Kea’s Ark

Kea Tawana

A documentary now in production, Kea’s Ark tells the story of how a 3-story ark came to be built in Newark’s devastated Central Ward in the mid-1980s. Kea Tawana was a self-taught artist, builder, and engineer who designed and built the massive boat entirely by herself, using materials salvaged from 19th century buildings being torn down after the riots. She worked on it for several years before the administration of newly-elected mayor Sharpe James took note and demanded it be torn down. The resulting legal battle to “Save the Ark” was covered by ABC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Although it no longer exists, Kea’s Ark remains a powerful symbol of hope in Newark and beyond. A new PCK Media documentary tells the story of Kea and her ark. Kea’s Ark (2019) is a production of PCK Media in cooperation with the Stockton University Foundation. Underwriting is provided by the the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the New Jersey Historical Commission, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Kea’s Ark at Gallery Aferro (A State of the Arts story)

“It was a sign of hope, like Noah’s Ark,” says Newark resident Anna Sing-King. Community remembrances were part of a 2016 exhibit at Gallery Aferro in Newark, NJ exploring work by Kea Tawana, the artist who built an imposing Ark in the city’s Central Ward in the mid-1980s. “Kea’s Ark of Newark: A Life in Works” was a joint project of Gallery Aferro and the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University-Newark.