VACANT SPACE AND SOCIAL CHANGE
WHAT PROMPTED THE BIRTH OF ARTFRONT GALLERIES?
Started in 2013, Artfront Galleries has grown from a loose coalition of working Newark artists to a NJ Non Profit Corporation with 501(c)(3) status in 2016. Artfront Galleries draws its inspiration from Eric S. Raymond’s The Cathedral and The Bazaar, the 1863 Salon des Refuses, and Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Artfront Galleries promotes pop up art galleries that serve as a transformative social and educational tool in Newark neighborhoods outside the city center.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FILL VACANT SPACES WITH ART? HOW DOES ART CREATE SOCIAL CHANGE?
The Artfront Galleries’ blueprint begins with persuading landlords in depressed neighborhoods to loan us their empty spaces for at least 30 days. The landlord wins by showing their space activated to potential renters/buyers. The pedestrian traffic visiting the gallery is a win for the neighborhood with decreased crime rates and increased commerce for local businesses. Residents with few opportunities to experience art have access to enriching cultural experiences, Perhaps, most importantly, talented artists who have not been selected by the local arts center have opportunity to show and sell their work.
GIVE US A FEW HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PAST- EXHIBITIONS OR OTHER ACTIVATIONS.
With 5 volunteers and an approximate annual budget of $5,000 Artfront Galleries produced 15 pop up galleries showing over 300 works of art by 36 area artists in 2017. To date in 2018 Artfront has mounted 10 exhibitions with an additional 8 planned.
AS NEWARK STARTS TO SHIFT AND GROW ITS RESIDENTIAL/BUSINESS POPULATION AND VACANCY DECLINES, HOW DO YOU THINK ARTFRONT GALLERIES MODEL WILL CHANGE, IF AT ALL?
The growth and gentrification of Newark will be incremental. The Central Ward is well on its way with lots of resources. Currently Artfront Galleries is concentrating in the North Ward on the Lower Broadway Commercial Corridor (77 storefronts more than 20 of which have been vacant and shuttered for more than two years). When that corridor and the rest of the North Ward has become gentrified, Artfront will move its focus to the South Ward. The current model is sustainable for years to come.
HAVING BEEN AT THIS FOR A WHILE, WHAT IS SOME ADVICE THAT YOU MIGHT GIVE TO OTHER COMMUNITIES/ CITIES LIKE NEWARK THAT HAVE SPACES TO ACTIVATE?
The arts community needs to realize that they cannot be dependent on the center for approval, fiscal aid, space or promotion. The individual artists and arts groups need to learn how to operate independently. Famously, Manet, Cezanne and Latour were found unacceptable by the 1863 Paris Salon. Where is the Paris Salon, the Academie, now?
WHAT TYPES OF PROGRAMS CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU IN THE NEXT YEAR?
Artfront Galleries plans to sustain the pace of producing 15+ pop up galleries in 2019 providing lots more opportunities for local artists. We are initiating discussion with local developers regarding installing murals in their projects. These will be executed by talented local artists employing young assistants who are Newark residents. Artfront Galleries has also begun doing longer term corporate installations which provide even better opportunities for artists to make sales.