An Anchor Institution

Rutgers University – Newark’s fundamental values as an anchor institution resonate powerfully in the practices and features of the arts and humanities.  The cultural disciplines are relevant to many others and to education writ large, fostering intercultural and intergroup dialogue that can both transform interdisciplinary understanding and American cities.  Universities can become, with their community partners, the locus for these kinds of transformative exchanges, whether they occur on campus or in our communities.

At RU-N, the arts and humanities resources – its cultural disciplines – will be used to foster intercultural and intergroup dialogue that can both transform interdisciplinary understanding and American cities.  With our community partners, RU-N can be the center for such transformative exchanges, whether on campus or in our communities.

These intercultural dialogues will make possible a creative, dynamic coexistence where the arts, art-making, and humanities become platforms for civic engagement. Across Newark, scholars, artists, citizens, and students are teaming up to explore differences, preserve and interpret and share cultural heritages, and criticize ourselves and thereby foster new dialogues.

Among the focal points of RU-N’s efforts to leverage its prodigious cultural assets both on campus and across the Newark community are the following:

Express Newark     
Express Newark fulfills one of the chief goals to emerge from RU-N strategic plan: to create new spaces and places—sometimes called “third spaces” —in which to engage collaboratively with community partners as a way of further fulfilling our proud tradition of anchor institution investment in the city of Newark.  Through a comprehensive assessment of faculty, staff and community requirements, RU-N has conceived “Express Newark: A University Community Collaboratory,” in the former Hahne & Company Department Store in downtown Newark. Express Newark facilities are designed to support cross-unit, cross-sector, cross-institutional publicly engaged scholarship and include an arts incubator where faculty work with community artists and local schools and institutions to cultivate new talent; and a community media center that leverages expertise on and off campus to help Newarkers of all generations develop tools to tell their own stories in multimedia that will weave the counter-narrative of this diverse community.  It also includes a design consortium partnering the university and community arts and cultural organizations to immerse students in a real-world consulting company that takes on the challenge of communicating about urgent issues facing metropolitan America; a community portrait studio where people who live in, work in, or pass through Newark—including student and youth groups—can have complimentary portraits made and practice photography while learning about Newark’s historic role in American portraiture; and a space for exhibitions and performances associated with Newark’s grand legacy in jazz. 

Already in the works is the Newest Americans, a multidisciplinary research project that will focus on documenting the state’s newest Americans, our RU-N students.

Express Newark will become the fulcrum of the Newark Arts District linking NJPAC, WBGO, the New Jersey Historical Society, newly renovated Military Park, Halsey studio art spaces, the Newark Museum, the Great Hall at 15 Washington, now under renovation, and the Newark Public Library.  Express Newark fulfills one of the chief goals to emerge from RU-N strategic plan: to create new spaces and places—sometimes called “third spaces” —where the contributions of all artists -- academic, community-based, expert or amateur -- can grow and ultimately continue to drive the quality and impact of the arts on all Newarkers.

Each and every component of Express Newark features a community-based aspect and a direct and open link to Newark and its citizens.  Among the community collaborators beyond the Newark Museum will be the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, City Without Walls, Gallery Aferro, Newark Print Shop, Aljira Gallery, Hycide Magazine, Newark First, GlassRoots, WBGO, and VII visual documentary collective.

Express Newark Visioning Plan

 

The Institute of Jazz Studies

The Institute of Jazz Studies at RU-N (IJS) is the largest and most comprehensive library and archive of jazz and jazz-related materials in the world, housed in a city that has been called “Jazz Town, USA” for the many artists who have performed in Newark’s clubs and theaters.  But IJS’ presence is under-appreciated. 

The RU-N strategic plan calls for significantly elevating the visibility of IJS and leveraging jazz as an art form that holds unique promise for cultivating and amplifying the voices of people from groups long left on the margins of American cultural and economic prosperity.

We restructured the leadership of the IJS by transforming the former director position into two positions: a director of operations, whose focus will be the curation of this singular archive, and an executive director, whose focus will be forging partnerships to elevate the visibility and appreciation of the archive locally, nationally, and globally—status that it so clearly deserves as the world’s largest and most comprehensive jazz archive and research center. Following exhaustive national searches for both positions, that included consultation and interviews with leading figures in the jazz world, Wayne Winborne was appointed executive director and Vincent Pelote was appointed director of operations. They are a powerful team combining very deep and very broad knowledge of jazz, extensive connections with contemporary jazz artists, experience in education and in producing performances and programming, and the personalities and management skills to strengthen and significantly augment partnerships to lead the IJS into a new era of visibility and impact.

RU-N has partnered with NJPAC throughout this reconceptualization, appointing John Schreiber as co-chair of the executive director search team, and launching plans for mutually beneficial programming to broaden understanding of the role of jazz as an epicenter of art and culture in Newark. To that end, the new executive director will  leverage the signature presence of IJS in Express Newark, making IJS archives more accessible to a much larger audience through exhibits, performances, and educational programming—and where NJPAC, too, is considering opportunities to expand its educational offerings.

The IJS project in Express Newark will include an expansion of the Jazz Oral History Project (JOHP), the most comprehensive and widely consulted body of jazz oral histories in the United States. The JOHP involved 120 leading jazz artists who literally "told their stories," not in music but in words. These include Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams and Charles Mingus, as well as significant but lesser-known figures who shed light on important aspects of jazz history and American culture.  These artists, who offer unique insights into the music and careers of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other key jazz creators, are undocumented anywhere else. Over the past two decades, this collection has been used by countless media productions both in the US and abroad, from Ken Burns’ Jazz to National Public Radio's Jazz Profiles, Public Radio International's Riverwalk Jazz, BBC radio and television, and Japanese television.

RU-N is committed to making these extraordinary resources much more accessible and leveraging them to inspire new generations of jazz musicians and scholars, as well as everyday citizens, locally, nationally, and globally. 

 

A Multimedia Documentary Project

The Newest Americans is a longitudinal study into New Jersey’s and the nation’s demographic future over the next half century. This three-year pilot project will focus on documenting the lives and communities, the trials and aspirations, of the state’s newest Americans, our students at Rutgers University-Newark, the most diverse university in the United States.

It is a multidisciplinary research project that will “publish” its findings in multiple documentary and art media. The research, documentary and art making focus on how these new immigrants and their communities are both adapting to and transforming New Jersey. The transnational social, cultural and virtual networks in which our students participate make this a project with both Jersey roots and a global reach.

The project is anchored by a series of classes co-taught by Rutgers University-Newark faculty and members of VII (viiphoto.com), the preeminent visual documentary collective representing 23 of the world’s most accomplished photo-journalists and video-makers. VII’s archive of over 60,000 photographic images, and their prolific dissemination through leading magazines and newspapers, on-line and in numerous influential books and documentaries, has generated an iconic visual history of the landmark events and stories that define the visual memory of our times.

Rutgers-Newark’s diverse population of students is being trained by and working alongside RU-N faculty and guest artists from VII to research and document immigrant communities and their stories. The classes, each in distinct ways, equip our students, to conduct research on and in New Jersey’s immigrant communities, and to document and publish their findings in multiple artistic and scholarly mediums. Our students, while receiving training in multiple research methods and documentary and art mediums, also are training to be socially inquisitive and self-reflective citizens; both critically and compassionately engaged with their cities, towns, communities and careers, and capable of pursuing these engagements with skill and purpose.

Documenting our campus diversity as described above will tangibly benefit Rutgers-Newark and the communities in which our students reside by:

  • Calling attention to the challenges and opportunities facing immigrant communities in the state with the third highest percentage of immigrants in the country.
  • Publicizing the unique attributes and benefits of our campus diversity to scholars, students, civic stakeholders, state legislators, and funders.
  • Providing opportunities for Rutgers University-Newark faculty scholars and artists to collaborate on an innovative longitudinal study and documentary project, expand pre-existing research, and creating new artistic and scholarly initiatives.
  • Strengthening existing civic partnerships and generating new collaborations with community based civic and arts organizations and immigrant communities in the state.

Our collaboratory consists of journalists, media-makers, artists, research faculty and students. Situated on the campus of the most diverse university in the nation, a public university with immigrant students from around the globe, we are also rooted in an urban metropolis. These elements—diverse, public, immigrant, urban, metropolitan—inform the stories we have to tell.

Newest Americans is produced by the Center for Migration and the Global City, and faculty in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at Rutgers University - Newark in partnership with VII Photo and Talking Eyes Media. We have a large body of contributors and co-conspirators who are credited in the masthead and at the end of each story.

Our stories emanate from Rutgers University – Newark in New Jersey, where the newest Americans from all over the world are acquiring a college education and social mobility. U.S. News has named RU-N “the most diverse” university based on multiple criteria. It is here in Newark that their stories converge with those of immigrant Jews and Catholics, Portuguese, Germans, Italians, and Irish, as well as African Americans who arrived as part of the Great Migration, the largest internal migration in American history. Thus Newark, a crucible for the construction of new American identities, is a connective thread in the tales we will be weaving.

The lives that have produced these stories come in many shapes and sizes, styles and colors. And so does Newest Americans. In our inaugural issue we launch two continuing series:  American Sueño, about an aspirational undocumented law student, and We Came And Stayed, intimate profiles of families who migrated to Newark—the people who came and stayed. For spoken word poetry and personal narratives, take a listen to Transcendental Latino and From Where I Stand, both explorations of identity and metamorphosis. Notes for My Homeland is a short film about a Syrian-American composer, the Syrian Revolution and the arts of resistance. The GlassBook Project: Provisions is a multimedia art project that includes books made of glass, videos, photo galleries, audio clips, poetry and soundscapes. Rounding out this issue are a blog about domestic labor, race and immigration (Maid in the USA) and a graphic novel about an Asian-American college student encountering Newark (Face of a City).

For more, see http://newestamericans.com/.

 

 

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