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Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery Opens February 10
at Gallery Aferro

originally published: 01/26/2018

Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery Opens February 10 at Gallery Aferro

(NEWARK, NJ) -- Gallery Aferro and Newark Arts are honoring the lives of two powerful and much-beloved Newark culture workers: Rodney M. Gilbert (July 27, 1967- November 8, 2017) and Eleta J. Caldwell (June 13, 1945 - December 13, 2017). Ms. Caldwell was Mr. Gilbert’s teacher, and both were working artists passionately committed to cultural leadership in Newark, and to mentorship of the artistically inclined youth of the community.

The new Memorial Gallery, located within Gallery Aferro’s downtown location at 73 Market Street, is an intimate space appropriate for visual arts exhibits, poetry readings, screenings, and other sorts of gatherings where people connect with ideas and each other. The gallery is a place to linger, and a place for remembering those who inspire us.

The inaugural exhibition, running February 10 – March 16, 2018, curated by Gilbert’s friend and colleague Jo-El Lopez, explores Black male identity and showcases the talents of local, Black male artists. Lopez writes: “My friend Rodney Gilbert and I spoke about creating the “Well Hung” show numerous times before he passed away this December. The title that I suggested in jest took on a life of its own as we spoke about the overwhelming need to highlight nuanced portrayals of African-American male identities. He reminded me of the importance of creating an art show like this. He wanted to take on a powerful stereotype and give it a totally different direction. I want to create something influential, evidencing an extraordinary range of personalities, impulses, and ideas too complex to ever be contained or constrained. This show in Rodney’s memory is about the African-American Male artist: his power, identity, joy and his trajectory for the future. 

In selecting these artists, ranging from established, mid-career, emerging and novice, I focused on artists who have had positive influences and are great role models to their community. Our working definition of these criteria differs from the reactive pressures sometimes put on artists to make exclusively “affirming images;” we instead find that when people are their most authentic, idiosyncratic and personal, they lead the way by showing others that it is possible to live freely.”

For Gilbert and Caldwell’s contemporaries and (now-grown) mentees, the dedication of the gallery is evidence that another new generation of youth will be inspired by the lives these two led, what they accomplished and the example of public service they modeled. Gallery Aferro, being close to Arts High School, is a frequent destination for students to visit, both informally as well as with field trips, and as such is a space where moments of inspiration and discovery happen for youth on the verge of believing they, too, can succeed. As an LGBTQ-led space, we also can honor the legacy of those who lead proud, out, professional lives. Planned exhibits throughout 2018 showcase the extraordinary talent and stylistic range of Newark-affiliated artists.

The public is invited to join us on February 10 for the gallery dedication and opening reception curated by Jo-El Lopez, as well as two other exciting exhibitions. RSVP is not required and there is no charge to attend and enjoy.

About Ms. Caldwell: Born in Chapel Hill, NC, Eleta J. Caldwell moved to Newark in the late 1940’s and graduated from Arts High School. She began drawing at age 3 and went on to earn a Bachelors and a Masters of Fine Arts from Montclair State University. She began her teaching career at Weequaic High School and then went on to Arts High School, where she was first a teacher, then a Department Chair, and then the principal. She began exhibiting her work in the 1970’s with Gladys Barker Grauer’s AARD Gallery, and exhibited extensively including at the Newark Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, City Without Walls, Clocktower Gallery, Art in the Atrium, and others. She dedicated most of her work, time, and life to the city of Newark, NJ, and is remembered as a tireless and powerful mentor, advocate, and culture worker by countless former students as well as by her colleagues.



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Eleta wrote: “My parents raised six children with love and respect. My father was a Pullman Porter, while my mother worked occasionally her primary obligation was the home. It was a major sin to be “idle” in my household. My father would give you a boring domestic chore if he caught you doing nothing. Therefore we all had interests: reading, art, sewing or music. We had a great deal of freedom, and that freedom was based on trust and respect. Art has always been my first love. During junior year my college class visited West Kinney Jr. High to observe a class and I was assigned an art class (of course), and I fell in love! I loved the teaching, the atmosphere, and especially the aura emanated by the students and their teacher. I felt a strong connection to my hometown, the city of Newark, where I received a great education. How better to give back to the city than to teach- I’m so glad I did it! I created my art while I pursued my teaching- it was an excellent marriage. I believe education is synonymous with experience. For me, exhibiting and teaching go hand in hand. I wanted to give my students a broader experience. Art was my tool to emphasize a holistic approach that combined creativity and critical thinking. I began painting in a representational genre; I loved the African and American face and figure. My family members were often the subject for my figurative works and portraits. I drew and painted Black faces incessantly. My work started to lean towards a more abstract representational style. I painted women and our contributions, historically, spiritually and physically. I still focus on women’s unrecognized contributions but now employ mixed media to broaden my statements.”

About Mr. Gilbert: In 2003 Rodney M. Gilbert founded Yendor Productions in Newark, NJ to meet the challenges of underserved artists and communities. As CEO of Yendor Productions he developed, oversaw, and produced arts education programming and events and consulted on numerous projects. As one of the leading teaching artists in the tristate area, he provided acting instruction for numerous institutions. A professor in the Theatre Department of Drew University, an arts educator for the Kennedy Center’s Wolftrap Program, and the Director of the Writers Program for Playwrights Theater, he developed the afterschool arts education program “ZOOM” for the City of Newark, NJ and provided professional development for the Caucus Educational Corporation’s Stand and Deliver Program. He conducted workshops as far as Johannesburg, South Africa. As the Senior Program Manager for the Newark Murals Program, He was directly responsible for many of the murals that enhance the esthetic of the City of Newark. He advocated tirelessly for equal pay for artists raising awareness for a better Newark through the Arts. He curated many art shows throughout the City of Newark focusing on new and developing artists as well as showing established ones. Yendor Productions provided many arts activities to Newark children in the form of outdoor activities as well as summer arts programs. Mr. Gilbert, a Newark Arts High School graduate, earned a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1989. A member of the Actors Equity Association, a Leadership Newark Fellow, and a Audelco Award Nominee and recipient of numerous awards including the Civic Engagement by Drew University. In 2014, he was appointed by Mayor Ras J. Baraka to serve as one of the first members of the City of Newark’s LGBTQ commission. 

In remembering and honoring both Ms. Caldwell and Ms. Gilbert, we are inspired by how many lives they were able to make a positive impact on, and by how affectionately, and vividly, both are remembered by so many people. 

Educators and activity planners are encouraged to contact the gallery to book a free tour of the exhibits for their youth or adult groups.

Image of Eleta: Onnie Strother. Image of Rodney: Aferro Mobile Portrait Studio




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(SUMMIT, NJ) -- On Monday, January 21, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will participate in Summit’s Day of Justice, Equality, and Service to Others, organized by Shaping Summit Together. The community-wide event is taking place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the goal of educating, raising awareness, and engaging people in activities that help those experiencing hardship through circumstances arising from underlying inequality.
Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series Presents "The Erotic as Power: Sexuality and the Black Experience"
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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.


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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.
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Event calendar
Saturday, Jan 19, 2019


MUSIC

ALABAMA @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Cimorelli @ iPlay America, Freehold - 6:00pm

TRAMPS LIKE US @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Jennifer Holliday @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Zhang & Upshaw: Earth & Heaven @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


THEATRE

ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Newsies @ Voorhees High School, Glen Gardner - 7:30pm

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

THE CAPITOL STEPS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Woman of a Certain Age Comedy @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm


FILM

Best of Rahway Reel Shorts @ Atelier Rosal, Rahway - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 2:00pm and 5:30pm

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