There is this We: Murals For Justice

Image: NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 27: Volunteers are seen painting and dancing during the "All Black Lives Matter" Community Painting Day on June 27, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Express Newark

Express Newark, Four Corners Public Arts and the Honors Living and Learning Community is pleased to present There is this We: Murals For Justice an exhibition featuring artists Anthony Alvarez, Igor Alves – Dream Play Media, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Chrystofer Davis, Redens Desrosiers, Malik Glover, Arturo Holmes, Isaac Jimenez, Scheherazade Tillet, Sindy Sanchez and Ole Lie Vandal – Vandalhaus Newark.

Taking its title from the line,”There is this We. How Beautiful,” from Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1969 poem, “Riot” about the protests following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tragic death, this exhibition brings together photographs, videos, and graphic design of artists, activists, Rutgers faculty, and over 300 community members who participated in The City of Newark’s Murals for Justice program on Saturday, June 27, 2020.

Newark distinguished itself with not one but two street murals. The words “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY” were painted in bright yellow 25ft high letters on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard between the Essex County Historic Courthouse and Veterans’ Courthouse. On Halsey Street, east of the Rutgers campus, and in front of the Hahne’s Building and Express Newark, the words “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER” took up another city block.

“The convergence of art and protest is an age-old practice, especially pronounced in African-American culture,” Mayor Ras Baraka said. “Poetry, music, graphic arts and street murals are all public avenues to have our voices heard. Newark is a movement City as well as a City of artists, and our community is one that advocates for equity and social change not just here but for the entire country.” As Express Newark reopens its doors to the public and students, we envision “There is this We: Murals For Justice” as essential to our new mission as a center for socially engaged art and design. Exhibited inside Express Newark, on the exterior of Hahne’s, as well as extending to the Honor’s Living and Learning Community building window vitrines and an adjacent building mural on Linden Street, this show also challenges the traditional boundaries between private viewings and public art by seamlessly weaving both the murals and the art that it inspired across various mediums and inside and outside Express Newark itself.

The artists featured in this exhibition and the community members who gathered on that day, remind us how to make a space sacred and infuse it with a sense of resistance and catharsis during our unprecedented summer of racial protest and global pandemic. These images also provide a living memory of the street murals themselves, as the City’s streets are scheduled for repair and repaving which will cover over the artwork.