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Newark mayoral candidate Darrin Sharif drops into Artisan Collective

Saturday night, 2014 Newark mayoral candidate Darrin Sharif came early to the monthly open mic night at Artistan Collective. He spoke informally, one on one, to community members about new construction and new businesses coming to Newark. His emphasis was on inclusion of local workers in construction and full-time employment in these businesses.

Specifically, Sharif talked about the new Whole Foods coming to Halsey Street, the Shop Rite to be constructed a dozen blocks west of there on Springfield Avenue, and new ownership of the New Jersey Devils. In each case, he described efforts to ensure inclusion of local workers and even local artists into the mix.

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Five things we’re thinking about: Week of November 18

This week, we’re 1) tracking the candidates’ Twitter feeds so you don’t have to, 2) continuing the conversation from TedXBroadStreet, 3) checking out local artisans at Seed Gallery, 4) inviting you to nominate yourselves and your friends for a street style shoot by Citi Medina, and 5) asking you to vote for Brick City Live to earn more funds so we can do more work!

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below. Wondering why the stories on Brick City Live look the way they do? Read this essay.

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Straight from the candidates’ fingertips

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Check out our new feature, “#RT” (real-time), which uses RebelMouse to track the four Newark mayoral candidates’ Twitter accounts. Also, follow Brick City Live on Twitter @brickcitylive.

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TedXBroadStreet organizers will hold a follow-up conversation this Wednesday

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FEMWORKS and Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance will be hosting a followup to the TedXBroadStreet conference after work on November 20 at Loft47. The full conference can be viewed on their uStream page. RSVP on Facebook.

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Vinyl Swap featuring the Brick City Design Market

The event, which features live music and handcrafted designs for sale, is every Saturday from noon to 6pm at Seed Gallery, 210 Market Street, between Broad and Mulberry Streets.

 

 

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Be featured in a Brick City Live “Street Style & Profile Post”

Including a chance to be photographed by our featured Style contributor, Citi Medina! Check out this weekend’s post for details.

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Vote for Brick City Live!

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Brick City Live is the finalist in a competition to win seed funding, and a simple vote from our readers can go a long way towards helping us produce more content, hire freelancers and interns, and even host events! To check out our pitch video, go here. To vote for Brick City Live, go here. Remember: there are two prizes, so you most vote for Brick City Live and one other company in order for your vote to count. Pass it along! (And while you’re at it, be sure to share our stories if you like those, too.)

Pitch videos: http://brickc.it/unitypitches

Voting: http://brickc.it/votebcl

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Working artist’s rag: Oh. My Daughter. Oh. My ducats.

The Merchant of Venice.  Act 2 scene 8 in which Solanio mocks Shylock’s Lament.  Shylock stands on the dock watching his daughter sail away with her lover and his “two sealed bags of gold.”  At this moment, Shakespeare shows us a tragic character learning the true balance of his love for money and his love for his daughter.

I’m having one of those “Shylock” moments. My photo projects are successful beyond what I could have imaged when I lost my state funded budget with DDD backin Septemer. Every Sunday I do portraits of Newark based artists, writers and performers. This will culminate on a 15 to 25 piece show sometime in the next year.  I am doing documentary photos for the Newark Fire Department of the obstacle course/sculpture garden that they build every year for the April Disaster Drills.  I’m doing portraits of members of the LGBT community in the fashion industry in NYC.  I have three shows coming up.  Yeah, I’m struggling to pay rent on time. It’s a tough act to balance ink, paper and food, but things are fantastic.  I’m more productive than any time in the last three years. I love this work and I love the work I am producing.

I had an interview last week, and I’m afraid someone is going to offer me a job. It’s a pretty good job and if they actually offer, I will actually have to take it. I have a “sixties” definition of the “social contract”, right out of Rousseau and Locke. I pay into the New Jersey unemployment fund. When I’m out of work, The State of New Jersey pays me back some on the condition that I report my status every week, search for work, and take it if I can get it. I never should have read David Hume. I never should have out grown Ayn Rand.

This is this week’s photo shoot:

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How to make more would-be entrepreneurs lean towards Newark? Perhaps with Lean Newark.

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This past weekend in Newark, six three- and four-person teams huddled at Seed Gallery, and fanned out across the city, to test startup business ideas by talking to real-life potential customers as part of the Lean Startup Machine Newark workshop.

Lean Startup is a business and product development methodology formulated by entrepreneur Eric Ries, and entails systematically testing one’s business assumptions about products and customers, quickly discarding bad ones, and homing in on the products and customers that make sense. Workshop coordinators conduct the sessions using a consistent Lean Startup formula wherever the workshops occur.

But in addition to the content of the workshop itself, the entrepreneurs – most of whom were not from Newark – reported that doing the exercise in Newark conferred some added benefits to the experience.

“One of the advantages to doing it in Newark is that you get to see a very diverse group of potential customers,” said Emeka Oguh, whose team won the competition after pitching RescuPhone, a service that would connect smartphone owners without insurance to phones if theirs were lost or damaged. Talking to real-life customers is one of the most important aspects of the Lean Startup experience.

“You avoid the groupthink of VCs in New York who don’t necessarily know the broad cross-section of consumers,” Oguh added.

Oguh and his team got five signups for the service – which doesn’t exist yet – using an online landing page, and pitched a potential customer on Broad and Market Streets who was ready to pay for the service on the spot.

Alizabeth Holland lives in Jersey City, and is currently studying for the bar exam. She said she has a passion for entrepreneurship, and chose the Newark session to workshop her idea – connecting language learners with native speakers online – because it was the closest upcoming one.

But after attending Lean, she appreciated the Newark session for more than just its proximity. “I had no idea you guys have so much of a startup scene happening here,” said Holland, who worked with a team of two other women she met at the workshop that weekend. “I had no idea there were so many people – and specifically young people of color – involved. I got really excited to see that, and I know now that I don’t necessarily have to go to New York for that. I can come two stops” on the PATH train.

Steven Royster, who is the senior tech venture officer at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), brought Lean Startup to Newark. Royster thought Lean Startup would be an effective way to highlight and cultivate “progressive innovation” in Newark. He also recognized that the sessions would expose Newark’s promise in terms of location, community, and startup support.

“People can connect on the internet, so why would they come to Newark?” he asked rhetorically while most of the entrepreneurs were out talking to customers Saturday. “Part of it is proximity – people coming in got to experience the commute. Part of it is seeing other high-quality entrepreneurs here. And honestly, I think cool spaces where people can have that creative energy – and where they want to work – is key.” The first Lean Startup session was held at NJIT, which is further from Penn Station and has more of an “institutional feel”, as Royster put it, than the loft-style space at Seed Gallery.

Chris Rodriguez and his Lean Startup partner Matthew Nolan, who workshopped an idea for helping small businesses identify customers and bring them through the door, agreed that the setting of the workshop was conducive to working. “I’m glad we’re here because it’s more intimate. There’s added energy to be productive and get stuff done,” said Rodriguez, who has been a Lean Startup mentor himself. “New York events can lean towards more networking than productivity.”

“I’m a Detroit guy,” added Nolan. “I think Newark is a good petrie test case for the way America is.” With access to stores along Market Street, the pair were able to quickly invalidate their assumption about the type of businesses that could benefit from their product, and get closer to identifying the ones that would.

Royster is trying to entice more Newarkers to sign up for the workshops, which cost $100 to $300, depending on when the tickets are purchased. He worked with Brick City Tech meetup organizer Anthony Frasier to host a free startup fireside chat with AllHipHop.com, which is based in Newark, before the Lean Startup sessions began Friday evening. Royster took that opportunity to preview the Lean Startup sessions for the approximately 30 attendees, a majority of whom he said were Newarkers. He’s also considering a monthly Lean Startup meetup, where he would host featured speakers on startup-related topics.

In the meantime, the sessions may have gotten a few entrepreneurs to consider setting up shop here. Though he admitted that factors like being able to raise money here would affect his decision making, when asked whether he’d consider locating a startup in Newark after his experience at the workshop, Rodriguez said, “The short answer is yes.”

Tim Dingman: Newark Public Library – the prohibited images

My sixties radical roots are always revivified by a confrontation with senseless regulation.  I feel a minor bit of civil disobedience is in order today.

I visited the Newark Public Library. I went there out of simple guilt. It’s a big, 19th-century marvel of Renaissance revival arches and Tiffany-style stained glass windows. The major exhibition of art in the library is made up of 1920s to 1980s architectural photos of Newark.

I walked in, stopped at the security desk, offered to let them search my bags, and showed them my camera. They waved me by without comment.  As I walked into the middle of the central atrium, I heard the powerful voice of a woman out of the seeming ether. It turned out to be the third floor. Really, this woman should be in the choir, because you could hear every note, syllable and exclamation point.

In the atrium, my eye drifted up, past the second and third levels of Renaissance revival arch and barrow vault levels to the amazing stained glass skylight.  I’m standing there with a camera: a 10 to 24 millimeter lens. What else was I supposed to do? I knelt down to put one more meter between me and the subject, in order to get a few more meters of width on the shot, which was probably 60 meters above me.

God. I love this city.

I walked up wide marble steps with brass hand rails to the second and third floors. The murals (Apollo tending the “fountain of knowledge”) are to photograph (at least I thought at the time) for another time with more planning, which this kind of photo work takes. On the third floor, I found the young woman with the voice, loudly berating someone on the phone.

Looking up again. Stairs. Going up. To the fourth floor. This is clearly administration territory. I could tell, because there is almost no art. I’m looking at the only exhibit on the floor, and someone opens a hallway door. It’s an attractive woman who starts with, “Are you looking for something? May I help you?”

I explained my position. I confessed my guilt at not having been there before. I explicated my revelry at finally allowing myself to view the architectural bounty of the building.

“You aren’t taking pictures, are you?”

“Well, yeah.  Who could not?”

“We don’t allow pictures. It’s policy.”

“Wait. I can go to the Met in New York City and take pictures. I can go to the Metropolitan Library on 42nd Street and take pictures. I can go to the Art Institute in Chicago and take pictures. But I can’t take pictures here….with all of this architecture and history?”

“It’s our policy.”

I knew better than to pursue it.  I wasn’t going to make her work above her pay grade.

Here is the real legal deal, at least in New York as dictated by case law: in public places, you can take public photos. In private places, the owner or agent of the owner can prevent you from taking photos. If you walk onto the sidewalk, which is public space, you can take the damn photo. I’m not recommending that you argue with or confront the “agent” (the real principals will never confront the issue). I’m saying…sometimes, civil disobedience is a requirement of a civil society. And with that in mind:

THE NEWARK PUBLIC LIBRARY

“PROHIBITED” IMAGES

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Editor’s note: The library’s website says that, “Photography on the library premises without the permission of the Library administration and all those photographed,” is not allowed. But generally, photography in public spaces where one is lawfully present is allowed. We’ve reached out to the library for more context about the purpose of the policy, and will follow up if they provide any comment.

Five things we’re thinking about: Week of November 11

This week, we’re 1) remembering our veterans, 2) appraising John Sharpe James, our new council at-large member, 3) appreciating the Poor Kingz’ street art, 4) looking at Cory Booker’s first week in the Senate, and 5) voting for Brick City Live to earn more funds so we can do more work!

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below. Wondering why the stories on Brick City Live look the way they do? Read this essay.

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John Sharpe James has been sworn in as one of four council at-large members

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Brick City Live interviewed James when he was still a candidate. Read his full remarks here. Money quote:

What is your vision for Newark? What is your thesis for running?

Right now, Newark is in survival mode. The average Newarker just wants government services. They want the garbage picked up, they want police, they want protection, they want to be able to walk the streets, they want quality schools, they want a good, quality life, which does not exist right now.

There’s no responsibility. No one’s owning up to any of the crime or violence or murders that we have right now. And we need more people in government to speak out, instead of using Newark as a stepping stone, moving on to the next position or title, and not concentrating on what’s going on right now.

So as a military veteran, as a law school graduate, as a Morehouse College graduate, I feel that I do have input as a Newark resident and homeowner, into what goes on in the city. My major background is in the military, where I spent 23-and-a-half years. So I’ve been serving my country, and now I feel it’s time to serve the community.

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Today is Veteran’s Day

There are over 7,000 veterans living in Newark according to the latest census data. For veterans looking for jobs and services, check out the GI Go Fund, which is based in Newark.

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The Associated Press reviews Cory Booker’s first week as a Senator

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By way of the Huffington Post:

Known for his soaring oratory and confidence, he is now listening and asking questions, sometimes seeming overwhelmed or confused — and showing glimmers of his cheeky sense of humor amid the business of the day.

He said he plans to advocate for New Jersey residents, hoping to ensure they receive unclaimed earned-income credits and helping victims of Superstorm Sandy. He met with an ethics officer to see how he can leverage private-public partnerships for New Jersey, as he did in Newark — most famously with a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to the city schools.

Read the full article here.

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The Poor Kingz

Poor KingzYou’ve seen their street art all around town. Brick City Live came face-to-face with a member of the collective this weekend. For a window into the ethos that inspires their work, get into their Tumblr page: poor-kingz.tubmlr.com

Image: Poor Kingz Tumblr page

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Vote for Brick City Live!

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Brick City Live is the finalist in a competition to win seed funding, and a simple vote from our readers can go a long way towards helping us produce more content, hire freelancers and interns, and even host events! To check out our pitch video, go here. To vote for Brick City Live, go here. Remember: there are two prizes, so you most vote for Brick City Live and one other company in order for your vote to count. Pass it along! (And while you’re at it, be sure to share our stories if you like those, too.)

Pitch videos: http://brickc.it/unitypitches

Voting: http://brickc.it/votebcl

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This Saturday in Newark (in photos)

What was Newark up to this Saturday? We take a look at Lean Startup Machine Newark, Luxe Boutique’s brunch and fall fashion showcase, and The Allstars Project’s fall talent show in a few shots from around town.

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To contribute photos for this feature, email contributions@brickcitylive.com with photos and descriptions.

“The working artist’s rag”: Survival options | Artist-in-residence Tim Dingman

Read the first installment of “The Working Artist’s Rag” here.

One of the good things about daylight savings time is that, when I start work at 5:30 AM, it’s beginning to get light outside.  I have  occasional (but always temporary) flashes of reality: Why am I working on art projects at 5:30 in the morning?  Hmm…oh, yeah, the 85/15 rule.  As stated here earlier: As a working artist, you need to spend 85% of your time promoting yourself and your work and 15% of your time eating, sleeping and making art. Worse: I’m working  at 5:30 AM because I’m getting email from other artists about projects and collaborations, new of ongoing.

Right now, I’m deep into the 15% mode.  Right now, I am intellectually and creatively, well, fat.  I have multiple long-term projects ongoing. I have offers and requests to collaborate with artist and social activists in Newark and New York City. I just finished my two-week stint as principal photographer for the Newark Art council’s “Open Doors” week. People on the street downtown recognize me and say, “Hey, photographer.”  (That’s weird.)  I’m the freaking artist-in-residence at Brick City Live.  Now all I have to do is figure out how to do the eat, sleep, and make art part of the equation.

Working Artist’s Survival Options

Minimum wage, part time, seasonal work.  Minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.25 an hour. If you work a 40- (or 37.5-, or 35-) hour week, you net about $240, or about $12,000 per annum.  Rents in Newark for warm, safe spaces run about $850 a month or about $10,200 per annum.  So, let’s figure $2,500 annually (about $48 a week) for “other.”  Get another job?  Sell equipment?

Priorities. How do you divide up $48 a week?  Food, cell phone, internet, utilities?  Medication, glasses, dentistry?  Ink, paper, batteries, companionship, alcohol?  So far, I have traded albuterol sulfate for ink and clonazipam for paper. I don’t have anything to trade for rent, but I don’t care much about food.
Sudden offers. The offers you get by just “showing up” cause other problems.  Tuesday, I was invited to participate in a pop-up show on West 13th Street in New York City. Now. Do I jump into more paper, ink, and batteries to bring loose prints to sell at $50 to $75 apiece, or do I buy…albuterol inhalers? Got to pay the rent.  What next?

Below: Tim photographs poet Shye Sales

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Tim Dingman is Brick City Live’s November “artist-in-residence”.

 

Lessons from the Fortress of Solitude: Comic book and digital artists offer business insights

Kat Calvin of Blerdology and Geek Soul Brother hosted “Sci-Fi Art: Branding and Expanding in the Digital World”,  a comic book-themed branding forum held yesterday at Fortress of Solitude comic book store in Newark. The panel was part of the Newark Tech Week series of events that kicked off with TedXBroadStreet this past weekend.

The panelists were P.B. Soldier comic book creators Naseed Gifted and Dilettante Bass, who is also running for South Ward city council, Anthony Frasier, co-founder of both The Phat Startup and The Koalition gaming review site, and Darrell Goza, owner of Goza Creative/ScriptGraphics. There were about 20 attendees, nearly half of whom raised their hands when asked if they were trying to break into the genre.

Although the forum centered on the comic book industry, the entrepreneurs offered universally relevant advice about starting up and staying up. Here’s some of what they said:

Make change your friend

Goza said that when the digital age swept in, sales of physical comic books started to drop off significantly. Where some might have acted defensively in the face of that change (as the music industry is often accused of doing by not embracing digital formats early enough), comic book aggregator comiXology chose to take advantage of it by using the best elements of new technology to enhance the comic buying and reading experience.

Be the change you want to see

Gifted took his son to see The Incredible Hulk a few years ago, and afterwards asked him what his favorite superheroes were. His son didn’t name any ethnic characters. Creating a hero of color for his son’s generation was one of the inspirations for P.B. Soldiers. The lesson: although entrepreneurs should avoid creating products only for themselves, thinking about the deficits in your own experiences can be a great jumping off point for discovering which products and services a broader base of consumers might like.

Be the success you’ve already seen

Bass said it’s alright to use what he called the “cut and paste” technique. “When you want to break in, talk to other people to learn how to succeed,” Bass said. Without studying what others have done, he added, “you can be wasting a lot of money on useless things that don’t even matter”. He also recommended attending industry trade shows – ComicCon for the comic book and graphic novel industry – to do competitive research, and also to find independent vendors who can help you get to market less expensively, and who can be great potential partners.  The other question this type of research will help you answer: Is this really what I want to do?

Create a prototype

Frasier recounted the story of Kevin Grevioux, creator of the I, Frankenstein graphic novel. He’d originally written a script for the story and shopped it around, but couldn’t find a buyer. So he turned it into a graphic novel, which turned out to be an even better way to present the vision for the film than a classic script. The result, he sold the screenplay back in 2010, and the movie, starring Aaron Eckhart, will be released next year.

Move people

Bass said that sometimes a business can benefit from creating a movement around itself, which can help pull consumers into the company’s orbit. The P.B. Soldiers team decided to create a skateboard tournament and infuse it with the aesthetic from their graphic novel. In doing so, they were able to promote the project and connect it to a real life subculture that resonates with their potential fan base.

Image credit: Emily Manz

There are Newark Tech Week events through the end of the week. Twitter users, follow @buildbrickcity for live updates from the events. Via newarktechweek.com:

Thursday: Nov. 7
Build in Brick City: Leveraging Broadband for Your Small Business
Time: 6:30 -8:00pm
Where: 744 Broad Street, 26th Floor, Newark, NJ
Details: HERE

Thursday: Nov. 7
Scarlet Start-Ups
Starting Your Start-Up
Time: 6:30-8:00pm
Where: Rutgers Business School, One Washington Park
Newark, NJ

Details: HERE

Thursday: Nov. 7
Tech Happy Hour
Time: 8:00pm
Where: Martini 494, 494 Broad St. Newark, NJ
Details: HERE 

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Nov. 8-10
Lean Start-Up Machine Newark

Time: All Day
Where: Seed Gallery, 210 Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102

Register: HERE

Friday: Nov. 8
The Rise of AllHipHop.com & The Future of Online Journalism
Time: 7:00-10:00pm
Where:  Seed Gallery, 210 Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102
Register: HERE

Christie wins the governor’s race; John Sharpe James wins council at-large seat

As expected, governor Christopher Christie prevailed over Barbara Buono in the New Jersey governor’s race.

More locally, John Sharpe James won the council at-large seat that has been vacant for over a year since former council president Donald Payne, Jr. won the congressional seat formerly held by his father, the late Donald Payne, Sr. The seat became a point of contention when Cory Booker and his allies on the city council attempted to seat Shanique Speight in the vacancy. A Superior Court judge later invalidated the move. James was the fifth-highest vote getter in the 2010 election for at-large city council members. In a general election, the four highest vote getters win at-large seats.

James watched the results on News12 at Loft47, a bar and lounge on Edison Place in Newark. Shortly after the result was announced, Dean Serratelli of Newark-based Serratelli Hat Company gifted James with a congratulatory cowboy hat, which James wore for the rest of the night. At James’ victory party at The Key Club, his father, former mayor Sharpe James, Amiri Baraka, and mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries were among the notables milling around.

James’ election doesn’t leave the Newark city council whole, however. Luis Quintana’s ascendance to the mayor’s seat following Cory Booker’s senate victory leaves the council one member short of its nine total seats.