Very long post, almost 4,000 words, with 8 fotos.
I put up an improperly-formatted version of this post mid-day to get the ideas online, then needed a break. I'm almost 71 years old, and old people sometimes just have to take a nap. We conk out. If we're lucky, we wake up from our nap and get back to work. (Actually, if truth be told, a lot of old people are not that thrilled that they wake up each day. Financial strains, physical pains, etc., cause some old people to be completely at peace with the idea of dying, and not having to deal, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, with the same crap! I'm not quite at that point yet, myself. There is nothing wrong with my life that wouldn't be fixed by winning a couple of million dollars in the New Jersey lottery, but I don't always buy my two annuity tickets, one for MegaMillions and one for Pick 6. "You've got to be in it, to win it." Yes, I know. But the store is about 650 feet away from my front door, and up a steep hill. I keep telling myself it's good exercise, but I don't always persuade myself to do that exercise. Sometimes you just do need a 'coach', or nag, to spur you to do what you know perfectly well you should do. Absent such a coach, or nag, which is the situation in which hosts of old people find themselves, we don't do what we know we should do for our health. As regards the financial strains of old age, DO NOT heed the suggestion by Newark's own Prudential Financial in television commercials now airing that you can secure your future with modest savings — such as the $22 in your wallet right now — if only you put those modest amounts aside consistently over time. That is a lie. You might accumulate $45,760 over 40 years thru a consistent set-aside of $22 a week, but what will be the toll of inflation over 40 years, even without a major disruption to the economic order? Germans during the Weimar Republic had to take a wheelbarrow-ful of paper money to buy a week's groceries. Only moneys tied to inflation matter in the long run, and Prudential does not control inflation. Social Security, which is supposed to be tied to inflation, is NOT going up next year because of a drop in the cost of gasoline — whether SS recipients drive or not! The world is mad, and it is NOT possible to make sane calculations regarding the future when the future is controlled by insanity.
The Executive Director of the Newark Arts Council, Linwood Oglesby, is retiring in November after 16 years, and the NAC is honoring him TONITE at a tribute in the Panasonic (American) HQ, Downtown. In advance of the event, one Jessica Mathelier, NAC Program and Communications Manager, sent out the same "invitation" — actually, a solicitation to BUY expensive TICKETS — at least SIX TIMES to the NAC's email list. When I first grew irritated at that abusive emailing, I replied, "STOP harassing people. I have now received this same email at least FOUR TIMES. STOP."
This foto depicts Keyport (Monmouth County) artist Grace Graupe-Pillard in one corner of a large group of her works in the NAC's HQ exhibition in the Gateway Project's space during Open Doors 2014. I was going to describe her as one of my favorite New Jersey artists, but she is actually more than that, one of my favorite artists, period. That she lives and works in NJ and has exhibited in Newark on multiple occasions is serendipity. She was born and raised in Manhattan, but 'graces' NJ now, in a part of Monmouth County not far from where I grew up. I see in the Wikipedia article about her, that she and I have some other things in common. She attended the High School of Music and Art (which was at the time between the North and South Campuses of City College of New York, which I attended). Then both she and I graduated from CCNY.)
After perhaps the fifth time I got that dunning email, despite my complaint after the FOURTH time, I sent this even more bitterly insistent reply, "GODAMMIT, stop sending the same email over and over again. If we haven't bought tickets the first five times, we're NOT GOING TO BUY TICKETS EVER."
In reply, Ms. Mathelier had the gall to say, "There's an unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email if you're simply frustrated with a general message being sent to you." Oh? I have to unsubscribe from the NAC's mailing list altogether and forever in order to stop the same importuning email from insisting that I spend some ridiculous amount of money as $125 per ticket to one event? The woman must be insane or retarded, to suggest that anyone who doesn't want to receive the SAME EMAIL over and over, hassling recipients to buy tickets to an event six or more days in a row should unsubscribe from the NAC's email list.
This foto shows one of the great ideas the NAC operated under in the Oglesby years, art shows in "Available Space" in Newark office towers, at once to make use of capacious unutilized areas and to let potential renters see what is available in Newark's commercial real-estate market. That aspect of the NAC's program seems not to have received much attention in the past couple of years. The foto above is from Open Doors 2011.
Linwood Oglesby has done a great job as Executive Director of the NAC. I assuredly do not blame him for the inexcusable unpleasantness of Ms. Mathelier's campaign of email harassment. It is inconceivable that Linwood would have instructed anyone on the NAC's staff to hassle the entire email list to buy tickets for a tribute to himself. I certainly hope that Ms. Mathelier is not in line to take Linwood's place.
(There is another "Linwood" in my personal past, Linwood Dodge, a gay militant who had a connection to Newark. I am now honoring his memory, even tho I hadn't thought of him except when Linwood Oglesby's name came up. I am having difficulty picturing his face, but know both that I met him and that I respected him at the time, which is good enuf reason for me to mention him. If we who have been gay militants do not honor each other's memory, who will honor us when we also die? Not our children, because we didn't have any children. I guess childless straight people suffer the same fate, the utter, sudden disappearance of any proof that we ever existed.)
This foto shows brilliant Brooklyn-based artist Abdul Badi by one of his wonderful paintings in an Essex County College exhibition that was part of Open Doors 2013.
During Mr. Oglesby's tenure at the NAC, Newark has become a regional powerhouse in the arts. Naturally, most of that growth is due to the efforts of individual galleries and artists, but multi-venue events coordinated by the NAC, such as the annual "Open Doors" arts festival, made a bigger impression than uncoordinated efforts of solitary venues could have achieved.
The foto above shows my favorite part of "No More Place: A group show by Bronx Museum A.I.M.
[Artist In the Marketplace]artists about the degradation and disassociation of personal, domestic, and cultural geographies" during OD 2014. The central object is the flukes of a whale tail on an upper floor. It would have been fantastic if the rest of the gargantuan animal had been continued thru the ceiling of the floor below, but that was too much to hope for.
There is still too little coordination among venues, and events are held on the same date that compete against rather than bolster each other. Thus do we get things like two recent opening receptions, one at the Robeson Center of Rutgers-Newark and the other at City Without Walls, being held at the same time, miles apart. There used to be an extensive, if massively duplicative, calendar of art events on the NAC website, such that organizers of events at Newark's various galleries and academic exhibition spaces could see what is already planned, and work around conflicts, or coordinate activities constructively. Now I see NO event calendar on the NAC website at all. Why is that? There should be an 'Event Planning' area for galleries and such in which they could announce their intentions for future opening receptions and clear the date. If more than one venue announced its intention to open a show on a given date, the NAC would helpfully intervene to make a change, or perhaps arrange a shuttle bus (free to show attendees) between the venues so that potential visitors could benefit from having more than one show to attend.
Among the activities coordinated and publicized by the NAC was this panel discussion by gay men of their place in Newark arts, held in a "pop-up" gallery during OD 2014. It's a great convenience to have a citywide arts organization to help publicize small events such as that and various other pop-up art shows. It is also heartening to neglected groups such as gay artists to be accepted by the larger arts community and made to feel that their contributions are welcomed. In Newark, of course, black artists are not outcasts, but it was still good to have an elegant black man as Executive Director of the city's preeminent arts organization.
I hope that mutually destructive competition lessens in the future so that, for instance, if two or even three venues want to open an art exhibition on the same date, they will do so within a short walk of each other, for instance, Index Art Center, Gallery Aferro, and the Newark Print Shop, so that people interested in one will be able to attend all — without the need for a shuttle bus. Or if Robeson and cWOW do want to open exhibitions at the same time, Rutgers might run a shuttle between them. (Rutgers' current administration seems very public-spirited, as is of course appropriate for a publicly funded institution; and the Robeson Galleries are part of the Rutgers-Newark mission, so running a shuttle between cWOW and Robeson would seem very wise, even in a self-interested way, in that without one, some people who attend a cWOW event but could not also attend a Robeson event, could get to Robeson too. That is what happened to me. I drove first to the vicinity of the Robeson Campus Center but could not find a parking spot in that densely occupied area, so drove instead to cWOW, near which there was plenty of parking. Had there been a shuttle, I could have attended both shows.
My personal favorite of all the annually-recurring Open Doors events is the Barat (like "Barrett") Foundation's Art and Peace Parade, Downtown. I didn't get there this year, but it combines art, mainly the Foundation's wonderful "Animodules" rolled thru the streets (tho their base platforms need larger wheels, such as taken from castoff personal shopping carts, esp. the big wheels of four-wheeled carts (two large, closer to the handle, and two small, farther away, for stability and so people need not have to tilt the cart to roll it easily). Some Newark galleries incorporate musical performances during their opening receptions, particularly NJIT's College of Architecture and Design (COAD) and Index Art Center. The Parade includes marching bands from area high schools! Who doesn't love a marching band? Unfortunately, the Art and (or "&") Peace Parade marches thru Downtown Newark on the weekend, when very few people are on the streets because the area is largely given over to office towers and other commercial properties rather than housing. As Newark's land-use patterns diversify, we can hope for more housing Downtown, and thus more spectators for the Art & Peace Parade, without people in the more-residential areas of the city, and in the suburbs, having to drive or take a bus Downtown just for the parade and associated Open Doors art events.
A shuttle between widely separated venues would be esp. valuable in a place like Newark, which has so much public transportation that a lot of people do not own a car. But most people who rely upon public transit will have good knowledge only of the bus routes and lite-rail lines they customarily travel. They will have no idea how to get from Robeson to cWOW, or the other way around, by public transportation, if they have never had occasion to try to connect those two places by transit. Doing so might not be as simple as traveling the same roads to and from, given one-way streets that may confuse the issue.
I have no information as to who is to replace Linwood, nor what initiatives s/he will introduce to make the NAC ever more helpful to Newark artists and display venues. Permit me to offer a few thoughts for future projects.
Perhaps the NAC could
• digitally document every artwork shown in every art exhibition held in an NAC member venue, by title, artist, medium, size in inches (all dimensions), and price on offer (if for-sale). To my knowledge, few or none of Newark's galleries create and keep archival record of such information, so when an exhibition is disassembled, all trace of it is lost. Newark artist James Wilson told me, when I broached that idea to him at the Graffiti show at cWOW, that the Newton/West Caldwell OTA ("Over The Air") TV station WMBC (channels 63.1-63.8) wanted to do that with the Graffiti show, and spent quite some time taking videos after it interviewed him. I don't know if WMBC created a page on its website for that Graffiti art show, but it was a great thought. The NAC could display the entire digital record of each and every art show mounted by member venues on the Internet, organized by venue and cross-indexed by date, artist, etc. It could also, in by far most cases, show the artist by his or her favorite piece, which would not merely suit the curiosity of visitors but also create an archive for art historians;
• create a YouTube channel of VIDEO TOURS of the various art shows in NAC member venues, guided by the curator/s;
• create program-length digital interviews of individual artists ("Meet an Artist"?) by their works, and of curators ("Meet a Curator"?) as to what they intended when they set out to create their show, and whether what they ended up with suited them — or not. And if not, why not?
• provide expért assistance to artists and venues in setting up a website, YouTube channel, etc., with special attention to creating secure SALES of their art over the Internet;
• create online GUIDED TOURS of the various Newark art neighborhoods and their venues, conducted (preferably) by residents of each such neighborhood to provide an overview of the flavor of each neighborhood and advise viewers as to any risks that strangers might not be aware of (we don't want anybody wandering naively at a bad time of day or nite into an area that is not as safe as, say, Market Street, Broad Street from Market Street to Central Avenue, Halsey Street, etc., Downtown;
• create a visual inventory, with printed data, of all public art in Newark, as an online slideshow that visitors could step thru one foto at a time or sit back and watch stream;
• produce an online guided tour of Newark's outdoor public sculpture, from Bergen Street north of South Orange Avenue to and thru Downtown and Lincoln Park, etc.
• create an online, narrated, guided tour of the murals created first by City Without Walls and then by Rodney Gilbert's Yendor Productions, with overview maps between major geograffic segments and then location maps for each specific mural, including the Barat Foundation's recently installed mural inside the Newark ShopRite. Such tours would be narrated by people involved in the creation of the murals, introduced visually before their voices take over;
• promote the long-term or rotating display of art by Newark artists in the lobbies and other public spaces of Newark office buildings, from 2D (paintings, prints) to 3D (sculptures) to video presentations and artistic lite projections;
• place art kiosks in waiting areas of Newark Penn Station, Broad Street Station, Newark Airport, and even the bus terminal in Irvington, by which people with time on their hands could use the fingers of those otherwise-idle hands to walk thru the multitudinous online materials on offer from the NAC, Newark Museum, New Jersey Historical Society (which could speak to other parts of the state easily accessible from Newark, not just Newark proper and its near-in suburbs), NJPAC, Symphony Hall, Prudential Center, etc., in tandem with materials about tourism generated by the Greater Newark Convention and Visitor Bureau and City of Newark. The Yellow Pages telefone directory used to advertise with the slogan, "Let your fingers do the walking", which won awards in 1962. Today, we need not concern ourselves with winning advertising awards, but only with winning the interest of people who are compelled to wait for a train, bus, or airplane here in Newark, permitting them to walk thru Newark arts virtually then, and think about visiting Newark art venues in actuality later;
• generate narrated 360° videos of the city at ground level, to be shown online and at kiosks in the various waiting rooms mentioned above;
• create narrated videos of aerial views of Newark from only several hundred feet up, like the "Una Mirada a ..." videos shown on Spanish-language VeMe TV (channel 13.3);
• create an NAC art-for-sale website that could offer original art for shipment to online buyers, as either the actual original painting, sculpture, etc., or a lower-cost print, all transactions being handled by an entity set up by the NAC, such that an artist is relieved of the need to create his or her own art-sale website, but merely consign his or her specific work for sale by that site, and, after its sale by the NAC or its sales arm, receive the proceeds after some reasonable deduction for costs and a tiny fee to go to support the NAC's general operations
• partner with the Newark Museum and other major Newark art venues to create a world-spanning "Newark Biennale" or annual Newark World Art Competition that would solicit distinguished art critics of, for instance, The New York Times and other major publications, not just The Star-Ledger — which is no longer a Newark institution — and offer respectable prizes, such as $25,000 for first prize, $15,000 for second prize, and $5,000 for third prize — or whatever would seem appealing in today's international competitions;
• if a World Art Competition open to all the planet would seem too ambitious and expensive at the start, we could hold a specialized "Newarks of the World Art Competition" open to artists resident in the various Newarks all over the English-speaking world. Such a competition would likely elicit a lot of human-interest attention by major media in all relevant countries, and promote intercity exchanges of artists and dignitaries to form a new community, a special connection among the multiple Newarks of the World (which have been shown on banners on streetlite stanchions Downtown (here, in NJ) in years past. I did a post here on September 20, 2006 that showed both sides of those banners, but AOL caused all of the pictures to vanish when it closed every member's online storage spaces. Tho I may have those pix on DVD, my current DVD drives (one in a Dell desktop, the other in an Acer laptop) do not work — and why would that happen ever, much less in two different computers?). I don't know what it will take to make them work);
• organize a star-studded benefit for art education in the Newark Public Schools to bring together, in NJPAC or Symphony Hall, as many celebrities with Newark connections as possible (for instance, Queen Latifah, Shaquille O'Neal, Lauryn Hill, Jason Alexander, Cissy Houston, John Amos, Jerry Lewis, Savion Glover, Melba Moore, etc., etc.). Perhaps Philip Roth could write a short play that celebrities who do not sing or dance might act in.
The suggestions above are of course only indicative, not exhaustive, of the many ways an energetic Newark Arts Council might build upon Linwood's legacy. An ever-ambitious NAC could of course continuously solicit suggestions from members of the general public (with appropriate notice that any idea offered becomes the property of the NAC, to avoid tedious and expensive litigation as to the ownership of any offered idea).
The foto above is of the "Habeas Lounge", a big couch curled back on itself by artist Linda Pollack, as it was enjoyed by artists and visitors at the Rupert Ravens Contemporary gallery (no longer in existence) during Open Doors 2010. Ms. Pollack wanted to donate that work to some appropriate Newark venue, and I suggested any Newark-tourism office that might open. Such an office did open, but I did not hear whether it accepted, and now incorporates, that artwork, which would be an ideal place for visitors to read thru tourist brochures, in plenty of time to ask the staff any question that might arise during that reading.
The last foto I show today is of a painting I saw during Open Doors 2009 of what I call "the jukebox building", a former RKO double-decker movie theater on Market Street in Downtown Newark. In prior eras, painters might have portrayed medieval or ancient ruins. Newark's artists quite properly record our own, relatively recent, "ruins". Newark is about as old as any city in North America. Artists who choose Newark as their subject still have a problem, that ruins are ordinarily demolished and removed, as not to prove eyesores. The jukebox building is apparently of sturdy construction, and stands tall and proud on Market Street west of Broad Street to this day. Last I knew, nothing but the storefronts at ground level were occupied. That's both sad and confusing. What's wrong with the upper floors? Couldn't they serve some purpose, as for instance office and shop space for startup companies that don't need showplaces but only places to do their work and house their employees? As regards the painting of the building overall, I do not always have the kinds of information available that an NAC survey of all the art shows offered in Newark would have, so I can't tell you who painted this wonderful rendering of a significant part of Newark's past. I could offer a guess, but if I were wrong, I would insult the actual artist.