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Attend any of the five Sawyer Seminars to view the exhibit Legacies: Contemporary Newark Artists and Their Stories.

In centering Newark in its relationship to race, migration, and inequality, we also must recognize the tremendous contribution of these same communities to the city’s arts and culture. These are some of the voices that continue to build upon the unconventional and ever changing pieces that encompass Newark artists. Legacies: Contemporary Newark Artists and Their Stories focuses on a few artists who lend their unique perspective. Their expression is a representation of not only their lived experience, but also speaks to Newark’s role as a center of creativity and innovation.

Special thanks to the artists who contributed to this exhibition: Ashley A Dennis, Manman Huang, Danielle Scott, Armisey Smith, T. Strong, and Saya Woolfalk.


Ashley Dennis: Instagram: @aqiylastudios @shleyzilla
Ashley A Dennis of AQIYLAstudios

Ashley is a leader in the next generation of brilliant young photographers.
Black, Womxn, Queer and Christian.

Ashley’s work focuses on the intersectionality that calls her to study class, policy, sex and gender in America. As a womanist, casual goth and pro-choice wife, Ashley is a delicate force with a deliberate visual voice. When Ashley isn’t shooting images and imagery that dance between light and shadow as a metaphor of the ways we identify and hide in our own being, she enjoys spending time with her family, hunting rare cookbooks in old antique shops, growing food, audiobooks and really funny dad jokes.

Gratefully, Ashley received an apprenticeship under a teaching leader at The International Center of Photography in New York for 8 years. Ashley received her Bachelors of Professional Studies in 2020 from DeVry New York and has exhibited in Clio Art Fair [Satellite Fair during Armory Week NYC] (2021), Jersey City Black History Month saloon show at City Hall (2018) and she has contributed work to Forbes Magazine (2020), Emergent Magazine (2020) and Almine Rech Gallery NYC (2021).

  • Presence Open, 2019
    Giclee Print 8×10, Framed 18×18
    Black and White Film 35mm
    Description: Yeshiva University student in the woods.
  • Wombman, 2020
    Giclee Print 8×10, Framed 18×18
    Black and White Digital
    Description: Close up portrait of an indistinguishable young person.
  • Reproductive Organ, 2020
    Giclee Print 8×10, Framed 18×18
    Black and White Film 35mm
    Description: Native South African flower known for its vibrancy and shape is subtly captured in grey tone in the USA.


Manman HuangInstagram | Facebook

“I have always liked painting but didn’t start my (relatively) serious efforts until 2020, years after receiving my college training in 19th century Chinese-American trade, which was a bit of a pivot. I found out that, for me, there is no better way to express feelings other than by painting them. Especially during the quarantine, I discovered paints and brushes can express the reactions to the developing world and people around us. The other half of me is a Mandarin teacher as I have been dedicated to teaching children language, art, and culture. Perhaps my diverse background as an educator, artist, and historian have combined to impact my style.”

  • “Dancing Together with the Dragon”
    Watercolor on paper, 9” by 12”, 2022

    • Dancing together with the Dragon Queen Harmonica Sunbeam in Maplewood Village on June 24, 2022. Everyone, all ages, all colors, all genders were there! I had to capture the moment with watercolor sketching.
  • “No Hate Street”
    Acrylic on canvas, 24” by 36”, 2021

    • The Atlanta spa mass shooting in March 2021 and other rising hate crimes leave everyone grieving and reexamining our anti-Asian culture. Inspired by Lewis Miller Design’s floral design on White Street in New York City, I recreated an idea “No Hate Street”, to all the racism victims.


Danielle Scott: Facebook | Instagram

Danielle Scott is a mixed-media assemblage artist who grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her work expresses politically and socially charged messaging. She recently received the 2021 Artist of the Year from ESKFF, which is the Eileen S. Kaminksy Family Foundation Artist residency Program in Mana Contemporary, Jersey city.

A soft-spoken artist, Danielle has begun to use her art as a conduit to explore bold; fearless, thought-provoking work – work which draws its inspiration largely from her own journey and life experience. Her latest pieces are brazen offerings conveying the intense beauty and wretched pain the artist absorbs from the world around her. She creates using photo montage, found objects, paint, raw materials, old books and collage. From vivid paintings to piercing photography to striking sculptures, all of Danielle’s artistic offerings aim to arrest the viewer and transport them away from the pretentious and into a realm rooted in truth.


Armisey Smith: Facebook | Instagram

Armisey Smith is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and received a BFA in Illustration from Parsons School of Design and an MPS in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute. Her work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the tri-state area and has been the lead artist on several public art mural projects in New Jersey. In addition, she is an arts educator, illustrator, and curator. She currently lives in Newark, New Jersey.

Artist Statement: “Strength as a woman is divine.  Sometimes there is vulnerability, but the strength is always ready to bubble to the surface.  As a woman artist – particularly a woman of color artist, it is difficult to navigate multi-layered realms of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., but you push through it to become a more evolved person.  The paint brush, canvas, pencils, charcoal, etc., is the place to express feelings – to place it back into the universe with the hope of forgiving others and oneself.”


T. Strong: StyleMayvin | Instagram: @souljourneybook @dirtysolesfootweargroup @dirtysolesfootwear | Facebook: @dirtysolesfootweargroup @souljourneybook

The art of T. Reid-Strong could be described as a stylized collection of ardent visual narratives and poetry in optical and literary form. Her spirited symbolic paintings evoke feelings of connection to African American culture, ancestry, freedom, love and eternity. In parallel, her photography is an honest display of strong emotion and fearlessness, yet is also intimate and silently striking in mood.

As a multifaceted artist skilled in creative writing and poetry, painting and portraiture, she endeavors to engulf audiences through vivid experiences into her mind’s eye. Though at first glance, T. Strong’s idiosyncratic painting style may recall that of Expressionism, she displays her own contemporary artistic vocabulary imbued with life-affirming metaphorical imagery. Accompanying many of her visual arts with melodic verse, descriptive of the imagery via delineative representation, further depicts the alluring consequence of her works.

Skilled in various genres of expertise, T. Strong is also a self published Author, Educator and successful Entrepreneur. Born and bred in North Carolina, the NC A&T State University graduate was raised to adulthood living in Newark, NJ while working corporately in Manhattan for over 20 years. Already a reticent, yet prolific writer for much of her life and a devotee of photography, she began painting in 2020. This new creative outlet was explored as an expectant benefit to achieving a more balanced state of mental health and well-being following the onset and effects of the pandemic.

“My curiosity, the quest to heal black generational suffrage and dedication to inspiring limitless abundant living are the roots that ground my work.” -T. Reid-Strong

  • “the first”
    Ancestral Wisdom Collection
    9 x 12 Acrylic Painting (2021)

    • The faceless work emphasizes a general look and form but leaves room for viewers to more strongly see themselves or their own ancestors of a shared culture born in a different time.
    • “the first” is a portraiture representation of the first individual in the Artist’s memory and where the personal ancestral tree begins.
    • The work serves as a statement to remind its viewers of the many occasions when Black people have suffered loss of identity, been subject to erasure of experience and have attempted to be silenced or dehumanized in a multitude of ways however, have and continue to rise with dignity.
  • “My Ancestors Know My Name”
    Ancestral Wisdom Collection
    9 x 12 Acrylic Painting (2021)

    • The faceless work emphasizes a general look and form but leaves room for viewers to more strongly see themselves or their own ancestors of a shared culture born in a different time.
    • “My Ancestors Know My Name” is inspired by the late, great, Newark Artist Mr. Jerry Gant. The faceless form in the foreground is representative of the paintings creator, T. Reid-Strong, posed in battle camouflage gear with the Pan African flag on her chest. The two ancestral figures in the background are the Artist’s creative take on masks and attire created by Jerry Gant from his posthumous “Bullet Proof Ambition” solo exhibition – November 2021.
    • This acrylic painting serves to remind viewers that when the ancestors know our name, no challenge is ever faced alone. Their presence can be felt and energy harnessed but only when we choose to receive it.
  • “Communion Sunday”
    Ancestral Wisdom Collection
    9 x 12 Acrylic Painting (2021)

    • The faceless work emphasizes a general look and form but leaves room for viewers to more strongly see themselves or their own ancestors of a shared culture born in a different time.
    • “Communion Sunday” represents the realization of a southern, religious foundation that is practiced in a variety of black church communities throughout the United States. It is meant to speak to the solemn resolve of sacrifice, the light of redemption, the purity that resides in service and forgiveness and all that is celebrated when we appreciate a come-as-you-are, perfectly imperfect mentality.
    • The work is meant to remind its viewers that the Black community as a whole was built around the idea of service in a variety of experiences from forced to voluntary, yet it is the Artist’s belief that the black women’s heritage is strongly steeped in the emotion of love that such service evokes.


Saya Woolfalk: Instagram

Saya Woolfalk (Japan, 1979) is a New York-based artist who uses science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine the world in multiple dimensions. With the multi-year projects No Place, The Empathics, and ChimaTEK, Woolfalk has created the world of the Empathics, a fictional race of women who are able to alter their genetic make-up and fuse with plants. With each body of work, Woolfalk continues to build the narrative of these women’s lives and questions the utopian possibilities of cultural hybridity.