THE CITIZEN for Social Responsibility 

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    Founded   April  2000



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City Without Walls,

An Urban Gallery Breaking Barriers


Since the inception of our organization, we have had much to say about the City of Newark.  We have focused on the poverty of its schools, as well as the seemingly endless plight of cases of corruption in the public sphere of local government.  Much that we have had to say has been critical; it was time to focus on more positive aspects of the city.


Anyone who cares to visit the city, yes, can still find much to criticize but there are some gems, some bright and interesting places to laud.  There is a museum which can hold its own in terms of its collections, on par with museums of national importance. There is also an international airport, a great library, three universities,  nursing, law, and medical  schools, and one may also dare to include a 'people's art gallery.' 


The Gallery is known as City Without Walls, and recently I dropped by for a visit which turned into an interview with Joe Ford, the gallery's Director, as well as with William Ortega who spearheads the gallery's ARTREACH educational program. 

Some student works included in a recent exhibition, Exhibition XIII, on display from June 24th to July 22, 2005, are represented below.


When was the gallery founded ?  What was the idea behind it ?


J.F. In 1975.  Well originally it started out as... I wasn't here at that time but, it started out as a group of artists who realized that there wasn't space for them to show their art work in Newark...


















JOE FORD, Executive Director of the Gallery



Were they associated with one of the universities or were they just independent ?


J.F. They were just a group of independent artists, and they decided that they wanted to show their work.  I think originally they began using the basement of a local church.












Jennifer Barry,

hand colored black&wh photo 16x20



What church was that ?


J.F. I really do not know.  The history from back then is not really available to me.


Are any of those original artists still involved ?


J.F. They are no longer involved with the gallery.  I believe some of them still live in the local area.


How did the funding for the gallery materialize originally ?


J.F. It was piece meal in the beginning and then gradually, it built up.


So originally the intention was to show work of certain local artists, but it evolved into something else.


J.F. Yeah and what it became was a place where young and emerging artists could showcase their work and have a home for their work in Newark, so they could get their first exposure as artists, and then hopefully move on to bigger and better things.
























Khaliqa Bell, 

The Elements, watercolor 16x20



Are the expositions stationary here at this gallery or do you also arrange for traveling exhibitions ?


J.F. We have space where we put art work at Seton Hall Law School here in Newark, we have three shows a year.  Annually we also have the Metro Show, and that's a traveling juried exhibition.  We have well known jurors from the metropolitan area, Newark, New York, Jersey City, traders from museums, gallery dealers, art critics, who will come and look at all the submitted art work and select the actual exhibition, and then that exhibition will be on display at this gallery and will then travel to six or seven galleries in the state of New Jersey.


Not in New York City ?  The reason I ask, is that there are some artists who are currently exhibiting their work in New York City, and their curriculum vitae make reference to prior showings at City Without Walls.


J.F. No, as I come to think about it I think there was one showing in a small venue in New York State, but normally, the show only travels within New Jersey.  Oh sure, al ot of the artists move on and are able to get their work into shows at galleries all over.


Do you have any statistics regarding how many artists who get their start here, later on build a name for themselves and do well in the art world ? Also

how many artists are currently associated with the gallery ?


J.F. To break into the New York art world is really, really difficult, for anybody.  I don't have any exact figures, but we do have a good track record of getting people placed in other... in the course of a year we either show the work of, or get the work of our member artists, approximately 150 to 200 member artists, shown at some venue, if its not here.

We have between 250 to 300 people, and they are from New Jersey, New York City, Brooklyn, lower Connecticut, all over the place.
















Paul Kornegay and Ben Goldman,

Straight Up DL, oil on canvas 30x48



Is the gallery just funded by the member artists ? 

Is your funding base pretty stable, or does it fluctuate ?


J.F. No to the first question, we have funding from the city, we have endowments from Prudential, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and a lot of big corporate sponsors. It (the funding) has not decreased much. Of course we have lost some support here and there, but overall it is pretty stable funding and we are currently anticipating a sizeable growth in funding.


How has the City of Newark treated the gallery ?


J.F. The city has been great. It actually funds our educational outreach program, which is  called Art Reach.
























Eric Melo,

untitled One, acrylic spray paint, 30x30



How does it work ?


J.F. William Ortega the education coordinator goes to all the local schools, to art classes, gives talks about our art program; they apply through their teachers.  How the program works, is during the duration of a semester a student will work, one on one with a mentor artist, working in the area, at the artist's studio, and they will collaborate on a project. The collaboration will teach them what its like to have their own studio, to be an artist, how to survive.


Is only one student selected ?


J.F. No, there are 15 students per year for that program. We also have 5 students who work in the gallery as interns and we also have visiting artists who go into area high schools and give lectures, usually 5 lectures per year.
























WILLIAM A. ORTEGA, CWW Education Coordinator


W.O. They are invited here, they bring their portfolio, I sift through their work and decide which students might fit into our program...


How are they selected, is it based on teacher recommendations ?


W.O. Yes, initially, but then they bring their work and have an interview with me here.  They are selected not just on their artwork, it's also based on their enthusiasm and on what we feel is their desire to actively participate.  We had two students from East Side High who excelled this year, Diana Pinho and Eric Melo.  Eric Melo was highlighted in an article in the Star-Ledger and Diana Pinho was actually in a Cablevision interview.  So both of them got a lot of attention.  They represented their High School really well.  We also had representation from Weequahic and Barringer High School, Central High, Arts High; so a big pool of students was involved... Also I forgot to mention University High...


How much funding is devoted to the Art Reach Program ?


J.F. I don't have exact numbers, but ultimately its about $20,000 for that program.  Slightly more if you factor in the Education Coordinator's salary.  The basic $20,000 covers the actual cost of materials as well as stipends which are paid to the students and to the mentors.


How supportive are the Newark Public Schools ? Do you have a difficult time getting access to the classes, to students; do you get enough administrator cooperation ?


J.F. The schools work really hard and sometimes the teachers really try hard to get the students to apply themselves.  In terms of access, it depends on the school; some make it easier for us to speak to students, than others.  With some you have to go through several people before you can actually get talk to the students.  Sometimes its difficult, especially with some administrators who are overwhelmed with other responsibilities, but teachers themselves are usually great.  A lot of the schools and teachers have already heard about the program, so when we talk to them they already know...


What is the biggest stumbling block that the gallery is currently facing, not including funding, everybody has always something to say about funding, so apart from the funding issue what would you say is the biggest problem ?


J.F. Personally, I think the number one issue is that many people feel that Newark isn't a great place to come to visit artwork.  I think there is a stigma that has been developed over the years about Newark.  I think the city has sort of passed the worst, the worst of its years.  There is so much potential here.  This is an affordable place for artists to live; this is a great place to start an artistic community for a lot of reasons.  People have not realized, the general art viewing public just have not yet realized how great a place Newark can be to visit and to come to see art.


When you do have your exhibits, how do you advertise ?  Who usually comes, how would you describe the typical visitor to the gallery ?


J.F. When we announce an exhibit, usually many artists come out.  Don't forget we have a thirty-year history, so there are many people who typically come to see out exhibitions.  I think since we moved to this new space, which has a neighborhood feel to it, we are getting more people from our surrounding community.  The Gateway Center (our previous location) might have been a little intimidating for your average Newarker, but here our doors are always open, anyone can come in and I think that is changing.  In general I think we would like to get everyone who is interested in seeing art, feel like they can just stop in at City Without Walls and see some really cool work.


Is any of the art for sale ?


J.F. Yes, generally everything is available for sale, and anything that is sold 30% of the proceeds is retained by the gallery and the remaining 70% goes to the artist.  That percentage breakdown is something that most of the artists have been quite happy to be able to do.


Wasn't your prior location at the Gateway Center more amenable for the selling of artwork, than this location ?


J.F.  Selling yes, but commercial space in that part of downtown Newark tends to be very expensive. Although the Gateway Center management was very good to us, they allowed us to remain there for fifteen years, but I think, it came time that they needed to make more money, and we needed a bigger space, and it would just be impossible to come by it down there.  But people have really taken well to this area, and we are really happy to be now the 'anchor' for the redevelopment of this neighborhood, as an art and cultural district.


How many shows a year do you make available ? And how many artists are typically included in the exhibitions ?


J.F. Including our shows at Seton Hall Law School, and the traveling exhibition, we have about fifteen shows a year.  Also between exhibitions, we also have other things going on, like poetry events.  Per show we have anywhere from  5, to the Metro show which may have as many as 70 artists included.


What is the cost to the artist to be associated with the gallery and to be involved in the exhibitions ?


J.F. Membership in the gallery is $25.00 at the basic level per year. If you are a senior citizen or a student, its only $15.00.  Its been that way for twenty something years.


May any member show their work ?


J.F. Membership grants you the right to put your slide, and images of your artwork into the gallery's database.  And that database is the source for the curation of exhibitions here.


Do you have any intention or plans to expand into other areas of the city ?


J.F. Right now this is our home, and we are really happy with it.  We have been here only two years, but we do plan on expanding our services greatly in the next few years. We are hoping to place our entire database onto our website and have a really strong web presence, so that anywhere in the world you may be, one can access the web site and see what the artists are doing in Newark.


City Without Walls is located at 6 Crawford Street, in the Lincoln Park area of Newark, just a few blocks from City Hall.  They are open Wed. to Fri. 12-6,  and on Sat. 1-6


Joe Ford originally from Arkansas, attended the University of Illinois and has been with the gallery for two years as its Director.


William Ortega a Jersey native, studied at Rutgers University, Mason Gross, where he majored in fine arts, video and photography.  Besides his position as Education Coordinator at City Without Walls he is also an instructor at Middlesex County College.


by Victor Saraiva



We would like to thank Joe Ford and William Ortega as well as the City Without Walls gallery for allowing us to reproduce several works from Exhibition XIII, as well as for their candor in the course of this interview. 


Posted  August 22, 2005

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