What would happen if you took members of the arts faculty at Rutgers University–Newark, had them collaborate with top artists and arts administrators living in Newark, and enlisted leading institutions in the city to provide support and a setting in which all manner of art could be exhibited, created, taught, shared, and otherwise promoted for the good of its residents?

You would get Express Newark, the new arts incubator and community-university collaborative residing in the heart of Newark’s dynamic arts district. Occupying three floors in one corner of the handsomely renovated former Hahne & Co. department store, Express Newark represents the ambitious plan to cultivate local artistic expression through community engagement. The collaborative is partnering with community arts organizations in Newark’s socially, economically, and culturally diverse neighborhoods while also serving as a home to many of Rutgers–Newark’s video, photo, design, and art classes and initiatives. It’s another example of the university’s robust effort—helped immeasurably by the funding support of partners like Prudential Foundation, Bank of America, PSE&G, L+M Development Partners, and Panasonic—to serve as a major anchor institution in the city.

Programming, provided by resident artists and nonresident partners, includes teaching and theater workshops, lectures and readings, and art exhibitions and performances. Students—of all ages and experience—will benefit from the latest in professional equipment and facilities, much of it reflecting the ascendance of multimedia as art form. It all adds up to Express Newark serving as “a third space”—that is, an enriching environment that is not exclusively part of the university and not exclusively part of the community.

Victor Davson and Anne Schaper Englot


Victor Davson, an arts administrator and a longtime gallerist in Newark, and Anne Schaper Englot, a professor of architecture and humanities at Rutgers University–Newark, are the codirectors of Express Newark.

Nick Romanenko

“We are a space somewhere in between—kind of a common ground where people can meet and collaborate on projects, and where they have an equal voice and take equal ownership,” says Anne Schaper Englot, a professor of architecture and humanities at Rutgers–Newark who codirects Express Newark with Victor Davson.

“Express Newark is a kind of bridge,” says Davson, a longtime city gallerist who is also an arts administrator and the founding director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art. “Our job really is to bring the university into concert with the community.”

The opportunities abound. Nick Kline, for example, is a professor of photography at Rutgers–Newark and the founder of SHINE: A Portrait Studio, a reimagining of the portrait studio that once resided within the Hahne & Co. department store and where Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee apprenticed in 1915. Today’s apprentices will be making photographs in a state-of-the-art facility, which will allow participants to explore through portraiture ideas such as personal identity, a common theme in many of the art undertakings.

Tim Raphael, an associate professor at Rutgers–Newark, heads up The Newest Americans, which is a multidisciplinary digital platform created as a university-community collaboration. As a resident in Express Newark, it will collaborate on Knowing My Newark, an initiative for students to record and map Newark and research the social and cultural history of the city through interviews with longtime residents.

A collage of photos of Express Newark


1) The dramatic interior of the refurbished Hahne & Co. building on Halsey Street in Newark; 2) Express Newark’s beautiful Paul Robeson Gallery, now showing archival treasures from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers–Newark; 3) the production studio, one of several instructional spaces with the latest in technology, features a massive green screen for filmmaking; 4) gallery signage for the exhibit Records at Play: The Institute of Jazz Studies @ 50; 5) the lobby of Express Newark exemplifies the contemporary architecture of the three-floor facility; 6) Ana Benaroya, a resident artist at the Newark Print Shop, working on a project. 

Nick Romanenko

Express Newark will benefit from another strength of Rutgers–Newark: the Institute of Jazz Studies, the world’s leading repository of scholarly works, archives, and memorabilia. The jazz treasures are now getting ample display in the beautiful Paul Robeson Gallery, which is hosting Records at Play: The Institute of Jazz Studies @ 50 (on view until year’s end) and will be collaborating with the Newark Museum and city galleries in the future.

There is much more. Express Newark includes a lecture hall; a video production studio complete with green screen, CGI technology, and recording studio; a fabrication design studio with 3-D printers; editing classrooms full of iMac computers loaded with advanced software; and classrooms equipped with large projection screens and the latest in audio equipment.

Adjacent to the lobby of Express Newark is the studio space for the Newark Print Shop, another resident partner. As part of the effort to revive interest in printmaking in the city, it is offering several programs, including the Print Club, a weekly open studio for all artists to make art together. The Newark Print Shop epitomizes the larger goal of Express Newark: recognizing that artistic expression translates into better educational achievement and graduation rates. To that end, with support from the Kresge Foundation, Express Newark is partnering with the Newark City of Learning Collaborative on the Pathways to Achievement and Success Program as one way to help increase the number of Newark students with college credentials from roughly 17 percent today to 25 percent by 2025.

“Students who engage in the arts graduate at higher rates and perform at a higher level in school,” says Schaper Englot. “So, high school students are coming in for the print shop, for the 3-D lab, for the photography studio, for the theater workshops.”

It’s all aboard for art at Express Newark. •