it works:

This is our Curious Brick City module

This is our Curious Brick City module

Step 1 – Submit your question: You might have already seen our Curious Brick City module on our homepage and story pages. From now until October 31st we’ll be running our first open question round, and you can use that space to ask us a question about Newark that you’d like us to report. Tell us something you’d like to know or better understand about the city.

Step 2 – Vote on questions: Once the first question round is closed, we’ll select the top three questions that meet our guidelines, and open our module up for voting from November 1st to November 7th. During that time you can vote for the question you’d like to see us report. If your question makes the voting round, don’t forget to recruit your family and friends to vote for you.

Step 3 – Help us report: If your question is chosen by our readers, we’ll ask you a little more about how and why you came up with the idea, and you can even come along to help us report the story! One of our goals is to expose more of you to the process of newsmaking, and to use more of the community’s insights and expertise to make our reports better for everyone.

To find the Curious Brick City module and ask questions, just look to the right of our homepage and story pages, or visit on mobile to ask your question. We can’t wait to hear what you all come back with!

Open Doors 2015: At the festival’s closing party, looking back at this year’s weekend art lineup

open doors 2015 cardAll good things must come to an end.

This weekend, Open Doors lit the city up with an extraordinary number of exhibitions, studio tours and events. Residents were able to visit local galleries and acquaint themselves with local artists, while visitors were treated to a glimpse of the dynamic talent in Newark. As local art enthusiasts, artists, event organizers and students came together for the festival’s closing party, conversation flowed about galleries that were visited, art that was bought and the new artists that they got a chance to experience.

With a projected 6,000 visitors, this year has been dubbed as one of Open Doors most successful years, not only in terms of visitor turnout but also by the sheer number of events that were made available. As whispers of next year made its way through the room, attendees openly shared their favorite moments from this weekend and what they hope to see next year.

“I thought this year was great, I attended a few shows and I enjoyed them. I hope to see some more participation from college students in the area, not just attending but participating and showing their work. I know that there are so many talented student artists and I think that they should be a part of this,” said Kira Antoine, a student at Rutgers University-Newark.

Featured artist Dominique Duroseau noted the importance of publicizing the work of local Newark artists to the entire city and beyond. “In terms of craft, every year the work steps up, I think that a lot of people are feeding off the current political and social climate. All the work that is produced is a type of dialogue between the artist and society and the artist is trying to say something, so what I would like to see is more recognition for the hard work that the artists are doing here.”

“Seeing other people introduced to the work was great. People who are not artists, people are not from this area were introduced to such a broad range of artists,” said Adrienne Wheeler, a Rutgers University-Newark professor and curator of the Emerging Ideas exhibition featured at 765 Broad Street. With the impending departure of longtime Newark Arts Council executive director Linwood J. Oglesby, Wheeler noted that the Arts Council will have to continue its legacy of providing opportunity and space for local Newark artists.

“Many of the independently owned galleries in the city are outgrows from Open Doors in previous years, so I think that the Arts Council will have to look at how it’s going to continue to support the art scene by supporting those other spaces as well.”

Featured artist Kern Bruce mentioned the influx of art and artist from outside Newark, in a statement that encapsulates the fear of so many Newark residents, Bruce noted the importance of promoting the history and legacy of Newark art and artists.

“I feel like Newark is building a city on a city,  there are new galleries that are opening up which is great because this means that there are new cultural spaces in the city, but  they are neglecting to bring in the people that have been here historically. I feel that by doing so they are creating a divide.”

Peter Winstead Jr. of The Honors Program, the company behind the musical performances and branding at this year’s Open Doors festival hopes to see the continued growth of Open Doors, especially into a multifaceted art festival that includes not only visual arts but music, also.

“I thought it was an excellent festival. I’ve been to previous years and it’s always been amazing, but I’m happy that there was a lot of music incorporated into the festival this year. What I would like to see for Open Doors is for it to become more than a visual arts festival, it’s about bringing musicians and other kinds of artists to the forefront. Newark should be recognized as one of the premier cities for all kinds of art.”