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 is a conceptual framework and an interdisciplinary learning space where artists and community residents collaborate, experiment, and innovate in partnership with Rutgers University – Newark faculty, staff, and students to engage in creative practice, foster democratic dialogue, and promote positive transformation.—Express Newark Mission Statement
Express Newark (EN) will open in early 2017 in part of a multi-functional project in Newark’s Hahne & Company building, an iconic former department store in the heart of downtown now undergoing a complete renovation after having been shuttered for 30 years. An exemplar of creative placemaking, EN will activate 50,000 square feet of the massive 500,000 square foot building. L+M Developers credit anchor tenants Rutgers University – Newark (RU-N) and Whole Foods with cementing construction funding from the project’s key investors: Prudential and Goldman Sachs. EN will contribute to the local economy and provide diverse opportunities for Newarkers to experience and participate in the arts and spur university-community collaboration to generate publically engaged scholarship.
EN is co-chaired by Victor Davson, director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, Newark’s longest lived and most respected gallery, and Anne Schaper Englot, RU-N professor of architecture and humanities in the interdisciplinary Arts, Culture and Media (ACM) department. Members of the EN operations committee are ACM faculty, the director of the Paul Robeson Gallery, the director of the Institute for Jazz Studies, the director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the Rutgers Business School (RBS) who leads an arts entrepreneurship program, Newark artists and leaders from other Newark arts anchor institutions (NJPAC, Newark Museum, Newark Arts Council) and the Mayor’s cultural affairs director. Davson and Schaper Englot, with input from the committee, oversee the project day to day: supporting programs, hiring and managing staff, writing grants, developing a funding strategy, working with community partners, overseeing branding, marketing, and other business functions.
Davson and Schaper Englot have constituted an Artists Committee: an advisory group of male, female, old, young, African American, Latina, Latino, Arabic, and LGBTQ Newark artists. Some of the artists will be resident in EN and some are non-resident partners who participate in programming, which includes teaching workshops, lecturing about their work, and curating or showing in exhibits. The Artists Committee is discussing difficult questions—selection, gentrification, white privilege, how to connect who is “in” with who is “out” —and, in doing so, enacting the “third space”  of EN.
A steering committee co-chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Newark (FASN) and the RU-N CFO oversees the associated academic programs and the construction and fit-out of the project and includes the co-chairs of EN, FASN associate deans, the chair of ACM, the RU-N Facilities project manager and the Executive Director of the Office of Technology and Instructional Services. Subcommittees choose furniture, technology and other fixtures.
EN programs are designed to support cross-unit, cross-sector, cross-institutional social practice and allow expansion of existing programs which include:
- Faculty and students in the graphic Design Consortium partner with community arts and cultural organizations in a real-world consulting company that takes on the challenge of communicating about urgent issues facing metropolitan America.
- Visual Means is an initiative by the faculty and students in the graphic design program where they will partner with scholars and businesses to design and produce effective data visualization.
- Resident partner the Newark Print Shop runs a variety of programs including Print Club, a weekly open studio for artists of all levels to come and make art together. Inspired by a flier at the Newark Public Library for a past print club, NPS Print Club was created to revive the interest in the fine art of printmaking in the city of Newark, and ArtBound, a program for participants to learn basic bookbinding and non-toxic printmaking techniques, such as monoprinting, letterpress, intaglio and screenprinting. The program explores how identity is manifest in visual and literary “voice.”
- Form Design Studio and Lab moves STEM to STEAM facilitating phenomenological exploration through the digital mapping, scanning and 3D modeling and construction and physical 3D printing of objects from sculptural elements to neurological pathways to anthropologic artifacts to abstract environments and vessels.
- The Institute of Jazz Studies has signature space in Express Newark for exhibitions and performances to showcase local and global artists as well as their renowned collection of famous artists’ instruments, costumes, letter, and other priceless artifacts, and collaborates extensively with NJPAC and Jazz House Kids in programming.
- There also is a large Multipurpose Space that is equipped with projectors, screens and speakers for events, presentations, lectures, screenings, workshops, and performances.
- The Paul Robeson Galleries at Express Newark curate and present exhibits that highlight cultural issues. Artist Educators who are all community artists work with curators from venues such as the Newark Museum and other galleries (Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art and Gallery Aferro for example) to create hands-on workshops for community exploring art exhibits around provocative and timely themes.
- Shine: a portrait studio, a project conceptualized by Nick Kline, is unique. Kline, in collaboration with a collective of Newark photographers, re-imagines early 20th Century “Main Street” portrait studios for the 21st Century: rather than being a private business of one photographer, it is a space the community “co-owns” programmatically, and it is at the same time a space dedicated to education, business, community building and entrepreneurship. Shine is dedicated to different visions rather than a singular style, where people represent themselves on both sides of the camera. Co-Director of Express Newark, Victor Davson, captures the intentions for Shine: “This Portrait Studio builds on the legacy of an emancipated population empowered to construct its own identity and document its own history... and is rooted in the history of Newark and the struggle of the African American community to construct its own identity.” As the author and Founder/Director of Shine, Kline is committed to creating a space that empowers the Newark community working with faculty, student and photographers explore issues of identity and representation. By providing complimentary portraits to school children, neighborhood groups, Shine teaches about the Hahne’s building’s historic role in American portraiture as the site of the portrait studio where legendary Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee apprenticed.
- Hycide, a resident community partner with Shine at Express Newark a community photography magazine dedicated to subculture, art and conflict collaborates with YouthBuild Newark alternative high school and Bridges Outreach programs for the homeless.
- Smart classroom and a computer teaching lab.
- Artist-in-Residence studios house a rotating selection of visual, media and performing artists
- Faculty, staff and students from the Rutgers University - Newark Video Production program are resident in Express Newark furthering their artistic practice, conducting classes, workshops and screenings in a state of the art production studio and video editing classroom.
- Scarlet Magazine is a student publication at Rutgers University - Newark. It was founded in 2011, and is the only campus-wide magazine that focuses on local and national news, lifestyle, college life and peer advice, and appeals to both undergraduate and graduate students. It was officially recognized as a Rutgers University organization following the completion of the Spring '2012 semester.
- The Community Media Center will be run by the faculty, staff and students from the Rutgers University - Newark Video Production program in conjunction with the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development’s Newark Business HUB collaborates with local media entrepreneurs such as Cobblestone Media, DreamPlay Media and East Side High School to ensure that Newarkers of all generations will have access to sound recording and broadcasting, videotaping and editing equipment to develop tools to tell stories in multimedia that will weave the counter-narrative of this diverse community, told by, rather than merely about, its members.
- MFA in Creative Writing faculty will be resident in Express Newark to run the Writers @ Newark series of readings and spoken-word programs that engage community poets of all ages creating opportunities for high school students in Newark to participate in the renowned Dodge Poetry Festival.
- The Newest Americans—a multidisciplinary digital platform created as a university-community collaboration between Rutgers-Newark and Talking Eyes Media and VII Photojournalists documents the stories of the state’s immigrants and migrants including RU-N’s own students, and will be resident in Express Newark. The Newest Americans in collaboration with The Clement A. Price Institute will lead “Knowing My Newark,” an initiative to explore, record and map the City to identify, map landmarks and engage in participatory research conducting interviews with neighborhood elders to flesh out the social and cultural history associated with each landmark, and how it played into the lives of residents during different periods in the city.
Express Newark will augment the Newark Arts Ecosystem and become the fulcrum of the city’s burgeoning Arts District, linking well-established institutions such as the Newark Museum, the Newark Public Library, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, newly renovated Military Park, WBGO, with the Halsey Street studio art spaces, the Great Hall at 15 Washington Street. It directly addresses one of the chief goals of RU-N’s strategic plan: to create 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.
Third spaces are “where established and often unequal relationships of power and expertise can be shifted to acknowledge what each member of the partnership brings to the table.” For a discussion and examples of third spaces, see Nancy Cantor, Peter Englot and Marilyn Higgins, “Making the Work of Anchor Institutions Stick: Building Coalitions and Collective Expertise,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Volume 17, Number 3, p. 17 (2013).
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/.