By Erin Delmore
The Newark Downtown District is giving “street art” a new meaning.
“I think it’s amazing and I think that the residents will be pleased when they see the finished product,” said D. Talib Aquil, interim director of Public Works.
This mural stretches nearly a mile and half down McCarter Highway along the Amtrak retention wall. It’s almost the length of 25 football fields or the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s the largest mural on the East Coast, the second-largest in the country.
“You know, any time you have art, or a well-lit section in an urban area, the message is, I’m in an area that people care about. So the first impression you get is someone’s beautifying this area because they care about it,” said Newark Downtown District CEO Anthony McMillan.
It’s part of a bigger initiative called “Gateways to Newark”. The Downtown District is partnering with area artists and volunteers to beautify entry points into the city, ahead of it’s 350th birthday. This section of McCarter Highway — Route 21 — sees more than a million drivers every month.
“Something like this is a just reminder that there is greatness in this city,” said Curator Rebecca Jampol.
Artists painted overnight for seven days, from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., shutting down a lane of traffic and the traffic lights along McCarter Highway.
Fifteen panels, 18 artists, 20 assistants and 100 volunteers. They painted through the night, through the rain.
“We use spray paint, we used house paint, we’re sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, it’s a whole endeavor, you know. We have to get lifts, we have to get materials, we had to get assistants,” said Muralist Lenny Correa.
“We brought in 35 stadium lights, we used something like 375 cones to shut off the lane, and 1,500 gallons of paint,” said Newark Downtown District Director of Marketing and Business Noelle Frieson.
Artist Gera Lozano’s mural is inspired by the entry points to the city: the port and the train station.
“The fish is the brook trout, and it’s actually the New Jersey state fish,” she said.
The lion is a nod to Penn Station. Her partner spotted it — a stone carving on the outside of the building.
“I thought to myself, I’m from Newark, I grew up here, but it takes someone that is not from here to appreciate the beauty of Newark,” Lozano said.
The city is committed to maintaining the mural. The Newark Downtown District told NJTV News it’s coated in an anti-graffiti sealant. They said every time graffiti goes up, NDD workers will be out, in their yellow and black uniforms, wiping it off.