Unveiling ceremony of Whitney Houston mural with the Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center. LPCCD Executive Director Anthony Smith with partners Prudential City, Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Pat Houston, Executor, The Estate of Whitney E. Houston; Mark Conklin, Director, Artist Relations and Programming, GRAMMY Museum Experience™ Prudential Center; Shané Harris, Vice President, Head of Social Responsibility & Partnerships, Prudential Financial, Inc.; Jeremy Johnson, Executive Director, Newark Arts; Catherine Bogart, Community Host, Prudential Center and New Jersey Devils.

Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District keeps artists first

Organization launches “Lincoln Park Music Speaks,” grant initiative to support local musicians.

Every summer for a weekend in July, if you’re anywhere near Lincoln Park in Newark, New Jersey, you could not escape the harmonies of jazz music, the moving renditions of gospel choirs, or the favorite thumping of house music late into the night. Hosting the largest outdoor house music festival with an emphasis of redeveloping the Lincoln Park district to be affordable for artists and their haven, the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) made a shift in the course of work with the pandemic.

The festival is on hold, yet and still, artists remain their commitment. “The symbiotic histories of our community and music cannot be undone,” stated Anthony Smith, LPCCD Executive Director.

Recently LPCCD offered mini-grants through its “Lincoln Park Music Speaks,” a grant initiative for music artists and curators that reside and create in Newark. The winners of the microgrants will each receive $1,500 towards their artistic endeavors. The grants are a way to continue “LPCCD’s efforts to power the Newark music ecosystem and creative economy,” said Smith.

Any grants or financial resources are crucial for any portion of the population, especially the arts. The pandemic showed that arts programs are usually one of the first to experience a funding loss on federal and state levels. According to the Brookings Institute an “estimate[d] losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods [with] the fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion” occurred in 2020 alone.”

Couple that with the fact that the median household income in Newark is $35,199 and a poverty rate of 27.4% percent, as compared to $62,843 as the median household income and 10.5 percent for the poverty rate in the U.S., as reported by the U.S. Census in 2019). Adding to the insult of a tumultuous economic landscape in a post-COVID 19 environment, the LPCCD’s grant initiative is welcomed. 

The competition will have a jury and review panel which includes Fayemi Shakur, Newark’s Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs; Shani Saxon, Vice President of Development and Production at I am OTHER; and Wayne Winborne, Executive Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. The panel plans to review applications, scoring artistic quality, community impact, among other factors. 

Keeping artists afloat is essential work

LPCCD’s grant is part of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund (NJACRF) which supports local non-profits that aid local musicians. In 2020, the Princeton Area Community Foundation created the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund (NJACRF) with the hope of continuing to “…ensure the strength and survival of the nonprofit arts, cultural and historical sector statewide.” 

In awarding approximately $2.6 million grants to various organizations state-wide this year, LPCCD was a part of the initial awarded amounts. Of the more than 100 nonprofits awarded, 20 awards were given in Essex county and nine in Newark.

Headed by community activists, developers, artists, among others, a portion of the LPCCD attempted to maximize the impact of their award by creating “Lincoln Park Music Speaks, “to leverage [the organization’s] humanities initiative,” explained Smith. 

Looking back at Newark’s rich history of artists 

One of the oldest cities in the U.S., and home to a 50 percent Black population, Newark is a chocolate city in the same vein as Washington, D.C. This is because of its cultural and socio-political proximity to Blackness and the African Diasporic experience in the U.S. A litmus test for musical talent, playing in clubs like The Alcazar and The Piccadilly in Newark has long held esteem among musical circles including jazz, with many beginning their careers in “The Bricks” before heading over the bridge into New York City. 

Newark is the birthplace to legendary jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan, acclaimed pop singer Whitney Houston, the first African-American recording artist, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and famous jazz pianists such as James Johnson, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and Donald “The Lamb” Lambert to name a few. The same is true of  New Jersey at-large, boasting musicians likes William “Count” Basie as natives. 

Often coloring the trends for pop culture, Black music has commonly influenced music culture both in the U.S. and abroad. An artform that has often been stolen or hijacked without proper representation or credit given. Recently, the Biden Administration officially declared June as African American Music Appreciation Month

As per a presidential actions briefing released by the U.S. White House, Biden stated:

“Across the generations, Black music has pioneered the way we listen to music while preserving Black cultural traditions and sharing the unique experiences of the Black community.  Black artists have dramatically influenced what we all hear and feel through music — joy and sadness, love and loss, pride and purpose.”  

Paying it forward

The Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District Community Garden Season 2021. LPCCD are recipients of a grant from the Whole Foods Whole Cities Foundation. The volunteer community garden has ongoing support from our partners Ted Lawton, Manager; Emilio Panasci, Co-Director of Operations and Education for Planting Seeds of Hope; and our resident gardeners. The Lincoln Park Community Garden, located on West Kinney Place (GPS: West Kinney Street between Broad Street and Washington Street) was transformed for the 2021 growing season with landscaping, cleanup, setting boxes, moving mulch and planting. The garden provides growing spaces for about two dozen families and is a source of fresh food for community resident through its Lincoln Park Community Garden Farm Stand. Because of the beautification and food access that this garden provides, the entire Lincoln Park Community is continuing to develop and build a sense of pride and ownership. Photo credit: LPCCD Facebook.

Focusing on community development, culture, and economy since its founding in 2002, the LPCCD is a non profit organization birthed from a series of planning sessions conducted by residents, community organizers and activists, government representatives, and academics. Its mission was to plan, design, and build a comprehensive arts and cultural district in the four block radius that makes up Lincoln Park.

Named after President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Park is one of three colonial parks in the city. Boarded by Broad Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. which was originally named High Street, West Kinney Street, and the McCarter Highway/South Street in Downtown Newark. 

From their website, “LPCCD seeks to facilitate the integration of arts and culture amenities to advance local economic development, housing and neighborhood stability, and community engagement to support Lincoln Park’s transformation into a healthy, safe, and vibrant neighborhood.”

A free, interactive lecture series highlighting music yet spanning the gambit to include various multimedia arts, “Lincoln Park Music Speaks” seeks to promote Newark citizens’ engagement within and appreciation for the fine arts.  

Through a bevy of local programming such as the Lincoln Park Music Festival, Lincoln Park Music Speaks citywide humanities initiative, the Lincoln Park Jazzy Soul music series and the Lincoln Park Sustainable Living Community Podcast, LPCCD continues to “actively engage in the practice of economic development through Creative Placemaking. Its mission [is] to plan, design and develop a comprehensive arts and cultural district in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of downtown Newark. 

“Through ‘Music Speaks’ LPCCD seeks to educate, inform and empower the community as well as celebrate it.  During the City of Newark’s 350th anniversary celebration in 2016, its “Music Speaks” program reached 2,000 attendees across 15 citywide events, garnered over 100,000 social impressions and the public art component was covered in the New York Times,” as per the LPCCD press release.

Yolanda Aguilera focuses on culture, policy, and Afro-Latinidad.

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