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Notes from the Other Side of the Cultural Cliff

This past weekend was the annual Newark Open Doors event. The city opened up, allowing the public to engage with a wide range of art in a plethora of venues.

There is something raw, emotional and authentic going on in Newark. The city has a long and sordid past when it comes to racial unrest and inequality, struggling to come back from post WWII urban policies and the riot of 1967. White and industrial flight during the 1970s and 80s left an underserved and poor population. There have been many attempts to capitalize on the potential of the ‘Brick City’ left of Manhattan. Many feel Newark is poised to be the next hot spot for development following Brooklyn and Jersey City. Mayor Ras Baraka hopes to encourage development by making sure there is a thriving arts scene, including potentially creating an arts district in the city.

Over the last few years more galleries have popped up along with more opportunities for artists to show their work. There is more art than one person could take in, even after spending 3 days. Walking through the city, there is a definite vibe of being witness to a scene, reminiscent of Manhattan in the late 70s or early 80s. It feels like the breeding ground for a new generation of Maplethorpes and Patti Smithes. Powerful performances and visual art gave voice to the Black Lives Matter movement which permeated most venues in one form or another. Newark artists, old and new, clearly understand the past and are bringing that history with them into a full and rich present. There appears to be light at the end of a long struggle, art is pointing to a bright and hopeful future for Newark.

Enjoy a tiny peak of Newark Open Doors in the slide show below.


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