ArtsXChange: NJPAC, Clinton Hill bringing community arts programming to South Ward

ArtsXChange, a new partnership between the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Clinton Hill Community Action, a South Ward nonprofit community development group in Newark, was announced Friday.

This new initiative will present at least two performing arts programs in the South Ward with CHCA every month. Each event will be designed and informed by community residents and local artists, working with an NJPAC production team.

On April 27, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (a proclaimed spoken word performer) will headline an evening performance of music, dance and poetry that will serve as a celebratory launch of the ArtsXChange project — introducing the partnership to the community.

The 6:30 p.m. performance will be free of charge and take place at 1 Belmont Runyon Way in Newark.

Eyesha Marable, assistant vice president of community engagement at the Arts Center, who worked with CHCA officials for several months to establish the new programming venue, said partnership will be the key to the project..

“We seek to establish relationships within the ward with artists, families, students and other partners who can work with Clinton Hill Community Action and with NJPAC to create performances that resonate with everyone in this neighborhood,” she said. “Who here can sing, can dance, can DJ the best parties? This is about finding those artistic jewels in the community and giving them a platform to share their talent.”

Arts expansion

The launch of the South Ward ArtsXChange project may serve as a template for the launch of similar partnerships across Newark between NJPAC and community groups in each of the city’s wards, New Jersey Performing Arts Center CEO John Schreiber said.

“Nothing beats creative collaboration that results in unique work that reflects the character of a community,” he said. “NJPAC’s ArtsXChange partnership with Clinton Hill Community Action is a special opportunity to produce work that expresses the energy and spirit of the South Ward.”

Khaatim Sherrer El, executive director of CHCA, a nonprofit community development group that advocates for affordable housing, food security, economic empowerment and environmental justice, agreed.

“Partnering with NJPAC is the perfect way to showcase talent and nurture the creativity of all our neighbors in the South Ward,” he said. “We’re proud of the history and culture of our neighborhood and strive to weave the arts into everything we do.”

The kickoff event, which is free and open to the public, will feature the Shabazz Dance Troupe, spoken word artist Mia X, the Belmont Runyon Roaring Lions and the newly formed Clinton Hill House Ensemble, made up of South Ward musicians.

The performance will also feature artists who are part of The Other Side of Newark project, an antiviolence campaign run by the city of Newark, the Brick City Peace Collective and the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery. Young Newark artists engaged with the project have worked with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Jerry Wonda and with West Ward Councilman Dupre Kelly (also known as DoItAll of the hip hop group Lords of the Underground) to create a collaborative hip hop performance for the event.