I attended 7 or 8 (depending on how one counts) of the myriad events of this year's Newark Arts Council's arts bash. The first was Art in the Atrium@Lincoln Park, presenting Chris Cumberbatch in cooperation with the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District ("LPCCD"), at 460 Washington Street, a couple of blocks south of Kinney Street. Art in the Atrium ("ATA") is an organization from Morristown that displays artworks in the 6-story atrium of the Morris County Administration and Records Building on Court Street.
[F]ounded in 1992[,] the organization has been showcasing fine art by established and emerging African American artists as well as providing an introduction to African American appreciation to the community with a special emphas[i]s on school-aged children.
The show was in a spacious, energy-efficient ("LEED") townhouse with lots of stairs. Forget about trying to live in one of these houses if stairs are a problem for you. On the first floor up (over the ground floor, so it would be called in Europe, the first floor; here, more likely the second floor) appeared this large poster explaining the features of this "green" housing. (It's not green in color.) My camera had trouble focusing on this flat surface. I don't know why. The text should still be readable, in case you want to know what LEED is.
I climbed the stairs to the second-floor entrance, and as I reached the landing outside the door, where a few people were talking, an elderly (black) gentleman ("elderly" = older than me; or, if you want to be elementary-school grammatical, than I [am]) made me welcome. He introduced himself, and I think his name, last or first, was "Herbert", but I see no such name at ATA's website. I'm very bad with names; and faces; pretty good with ideas, tho. He didn't know me from Adam (save that I'm a little younger than Adam) but he was solicitous to make sure I had all the information I needed about the event.
The place was well-staffed with people from ATA and LPCCD to answer questions. There was a suggested donation of $10, but since I was just there to take pix and report on the art and the sponsoring organizations, not drink or eat anything, I ignored that suggestion. A young woman named Fiami (like "Miami") recognized me shortly thereafter and asked if I was going to write something about this event. I assured her that that was why I was there. Altho she had seen my blog, she wasn't sure the artist had, so she took my card and said she would find him and introduce us. I said that was great, and I would be looking around and taking pix in the interim.
Note the multicolor-painted palette in the corner, low, as an artwork.Chris Cumberbatch is from Bayshore, Long Island. ATA is from Morristown. Newark is an ideal midway venue, and not just for those two places. There are two other places much in the news this week, New York City and Philadelphia, each arts powerhouses as much as sports powerhouses, for which Newark is a good midway venue. The Barat (like "Barrett") Foundation is helping to popularize the idea of Newark as a meeting place for artists from other places as well as Newark.
Chris does very interesting work. I heard him explain something of his biography and talk about some of the things he has done, to a man and a woman surveying the works in a back bedroom of this model home. He said that he has been working in art since early childhood and it helped him deal with the early deaths of various members of his extended family, ending with "My mother's upstairs." I wasn't sure if that meant she too had already died, before she could see this one-man show. One work he mentioned is a mural he did in his church that climbs the walls and covers the ceiling. The elegantly suited man turned to the woman and said, 'What do you think? A lecture series?' More about who they were, later.
Much of his work in that show was on found wood, which at once adds character to the shape and surface, and recycles.
As Chris was talking to them, I listened, and Lynn Presley of the Catfish Friday women's art collective arrived in that area. We waved at each other and waited to talk until after Chris was done explaining his work. When the two people he was talking to moved on, he turned to me to answer any questions I might have, and I said he'd already answered some.
I did ask, however, if he had always been doing anthropomorphic trees. No, this is a recent theme, and he does other types of work as well (as you can see from other fotos). Oddly, I completely forgot to ask if Chris would pose for a picture by his favorite piece in this show. I may have to tie a string around my shutter finger to remember to ask other artists to pose in the future. But I'm pretty sure the man in this painting, Dream, is he.
An LPCCD volunteer on the third floor was handing out gift bags that included a rolled up Black History Calendar 2010: The Art of Keith Mallett (by the Judith Roth Studio Collection of Mendham, NJ) and some Halloween candy. There are noteworthy items from different years on almost all the date squares throughout the year. Very educational (assuming it's accurate). The background color is greener than appears in this foto, but I couldn't get it right no matter how I fiddled with my graffics program.
I later ran across the man and woman to whom Chris had been talking, and asked what organization they were with: Newark Public Schools ("NPS"). So I had an opportunity to get an answer to a question I asked here about whether Newark is one of those districts that has cut art-education programs. The woman said no, and the man chimed in, quite to the contrary, art programs have, if anything, been expanded in the NPS. I was very happy to hear that, and said I was asking in part for a fotoblog about Newark that I write, and handed her my card. She looked at it and a lite of recognition came on. 'Did you do a piece about the Teen Arts program at the Newark Museum?' Yes, I did. It turns out she had seen that March 25, 2008 entry, and was in one of the pictures (the fifth; her hair is much longer now): Dr. Gayle W. Griffin. So the lecture series she and the gentleman with her were talking about would be for NPS.
Chris's mother actually had been upstairs, in the model home, and said she really liked this painting on a found door, which I had already fotograffed. I thought of it as a black Gabby Hayes (tho more serious in demeanor), but very few people nowadays have any idea who Gabby Hayes was.
Dr. Griffin and I spoke briefly. I asked why the School of Fine & Industrial Arts that used to be in Arts High closed, and she said that it was a budget issue. She also said it focused on applied arts, the crafts related to things like the construction of interiors, such as of Symphony Hall, which you could see out the back windows of the model house (below). I said I'd never been inside it, and she said I must, that it's beautiful. I said I thought the timing of shutting down the program was bad, considering how important the arts have become to Newark since it closed. She said the arts have always been important in Newark.
Lynn Presley later told me that the gent with Dr. Griffin was the new head of the NPS arts program, Sean (Somebody). Lynn herself had been at an earlier opening reception for a show at UMDNJ that she was actually in, but which reception, and show, had not been mentioned in the Newark Arts Council's calendar or much of anyplace else, for that matter. She didn't know why they didn't publicize it. Perhaps the art was intended only for the UMDNJ internal community. In any case, I turned to Lynn (shown here) and said, "Nice house, huh?" 'Very nice house.'
It was after 8pm by then, and I wanted to see if I could get to the 744 Broad Street show's opening, so bid Lynn farewell and got to 744 just before the 8:30 official end time, hoping that they weren't sticking too closely to schedule. I didn't see anything like an open door on the Clinton Street side of the building, and a woman standing nearby said I'd have to enter thru the main entrance in front. When I got there, the woman at the security desk said it was supposed to end at 8:30, but she'd sign me in. I started to spell my name, then pulled out my card to ease the process. She wanted me to show a driver's license or such! I was surprised, unpleasantly, and decided I wasn't going to put up with that just to see the last few minutes of an event that might even have ended already. So I said, 'Never mind' and left, annoyed.
I highly disapprove of the Private Police State that has arisen in this country in recent years. It couldn't exist without the active or passive assent of people abused by it. I was in no mood to be treated like a criminal, so went on my way, and would see that show (tho not its opening reception) on Sunday (Day 4, to come).