The Quilts of Angola Prison curated by Maureen Kelleher

About Gallery Aferro

The mission of Gallery Aferro is to function as a platform for the exchange of ideas in service of advancing human dignity and beauty, with a focus on visual arts as the vehicle, proudly located in Newark, NJ.

Gallery Aferro is an artist-owned alternative arts space located in the heart of Newark, New Jersey’s downtown district. Founded in 2003, it is home to two major public exhibition spaces in a 20,000 sq. ft. building at 73 Market Street, offering exhibitions, events, and a studio residency program available all year-round. 

Exhibitions, Events & Residency

Flying High For Equality by Cazorla and Wia Tek It by Wright

“Flying High For Equality” by Patricia Cazorla & Nancy Saleme (foreground) and “Wia Tek It” by Jesse Wright (background).

The first floor is occupied by our Main Gallery, an expansive open-floor space designed for large-scale exhibitions, events, film screenings, workshops, artist talks, and more. Our second floor consists of several distinct retreats, but is dominated by the Eleta J. Caldwell & Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, a comfortable exhibition space dedicated to two beloved local supporters and advocates of the arts who the Newark community lost in 2017. 

The second floor also marks the beginning of our Studio Residency Program located throughout the building. Consisting of 20 studios, the Aferro Studios was designed to uplift artists and help encourage an environment where creative professionals can make work as large, ambitious, or complex as desired. Selection for the program is based on a demonstrated commitment to a chosen field, especially in the face of financial or other personal disadvantage, excellence of work, an interest in engaging with the public via one’s art-making process, and by the probable effect the program will have in allowing art-making that otherwise would not have been possible. 

Residents who are accepted into the program are invited to share and participate in a community of artists and others through informal networking and participation in seasonal open studios and artist talks at the gallery. Gallery Aferro is also dedicated to providing opportunities to our residents in the form of exhibitions, off-site talks, advocacy, visiting curators, and letters of recommendation.

Conscience Expansion

Gallery Aferro’s primary focus is to provide a platform for visual artists; however, over the years, we have expanded the types of spaces and communal experiences we are able to offer. For example, immediately upon entering the gallery, a visitor will find our creative Art Shop, a gift shop designed by Gallery Aferro to highlight artworks for sale with a focus on affordability, as well as Aferro’s growing publication line of more than 27 artist books, exhibition catalogs, essays, and sound art CDs. Visitors can also find a curated collection of postcards, buttons, posters, T-shirts, and more.

Also located on the first floor, Gallery Aferro’s newest interactive installation, the Poem Booth, is situation in the rear of the Main Gallery where it features curated recordings of spoken word poetry especially curated by guest authors and lovers of the written word. The ongoing project combines experimental collaboration with the power of language by inviting poets, spoken word artists, and bards of every style and verse to share an audio recording of their written works in an 1960s-era refurbished phone booth.

With the ability to hold a near infinite number of works thanks to the countless phone number combinations available, gallery visitors can enjoy listening to each poem by dialing a specific phone humber on the keypad. The phone numbers available are shared via a list of poems within the booth, and in the future, will be collected and featured in a printed “phone book” so each curated collection can be easily accessed for years to come.

On the second floor, visitors will find our Community Book Room, a research library containing over 2,000 books, magazines, journals, and other publications, coupled with board games for the public to enjoy at their leisure. 

ECC students holding class during PoPWL exhibition 2

Art students from Essex County College review the “Portraits of People We Love” exhibition during a class field trip in the fall of 2018.

The second floor is also home to two permanent audio installations dedicated to the power of artistic expression delivered through the conduit of sound. The Gallery Aferro’s Elevator Music installation is a continuous rotation of experimental sound art curated for the permanent Otis Elevator (single digit) from the early 1900s, excavated from the basement of Gallery Aferro’s facilities at 73 Market Street. The Elevator was cleaned up, refurbished and equipped with a motion sensor-activated media player. Guests enter the elevator and the audio-works are activated, analogous to the ways we may enter a functioning passenger elevator ready to deliver us to our desired (or undesired) destination. 

Elevator Music is a space where audio works can become accessible within a visual arts gallery experience. Over the years the installation has taken on many forms, from musical mix-tapes to experimental “studio sounds.” Currently in its tenth iteration, entering Elevator Music brings the visitor to a new, personal space to listen and reflect on alternative forms of creative expression.

Activate: Market Street & AMPS

Gallery Aferro has also hosted a public art program entitled Activate: Market Street, consisting of several refurbished unused store-front displays on Market Street in downtown Newark. Although these displays are no longer in regular curatorial rotation, the expansive installation, Market Street Perennial, is on permanent display across the Washington Street and Market Street block.

Another major project Gallery Aferro originated is the Aferro Mobile Portrait Studio. Through funding provided by the Newark 350th Celebration and other partner organizations, we were able to purchase a mobile trailer, stock it with professional-grade photographic equipment, and tow it to community events across the city over the course of two years. During that time, Gallery Aferro photographed Newarkers for free, creating a digital archive of over 1,000 people who live, work, and play in Newark, New Jersey, as well as an exhibition displaying 350 of the best portraits we captured for Newark Open Doors 2016, Newark’s citywide arts festival, now known as the Newark Arts Festival.

Arts Education, Internships & Workshops

Nene Diallo with studio visitors in fall 2019

Former Aferro Studio Resident Nene Diallo shares details for a work-in-progress with visitors to her studio during the 2019 Open Studios event.

Along with these many programs and public offerings, Gallery Aferro also provides education programs and unique arts experiences for youth and adults. Our educational offerings include group tours, public talks, and a wide range of workshops. We’ve originated educational programs like Identity Blueprint, a cyanotype photography intensive for high school aged girls in Newark, as well as a “How To Photograph Your Artwork” workshop for artists interested in progressing the quality of their professional assets without breaking the bank. We’ve also hosted programs designed by local educators like drawing workshops, music production classes, historical retrospectives, and more.

In 2021, Gallery Aferro was invited to become the the new Northern New Jersey Affiliate Partner of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit organization that presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Thanks to this collaboration, Aferro has the opportunity to adjudicate and coordinate the youth art awards for the Northern New Jersey region, inviting tweens and teens in Bergen, Essex, Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Sussex, Union, and Warren County to enter the country’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition program for creative students. The partnership helps center Newark as an arts education hub for the state, and fills the Gallery Aferro building with 500+ teens and their families with an exclusive exhibition for all regional Gold Key winners each year.

Gallery Aferro offers internships with the unique opportunity to work closely with staff, as well as engage with the larger Newark arts community and learn about the many aspects of working in a nonprofit organization. Because we are both a presenting and a workspace organization with strong connections to cultural professionals, the Gallery Aferro Internship Program can build excellent professional skills and contacts along with a breadth of knowledge that extends beyond the work involved. Interns focus on skill-sharing, developing talent, and building informal networks amongst our interns, studio residents and staff that often grow into collaborative partnerships and interpersonal support that we believe is crucial to success in the professional art world.

Art is for Everyone

Gallery Aferro has experienced significant growth since our 2003 founding, becoming a recognized uniquely multigenerational and economically diverse community where art is made, experienced and discussed. Consistently nurturing local artists hitting their stride with major solo shows, serving as curatorial liaison for living elder artists, and actively supporting artists in transition to greater visibility is among the organization’s lasting contributions to the city of Newark and beyond.

Many young people and even adults assume that art galleries aren’t for them… It has been important in the community that Gallery Aferro has always been open to the public — to young people and the general public — to just explore. Kids talk, so when my mentee comes back to school he can say he went with his mentor to an art gallery.

– Malik Hardaway-Whitaker, Newark Artist and Youth Mentor

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