Developers and Newark Arts transform empty storefronts into art exhibits

NEWARK, N.J. – Newark Arts, a nonprofit arts council, has cultivated partnerships with real estate developers to convert seven vacant downtown spaces into temporary art exhibits that showcase local arts and culture during the Newark Arts Festival, October 10-13. The festival, voted New Jersey’s Favorite Visual Arts Festival by JerseyArts.com, is expected to attract more than 12,000 visitors.

“Through partnerships with some of today’s most exciting artists, developers have an opportunity to showcase their spaces and enhance marketability,” said Jeremy Johnson, Executive Director of Newark Arts. In recent years, developers have created tens of thousands of square feet of new and rehabbed residential or commercial space. Upper levels get leased first, while empty ground-floor spaces often await tenants.

One solution is the activation of unoccupied retail spots with artist installations. “Artists are constantly looking for exhibit and performance space. By converting vacant storefronts to temporary showplaces, we can attract art buyers, generate foot traffic, and even spur interest in long-term leases. Most importantly, Newark’s art and culture can continue to bloom as artists enliven otherwise quiet streets,” Johnson said.

Wonder Woman by Theda Sandiford

“Prudential is proud to be the title sponsor of Newark Arts Festival for the second year running,” said Shané Harris, President of the Prudential Foundation. “Art and culture are part and parcel of Newark’s ongoing economic growth. We applaud these efforts to connect the area’s diverse artists and creatives to available real estate spaces for exhibit opportunities.”

Data on the effect of arts and culture in the city is crucial. Last month, the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University (SMU) ranked Newark, NJ-PA the #7 most arts-vibrant large community in America, according to its fifth annual Arts Vibrancy Index Report. The study researched more than 900 communities, and assessed vibrancy by measuring artistic supply, demand, and government support. According to SMU, the vibrancy of the arts is critical to healthy communities because “arts and cultural organizations are engines of community development and community cohesion.”

The soon-to-be-released city cultural plan, “Newark Creates,” led by Newark Arts, found that one of the greatest needs is for artists to have affordable live, work, exhibit and performance space in Newark. The “pop-up” solution hatched by Newark Arts and developers begins to chip away at the issue of a dearth of artist spaces in the downtown urban environment.

The raw donated spaces often require addition al investments to be made exhibit ready. Conversion expenses range from $5,000 to $10,000 per space, depending on square footage, lighting and painting requirements. Contributing sponsors and an active corps of volunteers help Newark Arts cover costs and keep admission free to the public.

“The City of Newark is in the midst of more than $5 billion in development,” said Bernel Hall, President and CEO of Newark Community Economic Development Committee. “This partnership enables area artists and small creative businesses to benefit from the city’s growth and for developers to further enhance real estate. Newark Arts Festival’s pop-up exhibits, along with participating studios, galleries, restaurants and services, will generate economic activity for artists and small businesses alike.”

More than 200 artists will be shown this year at the festival, and the majority will be featured at distinctive downtown addresses, according to lead curator Adrienne Wheeler, a Newark-based multi-media artist and arts educator. “With the inclusion of seven amazing properties, we have a much larger footprint to display art and sculpture, and to present lively performances by emerging and established creatives from Newark, the region, and internationally,” she said.

One Theater Square a new 22-story, 245-apartment complex, has devoted retail space to celebrate the arts. “We are pleased to partner with Newark Arts Festival and their sponsor, NJPAC’s Women’s Board Association, to create a unique first-floor art space that complements One Theater Square,” said Carl Dranoff, President and Founder of Dranoff Properties, which built brick and glass tower across the street from NJPAC as Newark’s first residential high rise in 55 years. “We believe residents of One Theater Square will enjoy the addition of more art at our location in the heart of the arts district.”

“We are happy to collaborate with Newark Arts to create the Wonder Woman Champagne Brunch event, featuring empowering works by women artists,” said Sarah Rosen, Managing Director, Women’s Association of NJPAC, which has raised more than $52 million to support the cultural, educational, and artistic vision of NJPAC.

The activations underscore Newark’s status as an arts mecca. “The residents of our properties are attracted by access to nearby educational and cultural institutions as well as convenient mixed-use retail and the arts under one roof,” said Jonathan Cortell, Vice President for Development at L+M Development Partners. “We partnered last year with Newark Arts on two temporary exhibits in the 441,000-square-foot Hahne & Co. complex. Now, 12 months later, we’re happy to announce new tenants such as Cool Vines, Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, and Curry Up Now. We’re showing that retail can happen in the current environment, and we’re using arts partnerships as a tool to draw attention and enhance amenities for our clients.”

L+M has also engaged artists for the newly restored Walker House. Built in 1929, the 21-story Art Deco gem was once the headquarters of New Jersey Bell. The mixed-use building has 264 apartments, a brewery, a coffee shop, and Newark’s first climbing wall. For the festival, a ground-floor space will be temporarily transformed into sculpture garden, curated by sculptor Mary Valverde. New Jersey artist Tom Nussbaum has created a permanent custom backlit metal artwork that creates a dramatic rear entrance.

“We have found the arts community to be a vibrant part of our strategy to restore beautiful historic structures in Newark,” said Samer Hanini, co-founder of the Hanini Group and a Newark Arts board member. Developer of architecturally distinguished, buildings in Newark’s Four Corners historic district and along the bustling Halsey Street corridor, Hanini has lent a vacant 3,100-square-foot space at 91 Halsey for one of the pop-up exhibits.

On Raymond Boulevard, east of Broad Street, is Newark Arts Festival’s pop-up headquarters at Eleven80. “We are thrilled to welcome the Newark Arts Festival to Eleven80, Newark’s premier residential building, and are proud to be part of this year’s festival,” said Darla Stachecki, Cogswell Realty.

“Newark Downtown District (NDD) is thrilled to house Newark Arts Festival’s headquarters at Eleven80,” said Anthony McMillan, CEO of Newark Downtown District. “The NDD is committed to the arts community by supporting local artists in our rotating office art gallery, creating the 1.39-mile mural beautifying Route 21, and working with partners on projects such as Four Corners Public Arts. We are excited that the Newark Arts Festival will bring increased foot traffic to experience our downtown arts and architecture.”

The National Newark Building, 744 Broad Street is donating two retail spaces. The Berger Organization also is providing two ground-floor pop-up spaces in its 33 Washington Street building, next to the Newark Museum – which is hosting the festival’s closing reception on October 13th.

Peter Englot, President of the Newark Arts Board of Directors and Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Rutgers University – Newark, said: “Newark’s phenomenally vibrant arts ecosystem of artists and arts organizations of every size is one of our city’s and state’s greatest assets. The Newark Arts Festival presents a pivotal opportunity for anchor institutions and developers to leverage that asset along with their own, realizing the multiplier effect that comes with collaboration, for the mutual benefit of all and for the residents of Newark.”

The Newark Arts Festival takes place October 10-13, 2019, at locations across the city. Click to view additional information online.

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