Newark has a rich cultural history when it comes to the arts, and the city continues to celebrate that legacy as its numerous arts and cultural organizations continue to forge partnerships and invest in programming and initiatives that are transforming the city. These efforts serve as powerful economic drivers for the city, whether it’s attracting visitors from all over the state, improving real estate values or investing in community initiatives to address issues facing city residents.
“Newark has long been home to a thriving arts and creative community, and with the establishment of the Arts-Education district, NJPAC’s significant development plans, the development of Lionsgate Studios, the renovation of the historic Newark Symphony Hall and many more projects, the city is poised to further cement and elevate Newark’s status as an inclusive arts hub and destination,” says Maya Curry, Newark Regional Business Partnership vice president of communications and diversity, equity and inclusion.
According to fayemi shakur, director of arts and cultural affairs for the city, initiatives like the Arts-Education district have led to an array of programming for residents and visitors. “We want to preserve the history of Newark and its cultural legacy while encouraging organizations to work together to build an equitable, collaborative city,” she says.
To help commemorate its 100th birthday in 2025, Newark Symphony Hall has raised $15 million for the restoration of its historic building along with additional funding allocated by the state. The organization has completed a $1.2 million restoration of the building and is planning additional improvements and additions.
“We’re investing in what the future of Newark is going to look like while acknowledging the history that we’ve had over the last 98 years,” says Talia L. Young, president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall.
In addition to the performing arts, the city is also a hub for fine art. According to Linda Harrison, director and CEO of the Newark Museum of Art (NMOA), “Art and culture are key economic drivers of the city, and that NMOA has an important economic role to play.” The museum represents nearly $964,000 paid annually to Newark-based vendors and $2 million in payroll generated annually for Newark residents, along with more than 425 community events that draw thousands to its downtown each year.
Harrison says NMOA’s next economic driver will be the NMOA Museum Parc, which will be designed to reinvigorate its downtown block with much-needed housing, retail space, and a new contemporary gallery pavilion.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Prudential Center also continues to focus on providing programming and content that reflects its diverse community in Newark.
“We know we can have a major impact on our community, not the least of which is the foot traffic and the economic stimulation that events bring for both the city and local businesses,” says Jake Reynolds, president of the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center.
The Prudential Center participates in an array of initiatives that give back to the Newark community. “We are fortunate in that we have partners who share similar values and visions, including Prudential, which is committed to helping us branch out and have a significant community impact,” he says. These initiatives were created to do everything from featuring local Black-owned businesses on the venue’s branding, enriching the lives of local youth, and addressing issues like hunger by donating food leftover from events.
Corporations like Audible are also paving the way for an economic revitalization through the arts in Newark. Audible has invested more than $1 million in the Newark Artist Collaboration, a program designed to amplify the work of Newark-based artists and encourage local investment in the city’s creative community. One recent project has been large-scale public art murals featuring audio throughout the city.
In March, Audible curated and produced its first permanent audio installation in Newark; an interactive audio experience at the new Harriet Tubman monument. The monument shares stories of Harriet Tubman’s life along with historical narratives about the Underground Railroad and free black communities in New Jersey.
“We’re trying to be more intentional about making it easier for Aisha Glover, vice president of urban innovation at the Global Center for Urban Development at Audible.
The City of Newark helped develop the Creative Catalyst Fund for individual artists and small- to mid-sized cultural organizations. It has provided $2.3 million in funding since its inception in 2020. “Investing in individual artists is important because they support our programming and host all types of events in the city, and we want to acknowledge the positive impact they have,” shakur says.
Newark Arts also provides funding and resources for Newark artists in three ways: ArtStart grants, which seed programs in Newark’s neighborhoods; the Newark Arts Festival, which acts as a marketing machine for the best and brightest of the arts community; and ArtSource, which connects local artists to corporate art opportunities. According to Newark Arts Executive Director Lauren LeBeaux Craig, the organization also acts as a collaborative intermediary organization for Newark’s creative sector and as the fiscal agent/conduit for key in-community artistic initiatives throughout the city.
One of Newark’s major events is the Lincoln Park Music Festival, which is hosted by the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD). Anthony Smith, executive director of the LPCCD, notes that the organization has done more than host arts festivals; it has helped create new housing units and community gardens and will participate in a major project to upgrade Lincoln Park.
“What’s exciting is that all this energy in Newark is being driven by the arts and culture,” Smith concludes. “We’re dismantling barriers to create economic empowerment for creative people to come together and bring attention to all of the amazing things this community has to offer.”
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