“The way they described it is of how God’s hands, rose up around them. It represents the city - reborn.” - 19 Year Old Ashlee Johnson at Newark Art Supply’s First Artist Talk Speaking about her piece about New Orleans.
Newark, NJ, put itself on the international map when it successfully combined arts and commerce with the country’s first Industrial Exposition Fair in 1872. Drawing thousands of people it put the United States much less Newark as a leading player in art, design and commerce worldwide.
Needless to say twenty-something husband and wife team Adejoke Tugbiyele and Christopher Sedita’s Newark Arts Supply are following in that tradition of making a strong connection between art, community and commerce.
Contracting nearly a dozen artists in the first four months of the stores opening for services ranging from mural construction to furniture and logo design, sponsoring community events and providing gallery space for emerging and established artists year round they are truly supplying the raw materials of what it means to have thriving cultural community.
And if that is not enough; this will definitely make you reach for a cigarette - whatever can’t be found in the store can be special ordered.
Okay, here’s a light.
It cannot be denied that they are merging the realms of commerce, community and art production - this is the hallmark - the needs of an industrial town though Newark is in post industrial (albeit highly reminisced) era.
However, what is more significant is the play on the concept of supply by hiring and supporting the economic well being of artists this project is elaborating on a foundation of this most well know country’s cultural warriors. Newark also boasts Amiri and Amina Baraka’s Spirit House, a virtual institution that has nurtured art production in a relentless, multifaceted fashion through supporting artist development, networking and production.
If it seems that these two have a firm grasp on what the needs of a thriving creative community should be - their combined backgrounds in architecture and building sustainable communities is definitely adds some sustenance to their practice.
Adejoke is also an award winning local artist whose work delves in to the subconscious to understand and reimagine our contemporary lives with an eye on articulating a responsive visual language.
Combining her interests in public policy, design, art as dialect and entrepreneurship she is not afraid to imagine art as essential to rejuvenating the ways in which we build community and live.
Noelle Lorraine Williams: One thing that you and I have discussed before is the ability for visual art to express what might not be able to be expressed in words or our everyday vocabulary, words and experiences. The visual becomes another language that is not replicable by words. Can you please explain this more. How does this impact how we understand Home?
Adejoke Tugbiyele Sedita: Art is a medium of expression that comes naturally. Over time, our society teaches children to suppress their desire to draw in favor of verbal language. Most of our living systems are set up to receive verbal communication alone. It is quite unfortunate. The problem becomes more apparent when we compare ancient societies to modern ones. Ancient societies may have lacked the technologies we enjoy today, however they were far more aware of their senses.
Most of the time verbal language comes forth after we have rationalized our thoughts. If this does not occur we might say that a person is speaking "non-sense." That "non-sense," when communicated visually, may in fact make complete sense because it describes the inner workings of unconscious thought. C.G. Jung went through great lengths to describe this phenomenon in the book, Man and His Symbols.
What all this means to me when put in the context of "Home" is that our bodies truly are our temples. Because of our societies puritanical roots, we shy away from exploring ALL parts of our bodies - physical, spiritual and mental. For many individuals, reclaiming their bodies - their Homes - has become a life-long pursuit. Art is a tool that can help us reach areas that have long been placed off-limits, so that we can learn how to feel at home in our own skin - as we did when we were babies.
Noelle Lorraine Williams: In contemporary periods you make a direct connection between art, economics, and culture and art empowerment? Why? How exactly does Newark Art Supply do that?
Adejoke Tugbiyele Sedita: When you say art empowerment I take it you mean artist empowerment. Yes, all of those things appear to be reoccurring themes in both my academic and professional work. This is not purposeful but again, various things I have sensed over time. I sense the disconnect between art and the economy by observing how many of our systems truly lack meaning. Art imbues our lives with meaning and without artists there is no art. Too many people do not give artists the credit they deserve for simply creating interest. No one benefits when an area is depressed and boring. In fact, studies have shown that boredom can lead to neighborhood crime as well as job dissatisfaction. As Richard Florida points out, creative artists keep things interesting which in turn helps the economy. Cultural value is a big part of the equation.
While I believe in the provision of affordable housing for artists, I also believe many artists can do more to become successful entrepreneurs. One way to begin is by expanding the definition of art beyond paintings on a wall, to include finding creative ways to help solve major problems such as bad governance, homelessness, racism, crime and drugs. Some of the most creative artists do not believe it is their job to tackle these issues. Maybe so, but that means some of the best minds (with or without credentials) are not being employed in these areas. Given the right resources, artists can market themselves as creative problem solvers thereby becoming empowered.
Noelle Lorraine Williams: Your workshop is called ASE workshop? What does that mean? And what exactly does the workshop represent?
Adejoke Tugbiyele Sedita: The word "Ase" refers to the source of creative activity embedded in all living and non-living things. The Yoruba use this word to mean energy or "life force" by which we come into full realization of ourselves. At Newark Art Supply, we hope to accomplish this goal through various events and workshop activities. The workshop represents a space where creative activity flourishes to the betterment of the individual. Please visit our site, www.NewarkArtSupply.com , for the latest news and upcoming events.
April’s Artist at Newark Art Supply is Sulaiman Onque. Please join us for his reception on Friday April 27, 2007 from 7 pm to 9 pm. There will be music & light refreshments.
Newark Arts Supply Website
Newark Art Supply
61 Halsey Street (corner of Halsey and New Street)
Newark, NJ 07102
Visit www.NewarkArtSupply.com for directions
Robin Laverne Wilson’s Interview with Adejoke Tugbiyele Sedita http://www.current.tv/watch/25111472.htm