Hal Laessig is an architectural designer, developer, and artist who has contributed for many decades to the cultural life of Newark, including as the cofounder of Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center. He has resided in the city since 1976, after studying at NJIT and completing graduate work at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center was a nonprofit organization, located in downtown Newark, whose mission was to provide a space for artists of diverse backgrounds and disciplines to interact with the public through performance, exhibition and teaching thus creating an exchange of cultural ideas and practices.
As an artist Laessig works in architecture and creates urban-inspired drawings and public installations. Often working in collaboration with architect Thomas Bish, his work has been exhibited at the 1985 Venice Biennale, the Queens Museum of Art, The Newark Museum, Aljira A Center for Contemporary Art, and other venues. Together with Bish, in 1992 Laessig created a 17-volume catalogue of books titled the “Newark Hidden City Project: Rethinking the City,” and can be currently found in the Newark Public Library Special Collections.
Leassig also provides design and management for projects for local arts organizations and for public art installations. Recent projects include a collaboration with artist Charlee Swanson for the winning entry in New Jersey Transit’s Juried Public Art competition for the Davenport Light Rail station in Newark, NJ, completed in 2014. Hal has also managed the conversion of an 8,000 s.f. storefront for Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Arts at 591 Broad St, Newark, NJ; HUD block grants for several non-profits from the City of Newark; installation of the outdoor artwork of Grace Graupe Pillard along the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit Line and at the NJ Transit Aberdeen train station; and project management for two art installations by Willie Cole at the Washington Park station of the Newark light rail line.