New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


Did you know NJ Stage offers FREE Event Listings? Nearly 100,000 listings were viewed in January. Be sure to add your events to our calendar and get your shows noticed!

An Anchor For Artists: The Nina Simone House

By Candace Nicholson

originally published: 01/15/2018

An Anchor For Artists: The Nina Simone HouseIs Newark on the verge of developing its first artists’ housing co-op? That was the $64,000 question asked at the community meeting for the future Nina Simone House in Brick City’s South Ward neighborhood held on January 10. Spearheaded by the Mayor’s office along with the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (NCEDC), the efforts to renovate the abandoned Clinton Trust bank building into a space residents could be proud of has been a long time coming.

How long, you ask? Try for so long that most of the meeting attendees can’t recall when they last saw the building in anything but its current dilapidated state. From what I gathered at Wednesday’s session, it’s been at least 40 years since the Clinton Trust has been the subject of kind words.

But now, that’s about to change. Two years after the official groundbreaking, actions are finally underway to see the abandoned bank building revitalized and a plan to serve Newark’s artistic community comes with it.

Attendees at last week’s meeting learned first hand from the planners, architects and designers just how they’re crafting the Clinton Trust building renewal. But more importantly, the meeting served as a solicitation for feedback from the community itself. Artists, patrons and interested residents were asked to present their ideas for the new housing and community center space — a smart decision for a city battling the accusation that a Newark rebirth is for new transplants only, not Brick City’s born-and-raised.

After receiving opening remarks from the Mayor (who then had to leave for another community meeting), Aisha Glover and her team walked us through a brief presentation on what the future Nina Simone House would entail. The bare facts:


  • Only the Clinton Ave. façade could be salvaged from the original building. The interior had suffered too much damage and neglect over the years to be saved for a complete rehabilitation.

  • The new building will house 27 units priced at 60% of the area median income.

  • 23 units are 1-bedroom live/work spaces, averaging 710 sq-ft.

  • 4 units are 2-bedroom live/work spaces, averaging 1,027 sq-ft

  • 1-bd units = $980 per month

  • 2-bd units = $1200 per month

  • The live/work spaces will reside primarily on floors 2, 3 and 4, with a few units located on the first floor.

  • The remainder of the first floor will house a dedicated performance space and gallery (roughly 1,000 sq-ft.) and a cafe/lounge (800 sq-ft.).

  • All live/work units are ADA-compliant and handicap accessible.

  • No on-site parking is available for residents. Only street parking.

  • Basement communal workshop spaces are in the works for Phase II of the project



The article continues after this ad

 


The end game for the Nina Simone House is not simply to turn it into an artists’ housing complex, but to also serve as an anchor for what the Mayor’s office hopes will become an arts and culture district for the entire city. Moving beyond the revitalization of downtown and the Ironbound, it seems Mayor Baraka hopes to have the Clinton Ave. corridor filled with murals, amphitheaters, performance spaces, and a host of other businesses that serve the creative community of Newark, as well as patrons of the arts. A lofty goal, indeed.

An Anchor For Artists: The Nina Simone House

But an arts and culture district without the input of artists would be a failure before it even began. So at the request of Glover’s team, the meeting attendants were given their cue to chime in. Separating the eager participants into two groups, Newark artists and residents rattled off their need-to-haves, want-to-haves, and wouldn’t-it-be-nice-to-have for this new housing experiment to members of the NCEDC ready to take notes.

Whether representing their own businesses (musician and DJ Ase Manual), arts organizations (Newark Arts), or cherished artistic spaces (City Without Walls), attendants provided their perspective as to what they would like to see the Nina Simone House become. And the recommendations ranged from the practical (a qualified lighting technician to make sure gallery exhibitions are properly lit) to the financial (business development workshops so starving artists can become sustaining artists) to the communal (“We need a collaboration space so artists can network and learn from each other.”).

Feverishly trying to capture all the details, Glover’s team gathered everyone’s feedback and pushed for more. So it wasn’t long before someone brought up the concept of calling the Nina Simone House an artists’ co-op. Some even recommended the planners take a closer look at the artists’ housing in TorontoSan Francisco and Chicago. With that in mind, I agree it would be helpful for the NCEDC to review other setups for artists’ housing in major cities that have worked hard to support their creative community, but I also suggest Newark walk its own path because what was described for us that evening wasn’t quite a co-op.

For instance, co-ops generally don’t have landlords, residents rarely move out, and all facility operations are managed through hired personnel chosen by its board members/residents or by residents doing the work themselves. Glover’s team made it clear that the housing opportunity they’re proposing wouldn’t be following that model exactly. Although a number of attendants at the community meeting supported the idea of residents being allowed to receive a discount on their rent in exchange for working in the building, the concept led to a bit of debate on how that would function and could lead to problems later on.

Another way in which the Nina Simone House could be different from other artist housing enclaves is the criteria for residency. In other words, who qualifies as an artist? In that regard, the group quickly rested on the idea that the planners should select a review board consisting of artists in the community to discuss the qualifications on who would be granted residency. Who better to decide what is art and who is a professional artist than actually artists?

The conversation remained harmonious and respectful throughout the feedback session, and it appeared everyone’s goal was to make sure the space was as inclusive as possible. Thanks to the makeup of the meeting attendees, the desire to see residents include artists regardless of age, gender, physical ability, race, religion or orientation was not missed. As a matter of fact, I would say the majority of the group were more concerned with how the performance space, multipurpose rooms, and cafe/lounge would function.

An Anchor For Artists: The Nina Simone House

Suggestions relating to community outreach, workshops on grantwriting and fellowship applications, job-search counseling, and gallery programming mingled with a concern for full-time facilitators in charge of maintaining audio equipment, parking for visitors and patrons, and the operations between the cafe/lounge and the performance space. No matter the perspective, everyone was committed to seeing the renewal become a space for all Newark artists, not just the future tenants of the building.

As the community meeting drew to a close, it was clear that the NCEDC team received a wealth of information on how the city’s artistic community would like to see the future Nina Simone House blossom — even if the feedback came at them from multiple directions and in no particular order. (Hey, they’re artists. Not file clerks.) The timeline moving forward includes soliciting proposals for a ground floor operator and continuing construction with tenant move-in expected in July and August.

As someone else mentioned before we left for the evening, the success of this new housing experiment will lie in its marketing. Making sure potential applicants are aware of the opportunity, reaching out via social media and traditional outlets, and perhaps enlisting a Newark celebrity to grab the attention of the city will help go a long way to ensuring a diverse pool of applicants. And that marketing campaign can’t start soon enough. The more time creatives are aware of their application window, the greater probability for success for the artists, the corridor and the city.

And who knows? If it all goes well, maybe we’ll see a “Nina Simone House” in each ward throughout Newark.

(TOP PHOTO) : 505 Clinton Avenue, soon to be the Nina Simone House. Rendering via NCEDC.




Candace Nicholson is a freelance writer, editor and blogger covering arts & culture, small business and community. When she’s not pitching magazines, editing creative genius or penning blog posts, she’s a regular contributor to LAFRA’s Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. Visit her blog at www.incandescere.com




Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series Presents "The Erotic as Power: Sexuality and the Black Experience"
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The erotic is often seen as a realm of oppression and danger. But, as Audre Lorde argued 40 years ago, it also contains the potential for empowerment and struggle. This tension will be explored as the 39th annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series brings together eminent scholars and performers to examine the poltical and social lives of the erotic in the African American experience.
West Windsor Arts Council presents Faculty Student Show
(PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ) -- Every day students of all ages come to the West Windsor Arts Center to expand their knowledge and experiment with art and creativity. Whether they are adults or children, they take classes in order to try something new or hone their skills by learning from some of the best teaching artists in the region. Classes are offered in many artistic media including painting, drawing, and sculpting as well as fashion design, photography and the literary and performing arts. The annual Faculty Student Show aims to provide the experience of submitting and preparing their work for a professional exhibition as well.
Monmouth University Hosts Artist Talk with Sherrill Roland about "The Jumpsuit Project"
(WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University will host artist Sherrill Roland  on Tuesday, January 29 at 4:30pm in Wilson Hall Auditorium, to discuss his socially engaged artwork The Jumpsuit Project — that he uses to ignite conversations around issues related to mass incarceration.
Art House Productions Presents 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Join Art House Productions and presenting sponsor SILVERMAN for their 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala on Saturday, January 26th, 2018 from 7:00pm- 12:00am with VIP beginning at 6:00pm (Snow date: Saturday, February 2nd) at Art House’s location at the Cast Iron Lofts, 262 17th St, Jersey City, NJ.  This year’s Snow Ball features live music from Cook Thugless ("Cook Thugless are one of the coolest bands in New Jersey." -Bob Makin, My Central Jersey), live and silent auctions from Grandstand Sports, including sports memorabilia, local art pieces, and exclusive weekend getaways.
Palette ArtSpace Presents "Cold Pop!" with Robert Piersanti and Faustine Badrichani
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Palette ArtSpace presents "Cold Pop!" by Robert Piersanti, now through January 27. The exhibit brings a touch of summer to a cold January with paintings of mermaids, surfers and more. Piersant's work features 1950s and 1960s pop culture with locals as subjects. He's shown work from the local area to Miami and Milan.  The exhibit also features new paintings of women by Faustine Badrichani, a French artist in New York who has shown at Palette previously. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public.


Inside New Jersey Stage Magazine Issue 54
(BELMAR, NJ) -- The latest issue of New Jersey Stage magazine contains something for every arts fan.  Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Oates, is the cover story in an issue packed with music, film, theatre, and art coverage.  The issue is available for free at www.NJArtsMag.com 
Nick Kiefer In Iceland
Nick Kiefer is an award winning graphic designer and photographer based out of Asbury Park, NJ. He is currently the Art Director at Netwave Interactive - a branding and advertising agency in Point Pleasant. NJ. Nick has also been designing and photographing in the NJ music scene for more than half his life. He has designed dozens of record covers and gig posters for local musicians in the Asbury Park area. After a heavy year packed with work, he and his fiancé Kristina, decided to roam around Iceland for a few weeks back in October of 2018. Here are some photos from the trip.
Peter Max Remembers Frank Sinatra
(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- As fans of Frank Sinatra across the world remember the legendary entertainer on what would have been his 103th birthday (December 12th), pop artist Peter Max provides a series of portraits of 'Ol' Blue Eyes' at different points throughout his career. Max, with a 5 decades-long career of his own, created these signature, vibrantly colored portraits, working with the Sinatra family to celebrate the Sinatra Centennial in 2015. They remain a fan favorite at gallery shows across the country.
Jerry Gant 1961-2018
Jerry, There is no bio that will seem complete for you. Where would it be listed, amongst your numerous and diverse accomplishments, that you talked to people, always seemed to find time for the younger artists, to talk to them and look at their sketchbooks? Your use of language as a material, testing limits, associations, and possibilities.
PODCAST: An Artist Asks "The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions Of The 21st Century"
In this podcast, we speak with them about art, activism and how women invented Postmodernism. “The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions of the 21st Century” runs through December 14th at Douglass Library.






Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.