Last weekend I was checking out art projects on Indiegogo and Kickstarter to get a look at some of the cool initiatives going on around the world. I stumbled onto a noble project called Con Safos at the Bowtie Project, an outdoor graffiti/mural installation at the L.A. River from a young man named Rafa Esperanza in Los Angeles. There is also a really innovative project from two friends and talented painters, David Lemyre and David Kassan, called The parallelPALETTE, a palette that stands vertically (parallel to the canvas) to make painting easier. I also saw a project for a live-work artist residency to be rebuilt in a flooded bungalow in the Rockaways using innovative flood resilient architecture. The project is called Stilt City and is created by a young lady out of Brooklyn named Robyn Hasty.
Then there was Femme Fierce: Reloaded! – a public art project out of the UK by a young lady named Ayaan. Femme Fierce is the UK’s largest all female street art and graffiti festival of its kind. Following up on the success of last year’s Femme Fierce, they are inviting 150+ international and UK-based street artists and graffiti writers to join forces and take over the Leake Street tunnel (Banksy tunnel) in London to highlight and showcase the artists on the scene and inspire adults and children to pick up a spray can and create art. Then I saw their petition video and I was floored…
Now, let’s break this down: Femme Fierce is an all-woman, street art & graffiti festival. That’s a subset of a subculture of the arts. The visual arts. And it’s thriving! Then I thought about the other projects and campaigns (although their videos weren’t as impressive). And the common thread among them was that the crowdfunding wasn’t meant to benefit one artist, or one temporary project. It was for the benefit of the arts and the artists! Naturally, it made me think of Newark and Newark’s art scene. Newark has, in my opinion, an art scene that is as full of history as it is potential. Some incredible things have come out of Newark’s art scene. Some via institutions and organizations, and some via sheer will, talent, and love.
But there are areas that Newark has yet to thrive in – its ability to unify artists, galvanize (and keep) the public’s attention, and more positively shape the world’s perception of the city. Am I saying that Newark’s art scene or Newark artists are responsible for how the world views Newark? Absolutely not. However, the artists, the poets, the rappers, the dancers, the expressionists have the power – and by extension the obligation – to articulate the culture of the times. If the question is “What does Newark look like?” and there is admittedly an art scene here, it is partly the artists’ responsibility to furnish the answer to that question. If the question is, “What is the general consciousness of the people in Newark?” and there is admittedly a poetry community here, it is partly the poets’ responsibility to furnish the answer to that question. And in this internet age, the answer should be easy to find.
However, that answer won’t be heard until there is unity among the artists, the poets, the expressionists: a strong art community. The answer should be resounding. It should resemble a stampede, not a scattering of crickets.