Downtown Newark, New Jersey, is looking a bit more colorful today thanks to the Newark Artist Collaboration (NAC), which recently installed 13 site-specific art installations by the city’s artists and art collectives on building facades and in one corporate headquarters.
On May 24, executives from project sponsor, the Newark-based audiobook and podcast giant Audible, joined elected officials and community members to unveil the new artwork. The event started in front of a mural on the Newark Public Library annex, where attendees heard speeches from those involved in the project, including Don Katz, founder and executive chairman of Audible, and V.P. of Urban Innovation Aisha Glover.
A common thread among the speeches related to art as a way of healing and economic revitalization. For Glover, the project was the result of a rigorous year-long process of developing thematic briefs for artists, coordinating with a large external jury comprising local arts professionals and community stakeholders, and incorporating public input.
Glover and her team wanted to ensure that the installations were not only beautification of Audible’s Newark headquarters and the nearby downtown area, but also a meaningful reflection of the identities of the city’s residents, she told AN.
“It was really important to us to really be hitting on a range of topics from Newark history and legacy to immigration and representation of voices,” Glover said.
Through kaleidoscopic interpretations of the Newark skyline, vibrant portraits of the city’s historically diverse community, and a colorful children’s reading space tucked into a narrow courtyard by the Newark Public Library, the new artwork is a celebration of the city’s diversity, history, and community.
One of the commissioned artists, Ron Norsworthy, mapped Newark’s diverse communities onto 11.5-by-35 inch and 4.5-by-22 inch murals in Audible’s cafe. In that piece, called Norkaleidoscope, he exhausted “every color in the crayon box,” so to speak. Newark landmarks are depicted in vibrant colors and are placed together to complex mirrored patterns (this is suggested in the title of the piece, which is a play on the local pronunciation of Newark, “Nork,” and “kaleidoscope”). The installation continues from the cafe into the hallway, under illuminated columns of brightly-hued lights.
Norsworthy echoed Glover’s sentiments on representation when discussing how he developed the mural: “Every time you turn in the kaleidoscope, you get a different view, right? I thought that was the most apt metaphor for a very vibrant, robust city, full of different cultures, full of different perspectives within those cultures.”
At the same time, many of the pieces also look beyond Newark to address the experiences of minority communities at large and global issues like climate change. On the facade of the FOCUS Hispanic Center for Community Development (which sites just across the street from Audibile’s corporate offices) is Code Glitched, a mural by art collective IMVisible that explores experiences with code-switching. Inside Audible headquarters, Wata Bodis, a video installation by Sierra Leonean–American artist Adama Delphine Fawundu, visualizes Indigenous histories and imagines a sustainable Earth.
The event also featured a walking tour of the installations along with the presentation of another special NAC project. Raise Your Voice tapped five local designers and illustrators—Dahlia Elsayed, Gabe Ribeiro, Gisela C. Ochoa, Jahi Kijo Lendor and RORSCHACH—to create text-based art works that were lined up in a temporary installation along a storefront on Broad Street and were paired with QR-code accessible audio clips from books such as Raising the Game by Anthony Frasier and Force of Beauty by Mikki Taylor.
Although the recent unveiling celebrated the completion of many installations, Glover hopes that the project will continue to expand and grow through community-oriented programs and the addition of new works. One is already in the works: Go on Dreaming, a new installation by Geraluz and Werc, will be coming soon to a site near the Essex Freeway.
“I commend today’s artists on their spectacular work and look forward to seeing how these creative pieces will undoubtedly uplift our neighborhoods for years to come,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka in a press release.
Here is where you can find the new artwork:
Newark Voices mural by Yasmin De Jesus
Wata Bodis video installation by Adama Delphine Fawundu
Norkaleidoscope mural and lighting installation by Ron Norsworthy (pictured below)
City Feast mural by Melisa Gerecci
Passaic Waves/oldest memories fence mural by Eini Linaraki
Fortress of Solitude Comic Book Store
Cosmic Microwave Background facade installation by Eirini Linardaki
Newark Public Library
Cherry Blossom Junction mural by Armisey N. Smith
Spectrum of Joy children’s reading space by Cazorla + Saleme
Newark Public Library Annex on Essex St.
Souvenir de la voix mural by Hans Lundy & Malcolm Rolling of Yendor
Remember fence mural by Monifa Kincaid
FOCUS Hispanic Center for Community Development
Code Glitched facade installation by IMVisible
Say So! Dance fence mural by Antoinetter Ellis Williams
Near Broad Street Station
Monumental Newark: Reimagined Sites of 19th Century Newark site intervention by Noelle Lorraine Williams