Newark Riverfront Revival Mega Poster Release Party

Former LOEBlogger Kate Anderson returns to the scene of her 2013 Community Service Fellowship with Damon Rich and the Newark Riverfront Revival, where the work continues to mature and broaden its impact. She reports on her visit.

Graphic art was a cause for celebration at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, on the occasion of the Newark Riverfront Revival Mega Poster Release and Welcome Marcy Party. The event was a fundraiser to support placing the educational poster in all city schools, as well as an occasion to welcome the organization’s new program director, Marcy DePina.

The Mega Poster was an initiative of the Newark Planning Office and Damon Rich (LF 2007 and former design critic in urban planning and design), who was Newark’s director of planning and chief urban designer until earlier this month. While serving the city, he oversaw completion of Newark’s first parks, rezoning the riverfront and completely overhauling the city’s zoning codes. (Read his recent LOEBlog series “Zoning for Democracy.”)

Damon Rich has a long history of initiating creative educational material. Before his Loeb Fellowship and work in Newark, he founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn, NY, which “uses the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement.” He recently returned to private practice in education and visual arts by co-founding Hector Design Group. This weekend he was part of a group of city representatives to receive an American Planning Association Award for the Newark Zoning Workshop at the 2015 APA Conference in Seattle.

The two-sided fold-out poster, funded in part by EPA’s Urban Waters program and NEA’s Our Town Program, delves into the history of Newark and the Passaic River, environmental assets and challenges, and ways to get involved in stewardship of the river and riverfront. It opens into a massive poster with 164 numbered landmarks and many facts about Newark’s past and present, including the Ballantine Brewery (#75), once the nation’s 4th biggest brewery, and the Malcom X Shabazz High School (#26), which provided the high stepping and marching music for the first and third Newark Walks to the Water event.

Brooklyn firm MTWTF designed the poster, a 4-year collaboration of many individuals and groups, including the Ironbound Community Corporation, which has fought for decades for the creation of public riverfront access for residents.

Newark Riverfront Revival has begun introducing the posters into schools, with a goal of raising funds to place them in the city’s 200-plus public, private, and charter schools. The posters are one part of a multi-layered strategy to connect every Newarker to the river, especially local youth. NRR has also formed alliances with organizations like the Newark Works youth program, and is creating a video to educate about environmental justice issues in the city and along the riverfront.

Marcy DePina, who joined Newark Riverfront Revival in December 2014, joins the Newark Planning Office as program director, bringing years of experience in the arts and production. She also happens to live in the Ironbound, right next to the new riverfront park. She says that she is excited about “opportunity to connect the artist community to the community at large” and to make a contribution to the place where she lives. The park regularly hosts events for local and visiting artists. Tuesday night’s event at Aljira included local artists such as DJ Gonzalo Silva and Urban Kween, who performed an improvised spoken-word piece about the Newark riverfront.

Public servants like Marcy DePina and organizations like the Ironbound Community Corporation continue to move forward with the task of “connecting every Newarker to their river” through programming, education, development of public space and other means of effective community engagement.

To order the Mega Poster, call 201-341-8311 or email depina.marcy@gmail.com.

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