A new wave of creativity is rising in downtown Newark: the once-vacant Hahne & Company department store now houses a publicly engaged arts center. Rutgers University–Newark opened the pioneering “collaboratory” in January, utilizing 50,000 square feet of Hahne’s massive structure. Called Express Newark, the project brings together students, artists, private and nonprofit organizations, and other community members in a visionary partnership, underscoring Rutgers–Newark’s commitment to be an anchor institution in Newark.

Studios, galleries, and performance spaces fill three floors, with programs and courses drawn from Rutgers–Newark’s Department of Arts, Culture, and Media; Institute of Jazz Studies; creative writing program; Rutgers Business School; and other academic units. Rutgers–Newark professor Anne Schaper Englot and artist Victor Davson codirect the center.

Express Newark provides residences for community nonprofits, including the Newark Print Shop and HYCIDE magazine, and will quadruple the space for the university’s Paul Robeson Galleries. The student-faculty Design Consortium creates branding for businesses and nonprofits. In the Form Design Studio, students explore digital modeling and fabrication techniques, while at Shine, a photography center, young practitioners are reinventing the portrait studio of Hahne’s heyday.

Corporate donors have provided more than $2 million to help develop Express Newark’s facilities and programs. Rutgers–Newark chancellor Nancy Cantor cites the Prudential Foundation, PSEG Foundation, and Bank of America Charitable Foundation, as well as the involvement of L+M Development Partners and city leaders, as vital to the project’s success.

These cross-sector partnerships, says Cantor, can “use the civil infrastructure of an iconic property like Hahne’s” to build the “social infrastructure” that sustains and enriches city life. In the process, communities acquire “new ways to cultivate diverse generations of talent.”

For more information, visit newark.rutgers.edu/anchor-institution-2.