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Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

originally published: 06/13/2024

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

(NEWARK, NJ) -- Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced that the City of Newark Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with the Newark Downtown District, Project for Empty Space, Invest Newark, Newark Arts, the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a diverse collective of artists completed the restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits last week.

In 2016, led by the Newark Downtown District, the country's longest mural, "Gateway to Newark: Portraits," was conceived and created along Route 21, McCarter Highway. Spanning more than 1.34 miles, this mural features 18 pieces by local, national, and international artists, forming a multi-dimensional portrait of Newark's communities and unyielding spirit. The artworks reflect how the people see Newark, presenting images celebrating the city's historical and contemporary local leaders, icons, residents, and the memory of those who have passed on. Emphasizing the concept of home and belonging, artists share stories of movement and memory, migration, and immigration. Themes of family, tradition, play, and joy illustrate and bridge visuals from many cultural communities rooted in Newark. Located in one of the city's busiest entryways, "Gateway to Newark: Portraits" is seen by nearly 1.1 million commuters and residents each month. The original project was created in conjunction with the 350th anniversary of the City.

"The longest mural in the United States was created by dedicated and talented artists from as close as our neighborhoods and from across the globe," Mayor Baraka said. "We have a responsibility to keep our public art properly maintained for generations to enjoy its messages, creativity, and to beautify our surroundings. I thank our Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs and their partners for their hard work on this project, and commend them for preserving this important piece of art."

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Eight years after its completion, the City of Newark, the Newark Downtown District, and many partners have undertaken an extensive restoration to preserve these artworks. These efforts include power washing, calcium removal, partial and full paint restoration, re-mounted printed imagery, reimagining artworks, and sealing for longevity. This critical initiative demonstrates Newark's commitment to maintaining the city's public art, cementing its importance in creative place making, and developing spaces of community pride and representation.

"Part of the goal of this project is to tell visual stories about our city's diversity through art and create spaces of artistic expression that are assessable to all. It is also a creative place making initiative and energy that represents the vibrancy and creativity in highly travelled corridor which gives the work increased visibility," said fayemi shakur, City of Newark Arts and Cultural Affairs Director.

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"The restoration of the Gateways to Newark mural not only preserves this iconic public art, it is a testament to our commitment to celebrating Newark's unique identity and fostering a sense of pride and unity within our community," said Anthony McMillan, CEO of Newark Downtown District.

Two artworks have been re-imagined, including Mata Ruda's centerpiece, "The Speed of Dreams (Time and Space)." This large, 20,000-square-foot, artwork spans from Chestnut St. to Pennington St., representing the multitude of communities rooted in Newark. The mural depicts our various identities not through a lens of difference but through reflection and relativity to one another.

"Moving Memory," by collaborating artists Layqa Nuna Yawar and Don Rimx, features large letterforms spelling "Lenapehoking," the indigenous name for the land. The text also includes "Abya Yala," a term used by indigenous peoples to name this continent, derived from the Kuna language of Panama and Colombia. The third layer of the piece is its title, which is also spelled out inside the letterforms. This new artwork, which can be seen from Murray Street to Astor Street, serves as a land acknowledgment for the entire initiative as well as a reminder of the constant evolution of our relationship with the land.

"As the City continues to create public art, caring for our existing works is crucial. This restoration sets a powerful example of not only investing in art and public spaces but also preserving them and recognizing their value to the community," said Rebecca Pauline Jampol, Project Lead, and Co-Director of Project For Empty Space.

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

The contributing artists for "Gateway to Newark: Portraits" are Adrienne Wheeler, Akintola Hanif, Layqa Nuna Yawar, GERALUZ, Kevin Darmanie, Khari Johnson-Ricks, and David D. Oquendo, and Nina Chanel Abney, all from New Jersey; Don Rimx (Florida), El Decertor (Peru), Nanook and GAIA (Maryland); Manuel Acevedo (New York); Mata Ruda (Arizona); WERC (Mexico); and Zéh Palito (Brazil).

The restoration was led by Director shakur and Project Manager Jampol. Restoration artists include Alex Richard Seel, Carolina Acevedo, Diego Molina, Mark Hartmann, Manuel Sanchez, RORSHACH (Andre Leon and Roberto Ayala), PAINT & DESIGN (Mashell Black & Kamil Politch), and YENDOR (Malcolm Rolling, Hans Lundy, and Kaishon Way).

Supporting partners also include Amtrak, Sherwin Williams, Sunbelt, and CDS Commercial District Services.

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The Newark Downtown District (NDD), Newark's special improvement district (SID) of the central business area, is a privately funded 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to enhancing cleanliness, safety, and beautification in Downtown Newark, while preserving and enriching culture, commerce, and community.

NDD works hard to enrich the quality of life for those who live, labor, and leisure in Newark by providing supplemental cleaning and quality of life services, and physical improvements, marketing, and event programs. These efforts make downtown Newark attractive to residents, businesses, students, tourists, and visitors.

Newark Completes Restoration of Gateway to Newark: Portraits

Photos by Rachel Fawn Alban



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