Kea’s Ark on State of the Arts

February 24, 2021
A silhouette of wooden ark frame on land.

Kea at the top of the ark she built in Newark’s Central Ward.

State of the Arts presents Kea’s Ark, which tells the story of Kea Tawana, a self-taught engineer and artist who built a three-story ark in Newark’s Central Ward in the mid-1980s. Watch Wednesday, February 24 at 8:30 p.m. and Thursday, February 25 at 11:30 p.m.

Kea designed and built the massive boat by herself, using materials salvaged from the 19th century buildings being torn down in an area fast becoming an urban wasteland. She worked on it for years before then newly-elected mayor Sharpe James took note and demanded it gone. It no longer exists, but Kea’s Ark remains a powerful symbol of hope in Newark and beyond.

Kea at work on the ark. Photo courtesy Billops Hatch Archive and State of the Arts.

Kea at left, speaking to visitors to the ark at Bergen Street, at 14th Avenue, in Newark. 1987. Photo courtesy Camilo Vergara.