Kea Tawana was a self-taught engineer and artist who built a 3-story ark in Newark’s Central Ward in the mid-1980s, using building materials salvaged from an area fast becoming an urban wasteland. She worked on it for years before 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.
Featured in the documentary are rare archival clips of Kea Tawana and her ark, as well as interviews with people who knew her including the photographer and historian Camilo José Vergara and artist Willie Cole. Writer John Keene, artist Kevin Sampson, historian Mark Krasovic, curator Emma Wilcox, and other friends of Kea are featured as well.
Kea’s Ark is a production of PCK Media in cooperation with Stockton University. Underwriting was provided by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the New Jersey 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.
Produced, directed, and written by Susan Wallner.
Narrated by Brandon Webster.
This documentary was nominated for a 2021 Mid-Atlantic Emmy.