Newark is a city located in New Jersey that remains notorious for its fluctuating crime rate. With a record number of homicides in 2013, Newark might appear to be one of the last destinations tourists in the tri-state area deem welcoming. Yet, my visit to the Newark Museum painted a distinctly different portrait of the city, and what it has to offer.
Located approximately twenty to thirty minutes away from Manhattan, the journey to the museum was a simple train ride away, and definitely a pleasant escape from New York’s busy environment. The museum rests within a cozy town area that hosts a variety of restaurants and visitor-friendly venues. Immediately surrounding the museum itself is a small grassy park located across from the entrance. Similar to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum has a suggested admission price of $12 for adults, $7 for veterans and their families, $7 for children/seniors/students with identification, and free for members and Newark residents. In addition, the museum has a planetarium that costs $5 for adults, and $3 for children/seniors/students with identification. The museum is typically open from noon until 5 PM Wednesday to Sunday, and closed on most national holidays. The exception to the holiday closures is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.²
During my visit to the museum, Norman Rockwell’s works were being showcased in the special exhibition. For those who are unfamiliar with Rockwell and his works, I would strongly encourage a reading of Norman Rockwell and the Fashioning of American Masculinity by Eric J. Segal.³ Rockwell’s works had a significant influence on illustrations in America, and provided powerful visual insights into American culture.
Following a tour of the Rockwell exhibition, I proceeded to the third floor where the museum housed its extensive collection of Asian artwork ranging from rare Chinese artifacts to beautiful Southeast Asian jewelry. The highlighted exhibition at the time of my visit was entitled China’s China, and it certainly demonstrated the museum’s exceptional efforts in collecting. According to the Newark Museum’s description of the exhibition, China’s China displays over 2,000 years of ceramic porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, and glazes. Items date from several different dynastic periods spanning from the second century B.C. to contemporary times.⁴
After spending over an hour in the China’s China exhibition, I ventured down to the second floor of the museum, and explored the contemporary African art exhibition on my way down. A particular work of art that stood out was Movement #36 by Ghana-born artist, Owusu-Ankomah. The height of Movement #36 reached the ceiling, and upon further investigation, I discovered that the work was a part of the contemporary art show, “Unbounded: Art for a New Century” – the epitome of the museum’s collection.⁵
Nearing the end of my visit, I had the opportunity to speak with the director and CEO of Newark Museum, Steven Kern. He discussed the museum’s plans to create an entire floor dedicated to African art, and expand the American exhibition by including Native American works. I was definitely excited to hear about all the changes, and it really made me consider how this one museum could reshape the general population’s perception of Newark. While statistical facts represent the current situation the city is faced with, they don’t necessarily determine the future. I know that I’ll definitely be recommending this museum to my family and friends, and I hope that every new visitor this museum receives will add to the positive growth the city of Newark deserves.
¹ Queally, James, “N.J. homicide rates soared to seven-year high in 2013 after surges in Newark, Trenton,” The Star-Ledger (Jan. 2014)
² http://www.newarkmuseum.org/MuseumHours.html (May 2014)
³ Segal, Eric J., “Norman Rockwell and the Fashioning of American Masculinity, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 4 (Dec. 1996): 633-646.
⁵ “Newark Museum’s contemporary art show is an invigorating blend of nationalities, techniques and messages” nj.com (Feb. 2009)