PSE&G and others launch “Art Wall” project at Fairmount Switching Station

Visit the future site of a brand new switching station in Newark’s West Ward and you’ll see large piles of dirt, dump trucks and other equipment as PSE&G contractors prepare the parcel for construction. But across the street at a local preschool, city officials and residents were already praising plans to bring an artistic approach to the reliability infrastructure investment.

At a press conference yesterday, Dec. 8, PSEG’s Derek DiRisio and Rick Thigpen, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and representatives from the city of Newark and the Urban League of Essex County, met at the site of the proposed Fairmount Switching Station to unveil the concept for an “art wall” designed to beautify the protective facade of the electrical switching station, which will provide much needed reliability and redundancy for the area.

Fourteen ethnically and racially diverse male and female artists will visually interpret the themes of youth, education, history and community culture into creative pieces using various mediums including glass, mosaic, aluminum and solar-powered metallic sculptures. The pieces will be installed on the upper third of the 48,000 square foot, 30-foot-high wall. Six of the artists are local to Newark and the remaining hail from as far away as Jamaica and Venezuela.

“We wanted something that would bring life into the community, art and culture which is very important for us in the city. So the way we are putting it together now is incredible. It’s going to be a beautiful sight out there,” said Mayor Baraka.

“Superstorm Sandy made it clear that we needed a backup facility in the area, and building one that respected the personality and spirit of the neighborhood was critically important to us.”

In addition to providing more reliable electric service, the station also will benefit the city and community.

“So far, $1.6 million has been put into the local community through the hiring of Newark residents and authorized vendors and spending with local establishments,” said DiRisio, president-PSEG Services Corp. “Through our partnerships, 12 Newark residents now have jobs and we expect to increase that number as the project progresses.”

“We are investing in this community. We are making their service more reliable which is the core of our mission but we are also being a good corporate citizen and hopefully helping make this community better tomorrow than it was yesterday,” said Thigpen, vice president-state governmental affairs. 

PSE&G has been working on remediating the site for the past year and expects to begin engineering and construction of the station in the first quarter of 2016. The switch is expected to go into service in 2018.