I came to know Gateway Projects Spaces through attending a brunch given by the Flux Art Fair, where the co-director Jasmine Wahi spoke eloquently about the misguided prejudices some arts organizations have that ordinary folks won’t typically be interested in contemporary art. Wahi disputes this, and says that she does not believe in preaching to the converted, but wants to develop projects that give non-art enthusiasts access to contemporary work. So back in 2010, Wahi co-founded Project For Empty Space, through which she produced several, small pop-up shows and developed a relationship with C&K Properties, a real estate firm that owns the Gateway Two Center in downtown Newark.
Then in 2012, Wahi joined forces with Rebecca Jampol, who has similar concerns and was running her own series of art projects. Together they created Gateway, which lives in an environment that’s atypical for an arts organization. Gateway exists in a starkly commercial concourse that connects several corporations, including the New Jersey television network and Prudential Insurance, to Newark’s Penn Station. Simply with their floor to ceiling windows that display the rotating shows on view within their main exhibition space, Gateway begins to spread the gospel of greater inclusivity.
Gateway also connects to people passing through the concourse (about 30,000 people daily) with a series of small art window displays and installations by six artists in a rotating program — right now, All Your Wide Futures, a suite of artwork by women artists. Additionally, Gateway partners with other local art organizations for programs such as Portals, which is housed within a shipping container in Military Park a few blocks away, and allows visitors to talk with other people in similar portals across the globe, for example in Tehran, Iran.
In April of last year, Gateway made a massive expansion, taking over a 10-year lease on 30,000 square feet across three floors. Now the organization consists of a complex of more than 50 studio spaces, an art supply store (Project + Supply), an artist residency program, plus their program of public art projects produced throughout the city. To manage these varied strands, Gateway currently has eight staff members who work on public relations, development, grant writing, community outreach, sales, and gallery assistance. Gateway is solely supported by their commercial studio rentals, which also supports the gallery space and residency program hosted by the privately owned Project For Empty Space, which is also supported by grants and private donations (though they do not receive a large amount of state funding). To get Gateway off the ground took Wahi and Jampol pouring all of their personal savings and money into it, and the investment keeps the project very much theirs.
Gateway is not yet as well known as some other downtown Newark art venues, such as Aljira, the Newark Museum, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, but it is unique in its placement, structure, and mission of engaging the wider Newark audience in experiencing art they haven’t encountered before.
Gateway Project Spaces is accessible from New York by taking New Jersey Transit trains from New York’s Penn Station to Newark, New Jersey. All Your Wide Futures will be up for several more months at Gateway (2 Gateway Center, Downtown, Newark, New Jersey).