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  • Keyaira Boone

Hennessy Honors Two Super Women On The Newark Arts Scene

“Heritage and culture” according to its New Jersey account manager that's what the legendary Hennessy brand is all about. This week it continued to cultivate that nearly 200 year old legacy by honoring two heroines on the city of Newark's Arts Scene.

Jasmine Wahi, Curator, Activist, and the Founder and Co-Director of the wildly popular Project For Empty Space was honored alongside her "art wife" Rebecca Jampol, an arts educator, gallery director and independent curator with deep ties to Newark’s Rutgers University, an institution long considered a sort of unofficial incubator for Newark’s thriving arts community.

Attendees at the event, a private dinner hosted at NICO inside of Newark’s Performing Arts Center, included visual artists (one guest politely requested that everyone save the bones from their meals for a piece she’s currently working on), content creators, and activists.

Each of them explained their connection to the women being honored and how they impacted their relationship to New Jersey’s cultural offerings.

“I’m a New York centric person I always worked in the arts there even though I lived in Montclair. You really opened my eyes to the art world here. I was sort of blown away. I thought this is a place that deserves attention” said guest and artist Shoshanna Weinberger.

Weinberger also remarked on the responsibility of those in the room to continue advocating for New Jersey’s place in the art world reminding everyone that “It is happening because we make it happen.”

 One of the great things that is happening is Project for Empty Space’s growth. The project which is described as a “a not-for-profit nomadic organization that creates multidisciplinary art exhibitions and programming that encourage social dialogue, education, and systemic change through the support of both artists and communities”has been worked on tirelessly by Wahi and Jampol. Everyone who walks through Newark's famed Gateway is met with evidence of their perseverance.

The space is not just a gallery, it's also is the home to Newark.FM, the city’s digital radio co-op, and the venue for many fundraisers including Valerie Lora’s for Hurricane Maria.

“It’s part of what makes this city so phenomenal” said Lora of the Project for Empty Space. Of the honorees she said “Anything they stand by or stand with will flourish whether it’s artists or a crazy girl trying to help Puerto Rico.”

Lora is Newark native who grew up on Chadwick and now serves as Hennessy’s New Jersey account representative. The event was apart of the brand’s Privilege Toast series which she is responsible for overseeing in the Garden State. “It’s more about bringing awareness to people that work really hard and are doing great things for our county our state and our city.”

White hydrangea and roses were illuminated by candlelight on the table as guests including Newark.FM’s Kitab, Newark’s Glambassador Lauren Craig, Hungry at 25 founder Alecia Manderson and the celebrated artist Ventiko passed around roasted brussel sprouts and talked about their plans to continue showcasing the best the city has to offer.

Ventiko offered her appreciation for the honorees as well stating"I’m so grateful to call you my friends and my family."

Because of the upcoming arrival of her baby girl Jampol was unable to indulge in all of the savory customized Hennessy cocktails and aperitifs available but she was pleasantly surprised when she and her co-honoree were presented with customized bottles at the end of the dinner. “It says never stop never settle” said Lora while handing the women their bottles gingerly “because literally our city needs it.”

Learn more about Hennessy’s values here. 

Learn more about Project for Empty Space here.

Learn how you can be a part of the upcoming Newark Arts Festival here.

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