Story Behind the Creation of Express Newark Gains National Recognition

Express Newark lobby
Express Newark Lobby

The story behind the creation and development of Express Newark was featured by Imagining America, a national consortium for public scholars and artists.

Express Newark--an art and design center established to bridge the space between university and community--was showcased as one of Imagining America’s Stories of Change, which highlights successful examples of humanities and arts programs that contribute to public scholarship and “campus culture change.’’

It was one of 20 case studies chosen nationwide by Imagining America, which supports organizations committed to creating “a more just and caring world.’’

With funding from the Mellon Foundation, the Express Newark team documented their work through a written narrative and multimedia creation, published on Imagine America’s website. 

Since it opened in 2017 in the historic Hahne building, Express Newark has provided classroom and studio space for faculty, students and local artists, in addition to producing nationally acclaimed events, programs and exhibitions. It hosts visiting artists from the city and beyond and serves as a resource, partner and platform for Newark creatives, city organizations and residents.

It is currently under the leadership of Pulitzer-Prize winning professor Salamishah Tillet, who is Executive Director, and Creative Director Nick Kline, a professor of photography who founded Express Newark’s Shine portrait studio. 

“Both have furthered its mission of supporting contemporary artists dedicated to social justice locally and universally,” according to the Imagining America piece, written by Peter Englot, Rutgers-Newark Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs, and Anne Schaper Englot, founding co-director of Express Newark and a professor of Architecture and Humanities.

The center is representative of the goals and ideals outlined in Rutgers-Newark’s 2014 strategic plan, created after the arrival of Chancellor Nancy Cantor, who sought to nurture RU-N’s “symbiotic relationship” with Newark, according to the case study authors.

“Express Newark is a true collaborative in which community partners and the university can work together on equal footing in what has been called a “third space,’’ they wrote.

The chancellor described it this way: 

“For me, the origins of Express Newark is precisely the notion that we are in and of Newark, that we are not just haphazardly here. So we needed the intelligence, the intergenerational activity, the change-makers, the artistic creations to be in a place and a space...that isn’t us, it isn’t them, it is all of us of Newark, together.’’