Feature Stories

Two Architecture Grads Open Art Store in Newark

NJIT graduates Chris and Ade Sedita return to Newark and open an art store


Chris and Ade, two NJIT grads (2002), opened an art store. It’s just down the road from the university, on Halsey and New Streets, a neighborhood that is beginning to feel like Greenwich Village.   

The store itself has a good feel, with wooden floors and a tin ceiling -- natural light filtering through tall windows. If you like to shop in big box stores, with impersonal service and long lines, don’t come here. Do come here, though, for good art and architecture supplies that are inexpensively priced. And do come to talk to Ade, a friendly woman – an architect by training, an artist by avocation – who is eager to help. Come to the store to feel a sense of an artistic community. 

The store is called Newark Art Supply, but it’s more than a store. It’s a place for students and artists and architects – both young and old – to meet. It’s also a place for them to show their work: Chris and Ade host art shows in the store’s backroom. They also run drawing and painting workshops. And perhaps most importantly, the store is nearby, just a short walk away from the university. The store also has a website, newarkartsupply.com, where customers will soon be able to shop online.

“Architecture and art students now have an art store that’s close by,  says Matt Gosser, an adjunct professor at the New Jersey School of Architecture who shops regularly at the store. “A lot of students don't have cars, and even if they did, sometimes you're on such a deadline that driving to the suburbs for materials isn't an option.”

The store fits in well with other shops that have opened recently in the neighborhood: 27 Mix and Harvest Table Fresh Food, two popular restaurants, and the Alliance for the Healing Arts, a yoga and medication center, are just three examples of shops now serving the throngs of college students who live in nearby University Heights. 

Chris and Ade, who are married and whose surname is Sedita, opened their store in January. Mayor Cory Booker attended the opening, saying the store is a boon to the city.

“I am pleased that two graduates from NJIT, which has one of the top architecture schools in the country, have chosen to begin their careers here, and support the ongoing urban transformation of Newark,” Booker said. “This neighborhood, with one of the largest college student population in New Jersey, is taking on the texture of other art-friendly neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, with small and friendly boutiques, restaurants and cafes.”

After Chris and Ade graduated from the architecture school in 2002, they left Newark. They lived in Manhattan for a while, then in Jersey City. Chris works in Manhattan for a major developer, acting as the intermediary between the construction crews and the architects. On weekends and evenings, he helps Ade in the store. Along with running the store and working on her own art, Ade is also a fourth-year doctoral student at NJIT’s School of Architecture; she is studying urban systems. She loves cities and is deeply committed to finding ways to improve them. It thus made sense for them to return to Newark. Ade is close to her classes, and Chris is a subway ride away from his job.

Both of them worked briefly for architects, but later branched out into other fields: Chris into construction; Ade into art and urban studies. And now, through the store, they’re selling art and architecture materials to architecture students from their old school: the New Jersey School of Architecture.

“What allows us to do all these different things is the great education we received at the School of Architecture,” says Ade. “Everything Chris and I have done after we graduated from NJIT relates to architecture.”   

The two live in a loft – a converted chocolate factory – in Newark’s Ironbound section. It’s in a 19th century building with high ceilings and sound architectural detail. They love the loft, and they love living in the Ironbound, a thriving ethic neighborhood whose main thoroughfare -- Ferry Street -- is rife with the inviting aromas of Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants, bakeries and cafes.

Artists and architects are commonly in the forefront of reviving older cities: Chris and Ade are part of that first wave, and through their store, are helping to expand it. 

“The city wants artists to move in, and we’re happy to be here,” says Ade. “But Newark didn’t have an art supply store for 10 years. How do you create an arts community without an arts store? We’re happy to help the city. We see the store as a bridge -- one that is bringing all artists -- the older generation who’ve been here awhile and the newly arrived younger generation -- together. Chris and I think of the store as an artistic business with a social conscience.”

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)