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How Art Can Be a Tool for Civic Revitalization

April 22, 2020

The Four Corners Historic District sits at the intersection of Broad and Market streets in Newark, New Jersey. As the first settlement in the city, Four Corners quickly cemented itself as Newark’s business hub. The area is home to dozens of retail spaces and office buildings. Notable landmarks in the area include the Government Center and Newark Symphony Hall

Unfortunately, not all areas surrounding Four Corners are as inviting as that thriving intersection. The Four Corners Art Project was born of a desire to revitalize the blighted, less trafficked corridors, in the hope of creating equitable opportunities and programs for artists and the surrounding communities.

In 2019, Four Corners Public Arts was initiated through a public/private partnership formed to support public arts initiatives in Fours Corners. The initiative installed 14 murals that evoked contemporary narratives spurred from the histories of these areas. The murals were conceived and executed by more than 30 artists and organizations.

During its first phase, the project worked to transform dilapidated areas in the Four Corners Historic District by providing paid positions for local artists and arts organizations. Four Corners Art Project also used public art as a mechanism to retell local histories by elevating historically marginalized voices and intentional narrative. A Womb of Violet, a black women’s art collective that shakur is a member of, was one of the organizations commissioned to paint a mural. The piece, also named “A Womb of Violet,” features a portrait of Newark based artist Gladys Barker Grauer and poetry from Lucille Clifton.

During this webinar Rebecca Jampol and fayemi shakur discuss the cross sector collaborative process that led to the 4 Corners Art Project, the community’s involvement in the project, and the story behind A Womb of Violet.

“I believe that public art is not only visually transformative, but can change lives through intentional narrative and engagement,” says Jampol.

Jampol is a curator, designer and co-director of the Project For Empty Space. Her work is dedicated to cultivating impactful social dialogue and change through her interdisciplinary creative praxis, fostering discourse through a variety of projects ranging from gallery work and publishing to public art programs. Jampol is also currently a lecturer and visiting professor of design at Rutgers University, Newark.

fayemi shakur is a writer, artist and Arts and Cultural Affairs Director for the City of Newark. Her work demonstrates a commitment to arts advocacy, cultural organizing, mentorship and engaging programming in service to the community. shakur presently serves as Arts and Cultural Affairs Director for the City of Newark.

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