Kea Tawana

In the 1980s, a 3-story ark was built in Newark’s devastated Central Ward. Kea Tawana, a self-taught artist and builder, designed and built the massive boat by herself, using salvaged materials from 19th century buildings being torn down, in an area fast becoming an urban wasteland. She worked on it for years before Newark city officials took note and demanded it gone. It no longer exists, but Kea’s Ark remains a powerful symbol of hope in Newark and beyond.

Kea’s Ark was written, directed, and produced by Susan Wallner. It premiered on NJ PBS on February 20, 2021, and will be distributed nationally by American Public Television (APT) in 2022. Kea’s Ark received the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for long-form arts programming. For screenings, contact susan@pckmedia.com.

Funding was provided by the NJ State Council on the Arts, the NJ Council for the Humanities, and the NJ Historical Commission. Kea Tawana’s work is presented in cooperation with Gallery Aferro and The Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University-Newark. Kea’s Ark is a production of PCK Media in cooperation with Stockton University.

Kea’s Ark (documentary preview)

This 54-second preview begins the half-hour documentary. It features rare archival video and photos of Kea Tawana, and the voices of artist Willie Cole, historian Mark Krasovic, photographer Camilo José Vergara, and Kea’s neighbor Anna Sing-King. Kea’s Ark will be distributed by APT in 2022.

Kea’s Ark (short)

This 5-minute film was created as a work-in-progress. It introduces Kea Tawana, the self-taught artist and engineer who built a giant ark in the 1980s in Newark, New Jersey. Kea’s Ark was a selection of “Voices and Visions: Short Films Curated by Art 21 and Raw Vision Magazine,” part of the 2019 Outsider Art Fair in New York.

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.