Aristotle wrote, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
To be charitably terse, Newark, NJ, is a city in which the “outward appearance of things” is rather dim. From abandoned properties, to gang graffiti, to mini-shrines commemorating lives lost to gun violence, many children in Newark grow up surrounded by wide variety of negative messaging.
Fortunately, the city also has a small but growing artistic presence that attempts to capture our children’s attention in both creative and positive ways. A portion of this community has clearly been around for some time, but other segments of it are brand new.
The photographs below depict the work of artists who are representing Newark not only for what it is, but also for what it ought to be.
143. West Ward – Newark, NJ. Welcome to our neighborhood. It’s a little rough around the edges, perhaps a bit neglected, but the brightness shines through if you look closely enough.
144. West Ward – Newark, NJ. A battered, but proud symbol of our neighborhood’s true nature.
145. North Ward – Newark, NJ. “Give a helping hand.” “Peace – Paz.” “R.I.P. 2 Violence.” Unfortunately, both literally and figuratively, positive messages to kids are often concealed by ones that are, let’s say, less educational and socially beneficial.
146. North Ward – Newark, NJ. “Neighbors helping neighbors”…presumably.
147. Central Ward – Newark, NJ. In the upper left corner you can see the dedication of this mural, “In loving memory of those we lost.” Often, it is darkness that inspires light.
148. South Ward – Newark, NJ.
149. South Ward – Newark, NJ.
150. South Ward – Newark, NJ.
151. South Ward – Newark, NJ. Brick Avon Academy, where this and the three previous photos were taken, is on the vanguard of using public space for positive social messaging in Newark.
152. North Ward – Newark, NJ. A student of mine showed me where this mural was. He was hesitant, not sure how to describe it at first, “Did you know that…there is some graffiti that shows people doing good stuff?”
153. North Ward – Newark, NJ. And in my humble opinion, this is the frame we all need to put into sharper focus.
154. Central Ward – Newark, NJ.
155. Central Ward – Newark, NJ. Interactive public art like this has the potential to promote spontaneous and necessary reflection. I love it. Before I die, I want to see Newark become a city that stands as a model of both education reform and violent crime reduction for all the nation and world to follow.
156. Central Ward – Newark, NJ. Yet of course, until these lofty ideals motivate the daily actions of those who live in and care about Newark, they will merely remain part of our dreams.