Seeing, and Being, in Newark
Fotos today are of three of the four venues in Salomon Anaya's Newark art empire during this year's Open Doors artswhirl at the end of September: Submerged Art's main space (mainly red and white, fabric works), its Loft (large fotografs), and a block party on Beaver Street, Newark's only red-brick-surfaced roadway Downtown. I didn't get to a performance-art space (up too many stairs). This first shows a small Submerged vehicle blocking Beaver Street from the south end, at Market Street. You will see, later, why I show this pristine "before" picture.
More Than I Can Say. I spoke with someone at the Submerged Art Gallery's Loft (an oxymoron, now that I think of it; a "submerged" gallery in a "lofty" space up 61 stairs into the sky) who had seen me the nite before when he accompanied Rupert Ravens to the Solo(s) Project House. He said he had read my blog for a while, some time ago (but stopped; I didn't ask why; no one, of course, has the obligation to read this blog, tho they might like at least to chek out the fotos regularly, say, once a week). He asked if there was really that much to write about, about Newark, and I was a little astonished at the question. I told him that I am seriously backed up as to both fotos and topics. (Moreover, tho I didn't mention this, I keep taking fotos, most of them of things I hadn't fotograffed before, so they entail new topics, which puts me ever farther behind.)
Site of the Beaver Street block party early in the day.
I don't know how backed up I am — 30 topics, 50 topics — but I do know that with the thousands of fotos I have yet to use and the many, many topics they speak to, I could keep this blog going for months even if I were suddenly unable to go out to even one more event or take even one more foto. (Heaven forfend.) In fact, I'm having car trouble right now, and have to get the car inspected before the end of the month, so am driving as little as possible. Maybe I'll start to catch up, but I really wore myself out during Open Doors and in fixing the c. 475 fotos I took. Then I started an American Sign Language class at the Newark Public Library. And in recent days I have been adding to my other two blogs (political and gay) at the expense of adding to this one. Busy, busy.
Art on view in Submerged Art's block party.
So many fotos do I have, and so many topics do I have to discuss but haven't yet gotten to, that if I had the time and energy, I could put up something new every single day. But I pause a day or so after a long post to give readers a chance to catch up. If I wanted instead to put up something every day — I'm a prolific writer who can type over 80wpm — with pix relevant to my life in Newark on that day or other recent days, I could do so. It would be picture-filled but not perhaps as meaningful as I want this blog to be. It would show something of my life as an engaged Newarker, but not necessarily touch on the important work of other Newarkers, as in the arts, nor on other serious matters involving Newark that engage my mind.
Newark is a hugely underappreciated city, and a bunch of us now living in Newark resent that, hate it, and want to change it. We frankly don't understand why Newark's bad rep follows us years after the bulk of its truth vanished and Newark became a great American city again. We're puzzled as to why people are still afraid to come to Newark. I personally am very puzzled. I inquired of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival as to attendance figures and whether they plan to return to Newark for their next Festival, two years hence, but got no response. That makes the Dodge Festival seem unprofessional, to me.
The Stoney River Boys entertained, for hours, at the Submerged Art Gallery's block party.
Here is what I emailed.
I didn't see attendance figures in your [website's] discussion of this year's Festival, so wonder if they were good enuf to ensure that the Festival is held in Newark in 2012. I did see a Star-Ledger article from Sunday, before the last event, that said Mr. Daggett thought the turnout good. What is the thinking about where the next Festival will be held?
I publish a blog about Newark (mainly) and its environs, heavy in the arts but not just arts, with lots of fotos to let people see for themselves what Newark is really like, not what people (the "haters") say it is. I'd like to know if you felt attendance was depressed by Newark's (unjustified) reputation as dangerous. Did your own feedback indicate that people who felt comfortable going to Waterloo Village did not attend this year because of concerns about Newark being too dangerous? Did you hear of anyone being mugged or pickpocketed? [I seriously doubted that, but raised it to knock it down.] I don't know if you did any survey research, as by little forms dropped in feedback boxes, asking where people came from, if they had ever attended before (and if so, when and where), how they liked what they attended this time, and an open area for additional comments, etc. If you did, and have a fair idea of how many people you gained, from what areas (e.g., people who could get to Newark by public transit but could not get to Waterloo Village); and how many you lost, I'm sure not just I but a lot of people would like to know. If you post such info to your website, let me know when it is up. Or if you do not plan to put that on your own website but are willing to have me post it to my blog, let me know.
Female family of drummers accompanies the Stoney River Boys.
I hope that if the event was less than a sellout but did well enuf in terms of retaining prior attendees, you will make Newark the permanent venue for your wonderful event. If there are concerns that need to be addressed before the next Festival, perhaps I can help publicize them. Please advise. Cheers.
Left-handed guitarist plays, at left. He later passed that guitar to a right-handed guitarist. I had wondered if left-handed guitarists reversed the order of the strings to mirror image, but apparently they do not, but just accommodate the same patterns right-handed guitarists form, only reversed to themselves.I got no answer. How are people in Newark who are in position to correct problems, to respond to concerns if people won't tell us their concerns? The Geraldine
This foto shows the side of Salomon's van that was shown in a Cheerios commercial.This year's Festival got 5,000 kids to a poetry reading. 5,000! Does the Festival ordinarily get 5,000 kids to a single poetry event? If not, but the Newark outing did, why would the Foundation even hesitate to make Newark the site for the 2012 Festival, or to hold out the possibility of making Newark the permanent site of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival?
Salomon brilliantly created an outdoor livingroom for people to relax in.We all know that thousands of people have spent a lifetime — lovetime — documenting the wonders of New York City and its various boros. Newark has not, to date, been the object of such passion and devotion, but that is not to say it doesn't deserve them. "There are eight million stories in the Naked City" was the slogan of an old television drama about NYC, and I heard it used recently (without the "Naked City" part, which was, in case you are too young to know, the name of that TV cop show) with regard to the dramas of New York City. NY's population is now up to about 8.4 million. Newark now has about 310,000 people, way up from recent years. Does that mean that Newark has 310,000 stories? I'm going to need help.
Crystals for sale at Beaver Street Block Party.
Alas, the leaves are already changing, so I cannot create some of the 360̊ panorama videos of crucial Newark tourist spots that I had hoped to get onto my skeletal TourismNewark.org website, because they are no longer lush and verdant. Most tourists are looking for warm places, and Newark is somewhat or very cold for almost 6 months a year (October to March). The 360̊ video of the Four Corners (the city's most important single intersection, of Broad and Market Streets) would probably not much suffer from the loss of leaves from trees, since there aren't many trees in that vicinity, tho some were added in landscaped islands in the middle of Broad Street. I don't know enuf about the buildings in that vicinity, and the historic role of that intersection, to do the video by myself. I asked a couple of people if they'd like to be the on-camera host/ess while I record them talking about what we are seeing, but only one agreed, so far.
Salomon has discovered the ideal location for block parties in Newark, a one-block street almost no one uses for vehicular traffic, with a resplendant view of Newark's presently 2d-tallest building, beautiful 1180 Raymond Boulevard. Alas, there is, interfering with the view, a nonfunctional metal brace for a billboard that is no longer offered. The scaffolding is on a lower portion of a different building, but should be torn down no matter what building it now rests upon. Recycle the metal.
There are lots of people enthusiastic about Newark who are "doing their own thing" and contributing to the city's future. All too often they work in isolation from each other. We need some kind of Joint Task Force or Booster Association or Publicity Working Group or Tourism Project to bring people together and brainstorm about how to get outsiders to let go of stereotypes from the past and see Newark for what it is, not what it was, good or bad, at any given point in the past.
We also need some Ambassador Plenipotentiary to ex-Newarkers now scattered across near suburbs and suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome, to encourage them to leave the too-large houses they are now rattling around in and come back to a more cultured and sociable existence in the New Newark. There is nothing whatsoever to do in most suburbs. There's plenty to do in Newark, this state's most culturally active place — no offense intended to Jersey City, which is also doing good work.
The Submerged Art Block Party on Beaver Street went beyond dusk. The Stoney River Boys packed up, and Keishera James from Brooklyn sang two songs. Lynn Presley of the Catfish Friday arts collective, who was sitting near me, thought Keishera was terrific, and was sorry she sang only two numbers.
I mentioned, in discussing my ill-fated attempt to get on the television quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? — I've never watched that show since, by the way, and never will — that I discovered in talking with a couple of young people while waiting on line, that a lot of young people never heard of the Newark Riots. I was surprised, but delited. Still, however, Newark has a bad reputation. Why?
Then Salomon showed a very peculiar Spike Jonze film that, he said, a friend of his was in (I think), on a screen on the side of his larger van, at the north end of Beaver Street. It concerned a male and female couple of robots (yes, robots with gender), in which the female experienced various accidents that required replacement parts, which the male took from his own 'body', until 'he' was reduced to little more than a square head. "Greater love hath no man/robot, than that he/it giveth and giveth til he hath no more to give" I guess was the message of this parable.
Part of the problem may be that the word "Newark" has been removed from things that might be viewed positively. "Newark College of Engineering" is now "New Jersey Institute of Technology". The "University of Newark" is now "Rutgers University-Newark Campus" — tho it could perfectly well have remained "University of Newark — A Unit of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey", just as the name "Douglass" for a women's division of Rutgers, survives. When I was in high school, in Ye Olden Days (1958-62), "Newark College of Engineering" was very famous and very prestigious, at least here in New Jersey.
As I walked out the Market Street end of the concluded block party after the video, I saw why the paint on the smaller van was so dull earlier. It has a ruf matt finish so people can draw or write things on it in chalk. In this foto, the guy on the right passes chalk to the guy on the left. (By the way, "ruf" is my spelling for "rough"; "matt" is, along with "mat", an accepted variant spelling for "matte".)
Now we have a professional hockey team playing in Newark that is called not the "Newark Devils" — which wouldn't make very good sense, given that "Devils" refers to "the Jersey devil" (singular) of the Pine Barrens in South Jersey — but the "New Jersey Devils". That is very nice of the Devils organization, to try to involve the whole state and recruit all of the state's residents as fans of a North Jersey-based team, but was it really necessary? The "New York" Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets don't lack fans in New Jersey just because "New Jersey" is not part of their official name (even tho the Giants and Jets play their "home" games in NJ, not NY).
And is "Devils" really a name to be proud of? I live in an area of Newark where Halloween, later this month, is not celebrated by kids going door-to-door for candy. That saves me money, but I wondered why, and thought it might have something to do with conservative Christians regarding Halloween as a holiday associated with devil-worship. In speaking with a couple of neighbors, however, I found that the main concern was not religion but safety, part of the insanity that has gripped this Nation in recent decades, that posits that everyone is out to rape and kill children. Urban legends about razor blades being inserted into apples, or Ex-Lax being given out as chocolates, have produced preposterous overreaction. Perhaps that's not all to the bad, however, given that Halloween, like Mexico's Day of the Dead, really is rather a grisly, morbid, and even, arguably, devil-worshipping holiday.
Submerged Art's main gallery held works by Ms. Senzeni Marasela about a grotesque period in which a South African woman with steatopygia ('pillow' or 'shelf' butt, a condition of extreme accumulation of fat in the buttocks, especially of women) was a celebrity freak in Europe.
Maybe the NJ Devils, now playing in this state's greatest city, should change their name, away from the religiously offensive "Devils", and from "New Jersey" to "Newark [Somethings]". That NHL team held a competition to come up with its first name. It can hold a competition to come up with a second name, to go with "Newark". "Silver Skates" is an ice-skating association that is apt for Newark, in that Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge was written in Newark. That's the novel set in the Netherlands (the Schoonmaker "old country") that created the fable of the little Dutch boy who saved his town by sticking his thumb into a leak in a dike.
There used to be a Dutch Boy paint billboard at the southern end of the Driscoll Bridge over the Raritan River between Perth Amboy (north bank) and South Amboy (south). So when you drove south, down from the peak of that arched bridge, you would see a little Dutch boy, which conjured Hans Brinker. The little Dutch boy reference thus has a connection to Central Jersey as well as North Jersey, if not to South Jersey. In any case, I suspect a lot of South Jerseyans are more attached to the Philadelphia Flyers than to the New Jersey Devils. So the Devils really are a North Jersey team. Would they lose the bulk of North Jersey if they used "Newark" rather than NJ in their name? Or are New Jerseyans ready to reconnect with their greatest (if not, again, tallest) city, and see Newark's team, and future, as their own? The "Newark Silver Skates" might be less savage than hockey players would like, but how about "Brinksmen" (for Hans Brinker). Or sump'in.
As explained to me by the British-accented representative of the South African artist (who could not, herself, attend), Sarah Baartman was treated as an extraordinary curiosity during life. After her death in 1815 parts of her were preserved in big glass jars, and displayed in a Paris museum. Her remains were finally returned for burial in South Africa in 2002.
Always do I want outsiders to see the pleasant things about ordinary life in Newark. Especially do I want Manhattanites, whose humanity is practically crushed out of them by being cram-jammed into tiny, inhuman spaces at high prices, to see that life in Newark would afford them room to be more fully human, and ground on which to grow flowers and veggies, and connect with nature.
I live in semi-suburban Vailsburg. (How about changing that to "Vailsville" or even just "Vails", close to Colorado's famous "Vail" and similar to "The Bronx", which originated as a reference to going to the Bronck family's estate? Thus you went to "the Broncks' [place]". Vailsburg was named for Dr. Malcolm Vail, the first mayor of independent Vailsburg (which was later annexed to Newark). Thus, "Vailsville", "Vailstown", "Vailston", or just "Vails" would be a reasonable name with which to honor Dr. Vail, while not being as clunky as "VailsBURG".)
I lived in an apartment (well, five apartments) in Manhattan for 35 years. Now I have my own house, surrounded by air and lite on all sides. I have FLOWERS and herbs and veggies growing in the yard (tho I apparently do not presently have enuf lite to grow tomatoes, given my 70' oak trees). I want Manhattanites to know it is possible to live in an urban setting, with the benefits of a city, like Chinese takeout nearby, while having room enuf and soil enuf to grow beautiful things right outside your door.
When, during the growing season, I come home from a trip hither or yon, I make my way indoors past flowers of my selection. Year-round, my house is surrounded by evergreens — bamboo, boxwood, yew, spruce, and English ivy galore. When I look out my windows, year-round, I see green, living things, including English ivy and Virginia creeper clinging to the bark of the great trees on three sides of my property.
There is much to be said for being connected, year-round (the snow in my yard stays white!), to Nature in a place like Newark, where expenses of all kinds are less than in Manhattan. After about 8:30pm, if there are six cars an hour down my street, that's a lot. But I have 24-hour access to Manhattan via the PATH train, 4 miles from my house. I have the quiet of the country, a half hour from a bustling train station with a magnificent art-deco waiting room.
The 61 stairs, including many at the top without a handrail, to Submerged Art's Loft space.
This is the real Newark, and I just don't understand why so few people know how good it is.
Corner of Submerged Art's Loft, looking north across Market Street.
New Jersey in general is not often enuf used as a subject for artists. NYC gets a lot of attention from artists. Here, the Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens is seen from behind.
What only New Jerseyans are likely to have noticed, however, the view of the repeating supports of the Turnpike in the Meadowlands as seen from below, is shown in one of the Loft's large-format fotos. Long before I saw the foto below, I had been very pleased with that view many times (from the train to Manhattan) and sort of wondered why nobody had captured it in a foto or painting. Alas, the only foto of Newark in that show was not, to me, memorable. (My foto does not do justice to this foto, in which the repeating patterns are clearer.)
Newark needs more attention from artists, which, over time, should translate to more appreciation by society at large.
(By the way, it may not be obvious how difficult and complicated it is to put up a blogpost with a great many fotos, like today's 28. Suffice it to say that not only do I have to resize all the fotos to fit this blog but I also need to keep track of which foto has already been used, in what place, as against which fotos are still to be used. I have worked out a system over the years, but it sometimes fails me — whereupon I see that I have used one foto twice, and have to fix that. It's easier for me to put up a slideshow, which I will do for posts, with minimal discussion, about other events in Open Doors '10.)