By Maddie Orton
Outside a glass storefront in Newark’s Gateway 2 building, a crowd overflows a swath of seats, and stanchions are required to create a path for commuters catching trains. It’s a big event for the city’s arts community: the opening of the expanded Gateway Project.
Rebecca Jampol is co-director of The Gateway Project. “This space was incredibly unique to me because of the…larger public that walks through the concourse every day,” she says. “There’re about 30,000 people that walk through, and it’s almost like an airport terminal.”
When The Gateway Project started two years ago, it was a series of pop-up exhibitions. It’s now grown to include this gallery space and house 56 artist studios between three floors of the building, among several other projects.
“It’s pop-up to permanent,” explains Jampol.
That’s partially thanks to C&K Properties, the company that owns the building.
“What Rebecca and Jasmine [Wahi] have created here is far more than an art gallery and some art studios,” C&K Properties Managing Director Kevin Collins says from behind the podium. “They’ve created a long-term, sustainable project that guarantees that the creative community will always have a home and presence here in downtown Newark.”
Collins says the company locked in an affordable, 10-year lease with the arts organization. They’re still turning a profit on the space, but the company is forgoing potential higher-rent tenants — not to mention the ability to raise the price over the course of a decade.
“Newark is now a place that’s hot for artists,” says Collins. “There’s a vibrant arts community here, and without finding a way to create a sustainable commitment, eventually the same thing will happen here [that has happened to artists in so many cities]. Newark will become attractive and they’ll get priced out.”
It’s not just Collins’ sense of corporate citizenship that drives this decision. It’s also a matter of business. Collins sees the gallery as an amenity for tenants like Prudential Financial, Parsons Transportation, and soon, NJTV. He says having a gallery destination in the building acts as a marketing tool as well.
It’s an exciting arrangement to artist Nyugen Smith. “It definitely draws a particular audience and has the potential to draw a larger audience as well, mainly because of access to the space,” he says.
But, beyond the exposure, Smith sees the gallery as a benchmark for the growing role of the arts community in Newark. “For something like this to be here,” he says, “it’s a nod to what we all have been doing as an entire community.”
And it’s an open door for artists to continue creating as long as they’d like.