By Brian Harris
Being one of the larger cities in the United States, Newark has a rich history when it comes to the arts. At one point in the early portion of the 20th century, Newark was a major player in the American jazz scene. Throughout the years, many different creative people have called Newark home, from authors like Allen Ginsberg and the recently departed Amiri Baraka to actor Jason Alexander and recording artist Whitney Houston. With such a different, rich, and vibrant history of the arts, today’s Newark has no real place for artists of all types to show off their work, save for coffee shops and little art spaces or — if they are lucky enough — the stage at NJPAC.
To fill this void, John Pernal, along with recent Rutgers-Newark graduate Mike Romano, had started a non-profit, grassroots organization called The Hub of New Arts and Music. Pernal was living in New York City and working in the entertainment industry when he was “bitten by the ‘Newark bug.’”
Pernal first met Romano when Romano was an intern at the iHeartRadio Theater where he worked. Through many conversations, Pernal and Romano discovered that they both had a similar interest: revitalizing the arts scene in Newark.
For Pernal, it was about restoring the city of Newark to its former glory as a cultural center. Romano’s reasoning was that for teens and young adults who either live or go to school in Newark, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the city.
“As a former student here, there’s a social void on campus,” Romano said.
It was with that combined mindset that The Hub was first started in early 2013. Over the past year, Romano and Pernal have been meeting with various community leaders and organizations over the past year to get started on what they consider to be their ultimate goal, which is “to reintroduce Newark to the world as an entertainment epicenter that will nurture a diverse, young group of individual artists,” according to the organization. In addition to that, The Hub of New Music and Arts also wants “to be a cornerstone pioneer in changing the creative and social environment in and around the campus community.”
Late in 2013, Pernal and Romano reached out to the Career Development Center on campus in search of an intern in order to help with all of the marketing aspects of getting the organization off the ground, ultimately choosing RBS student and marketing major Kevin Hyman. With the addition of Hyman, The Hub has been working tirelessly on establishing itself in Newark by hosting weekly exhibitions at the Coffee Cave on Halsey St. every Monday evening where artists of all different disciplines can share their most recent creations with the public.
In addition to doing these weekly events, the Hub is in the process of renovating their own space on Broad and Central, with the penultimate goal of being the epicenter and jump-off point for the youth arts scene in Newark, with not only performances and art showings but also workshops for younger artists to perfect their respective blossoming talents.
In addition to setting up their own space, The Hub for New Music and Arts’ other big project is the organizing of “The Hub Concert & Benefit Festival,” which is tentatively scheduled for later this summer. According to Romano, Hyman, and Pernal, the plan is to have both established and local talent perform at this festival, whose goal is to bring Newark together creatively through the young and vibrant downtown Newark arts scene, which Pernal can see becoming “St. Mark’s Place [in NYC] mixed with Sixth Street in Austin, TX.”
To learn more about The Hub of New Arts and Music and any future events, you can check out their Facebook at www.facebook.com/hubnewark.