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Film Focus: A Look at Documentary “Kea’s Ark”

July 27 @ 12:00 pm

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Kea's Ark

View the discussion below:

In the 1980s, artist and activist Kea Tawana built a three-story ark on the highest point of Newark, New Jersey. It was in the devastated Central Ward, where Kea salvaged materials from buildings being torn down after Newark’s 1967 uprising. She worked on her ark for years before city officials finally took note and demanded it gone. For a brief time, the art world and local community united to try and save Kea’s Ark, and their struggle became national news. But the public protests and court challenges failed, and Kea dismantled her giant boat in 1988. Yet Kea’s Ark remains a symbol of hope in Newark and beyond.

Kea’s Ark features rare archival and contemporary interviews and footage to tell the story of Kea Tawana, a self-taught artist, engineer, housing activist, and trans woman whose visionary work continues to resonate today, and whose ark remains a powerful symbol of hope in Newark and beyond. The film won a 2021 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for Arts Programming. PCK Media received an NJCH Action Grant in 2017 to support the creation of this film.

  • You can watch the film for free on your own time through August 7 (please RSVP to receive the link via email, and use password “Kea” to view the video).
  • We also invite you to join us on July 27, 2022, from noon-1pm for a discussion featuring filmmaker Susan Wallner of PCK Media (please RSVP to receive the Zoom link via email).

The discussion will be facilitated by Purcell Carson, a filmmaker and editor who has worked on many lauded documentary films featuring New Jersey stories. Purcell also teaches a seminar in urban studies and film at Princeton University, where she is project director of a multi-year community-based documentary project, The Trenton Project. She is a graduate of Brown and Stanford.

Register below to receive the link to the film and get a reminder about the discussion program.

About the Filmmaker

Kea’s Ark was produced, directed, and written by Susan Wallner, an award-winning producer of arts and history programming. As a principal at PCK Media, she is a co-series producer of State of the Arts, airing weekly on NJ PBS, WNET/Thirteen, and ALL ARTS. Recent projects include NJ Women Vote and Anne Morrow Lindbergh: You’ll Have the Sky, a PBS documentary narrated by Judith Light. Susan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and New College of Florida. She also studied photography and art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


July 27
12:00 pm
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Watch “Kea’s Ark” on Vimeo (password: “Kea”)


New Jersey Council for the Humanities
(609) 695-4838
View Organizer Website