Newark Life Fall/Winter 2020

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Fall/Winter 2020

Newark Life


The Michael Castle Trail: Newark's Gateway to the Chesapeake Page 46

Inside • In the spotlight: Mayor Jerry Clifton • Profile of writer Charles Lewis • Q & A with astronomer and UD professor Judith Provencal

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Newark Life Fall/Winter 2020

Newark Life Table of Contents 10

Charles Lewis: The fact seeker


The finder of discarded things


Healing through drama


Q & A with astronomer and UD professor Judith Provencal


Parks & Rec keeps up the pace


Photo essay: The Michael Castle Trail


In the spotlight: Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton


Newark Business: 3 of a fun kind


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |







Newark Life fall/winter 2020 Letter from the Editor:


Not only does Judith Provencal teach about the stars, she’s also unlocking their secrets. In this issue of Newark Life, writer Natalie Smith conducted an informative Q & A with Provencal, a University of Delaware associate professor and director of the Delaware Asteroseismic Research Center. Newark Life asked Provencal about telescopes, white dwarf stars and the skies. While some stars dominate the night skies, other stars work to make the community around them a better place. In this issue of Newark Life, we showcase a few people who are doing just that in Newark. Writer Ken Mammarella explores how Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton is working on diversity and quality-of-life issues for the residents of a city that he has loved long before he became its mayor. Richard Gaw writes about how Saharra Dixon, a 2018 University of Delaware graduate, utilizes the divergent influences of health and theater to become a certified health specialist and dramatic arts facilitator. Her goal is healing through drama. For nearly the last half century, Newark native Charles Lewis has been an investigative journalist, author and teacher. We profile Lewis in this issue. We also highlight how monthly subscription boxes from a Newark company surprise and enchant fans of cryptozoology, 3D printing and dice. If you’re in need of a few feel-good activities—and who isn’t?—this issue offers a few options. The photo essay features some captivating images along the Michael Castle Trail— Newark’s gateway to the Chesapeake. And we also talked to officials from the Newark Parks & Recreation Department about how they are moving forward with as many activities as feasible in this time of coronavirus restrictions. They are even adding virtual programming to fill new, unmet needs. We’re very pleased to be sharing the stories in this issue of Newark Life with you. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for future stories. We wish you all good health and good cheer until we deliver the next issue of the magazine in the spring of 2021. Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor, 610-869-5553, Ext. 13

18 Cover photo: Jim Coarse Cover Design: Tricia Hoadley | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark People| For nearly the last half century, Newark native Charles Lewis has been an investigative journalist, author and teacher. Through his ingenuity, he has created opportunities for his colleagues to seek the truth in every story

The fact seeker By Alessandra Nicole Contributing Writer It is a cold and sunny March morning on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C., and Charles Lewis sits at his desk in his office in the McKinley Building, where he is a tenured professor in the School of Communication. Although non-descript, the space is nonetheless filled with plenty of light and plenty of books, but what stands out most is the photographs that document Lewis’ nearly 50-year career as an investigative journalist, television producer and author. They hang between his Honor Medals, his MacArthur Fellow Award and his degree from the University of Delaware in Newark, where he was born and raised. The photos show a younger Lewis around the time he was a reporter for ABC News, and later, the producer of 60 Minutes. While the photos in Lewis’ office attempt to document the grand sweep of a life spent in journalism, they account for only a sliver of what has been a career that not only reports the news, but takes it under the microscope and examines it. He founded the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and is the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He was called “one of the most notable investigative reporters in the U.S. since World War I” by the Encyclopedia of Journalism in 2009. He is the author of several books, the most recent being 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, published in 2014. In the book, Lewis takes a hard look at the future of truth in America, how the deadliest abuses of power are being orchestrated by government and big business, and how the news media “watchdog” role in holding both factions accountable is changing. 10

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Courtesy image

Lewis is the author of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, in which he examines the future of truth in America, how the deadliest abuses of power are being orchestrated by government and big business, and how the news media “watchdog” role in holding both factions accountable is changing.

He has spoken about investigative reporting at workshops and presentations around the world, and given hundreds of interviews that have appeared in some of the world’s most prominent newspapers, magazines and on national radio and television broadcasts. Earlier this year, Lewis received a phone call from a reporter in Delaware, asking him if he would be interested in participating in an interview for Newark Life. He told the reporter that the only reason he took the call was because he was excited to see the “302” area code on his telephone screen. He said, “Yes.” Feeling the Yellowjacket Buzz For the first several years of his life, Lewis lived in a house his ancestors owned on Tyre Avenue and East Main Street. “At the time, East Main Street was not the nicest part of Main Street,” Lewis recalled. “So I was at the poor end of town, on the other side of the railroad tracks. My family first came to Newark in the 1700s, and I believe I have a direct ancestor who was the sheriff of New Castle County in the 1800s. “And we loved it! It was the house of my father’s ancestors, who had owned it 80 or 90 years earlier.” His first job was working for a Chinese launderer in Continued on Page 12

Photo by Alessandra Nicole

Newark native Charles Lewis at his office at American University in Washington, D.C., where he is a tenured professor in the School of Communication. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Charles Lewis Continued from Page 10

Newark. It was where he met Kai, Warren and Richie, with whom he is still very good friends. “Richie is my age, Warren is a little older and Kai is the oldest,� Lewis said. “We’re very close. We do damage to our livers two or three times a year when we see each other. We call each other brothers; I don’t have any brothers but if I had them, it would be them.� When he entered Newark High School, Lewis tried out for and made the school’s football team, but his early interest in politics led him to become the president of his junior class and later, the president of the student government in his senior year. It was at Newark High School where he developed an interest in what would eventually become his career. “I was a co-editor of the student newspaper, which means that I wasn’t that high up at the Yellowjacket Buzz, but we had the secret column called “Purple Haze,� named after the Hendrix song, and this is where we were snarky before the word snarky was invented,� he said. “We were very sarcastic. We took on the principal, the teachers, everyone. We said what we really thought, and it was not the nicest thing, but people got a kick out of it.� Lewis had an early writing colleague: His younger sister. Both wrote under disguised names. “I was president that year of student government, and my sister was

Courtesy photo

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Lewis has been a strong advocate for the pursuit of investigative journalism, and is the founder, among other organizations, of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan newsroom that investigates democracy, power and privilege, with specific focus on the influence of money and the impact of inequality on society.

president of the sophomore class, and we were also both writing the snarky stuff,� he said. “My father worked as a security guard at GM in Wilmington, and while he was doing the night shift, my mother would make us hamburgers at 11 o’clock at night while my sister and I figured out what we were going to write for “Purple




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Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Haze.” It was fun. We had a blast. “And in the last issue of the Yellowjacket Buzz that year, we both identified ourselves.” By the time Lewis entered the University of Delaware that fall, his interest in politics led him to work as intern for Delaware Sen. Bill Roth for the first six months of 1974. As fate would have it, Lewis’ internship came during one of the most cataclysmic periods in American history, when the twin forces of the Watergate Scandal and journalism collided in a powder keg of corruption and revelation. “Think about that,” Lewis said. “[President Richard] Nixon resigns in August of 1974, and suddenly, all of these Republicans are either hiding under their desk or leaving town. They don’t want to be anywhere near Nixon. They don’t want to criticize him, but they don’t want to support him. It was really interesting. “So I’m reading [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein and Hearst material on them. I’m going to some of the Watergate hearings. I’m right there in the thick of it. It was very, very exciting for anybody to live through that, right in the moment, right there.” After graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in Political Science, Lewis then received a master’s degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University. After he left Baltimore, he had very little interest in pursuing a career in foreign service, and for the next five months Lewis, now married, scrambled to find a job, “but not just any job,” he said. “And on page D-29 of the style section of the Washington Post, in one paragraph, there’s a TV column, and it said that this special reporting unit was being formed at ABC News, and that it would be created by Roone Arledge and headed by Sander Vanocur, the vice president of news at ABC,” Lewis said. “I had never worked in TV in my life. I’d never done anything in news in my life, but I sent a resume in and called the secretary, who told me that there had been 600 applications for six positions.” Eventually, it was through that secretary – Sue Meyer – that Lewis secured an interview and an eventual job at ABC News, a position that paid $17,500 a year. After the unit disbanded, he was reassigned to ABC’s Washington Bureau, where for the next six-and-a- half years, he covered attempted presidential assassinations, unsolved crimes from the civil rights era, and the selection of Supreme Court nominees, among many other stories. In 1979, he began covering the ABSCAM scandal for the network, a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation that led to the convictions of seven members of the United States Congress. Lewis’ work at ABC News eventually led him to CBS Continued on Page 14 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Charles Lewis Continued from Page 13

News, where he became an investigative producer for 60 Minutes, but by the late 1980s, the political scene he had first witnessed with Watergate, and subsequently covered for nearly ten years, had lost its original luster and become in his words, “dirty.” He began to see prime-time television journalism as a hugely influential vehicle that was not providing proper coverage of the most important stories. In 2014, Politico Magazine published an excerpt of Lewis’ book, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the decline of America’s Moral Integrity, in which Lewis shared his growing frustration with the way the news was being chosen, reported and delivered, both at ABC News and 60 Minutes. “It became painfully apparent over time that network television news was not especially interested in investigative reporting, certainly not to the extent or the depth of the best national print outlets,” he wrote. “In fact, the most trusted man in America around this time, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, had told Time magazine something in 1966 that still rang true more than a decade later: that ‘the networks, including my own, do a first-rate job of disseminating the news, but all of them have third-rate newsgathering organizations. We are still basically dependent on the wire services. We have barely dipped our toe into


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

investigative reporting.’ “Gradually, television’s daily editorial insecurity vis-à-vis the older print world and its own tepid commitment to enterprise journalism caused me to conclude that all three major networks were mostly interested in the illusion of investigative reporting. “…I had also seen things at two networks that had troubled me profoundly: nationally important stories not pursued; well-connected, powerful people and companies with questionable policies and practices that were not investigated precisely because of the connections and the power they boasted. “It was a matter of principle. It was simply time for me to leave.” The Center for Public Integrity Two weeks after he handed in his resignation to CBS News in 1989, Lewis began what has become a continuing mission to advocate for the power of investigative journalism. He formed the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan newsroom that investigates democracy, power and privilege, with specific focus on the influence of money and the Continued on Page 16 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Charles Lewis Continued from Page 14

impact of inequality on society. Through data, the Freedom of Information Act and collaborations with local and national news sources, the Center produces journalism intended to change lives and give voice to citizens and communities. In 1997, he began the Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In 2003, Lewis became the founding president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism, an organization to promote independent, high quality, public service journalism primarily by providing legal defense and endowment support to the Center for Public Integrity. July 2009, he co-founded the Investigative News Network, a group of 90 nonprofit, non-partisan newsrooms around the country dedicated to investigative and public-service journalism. In between, Lewis taught at Princeton University and Harvard University, and in addition to teaching at American University, is a frequent lecturer on the subject of investigative journalism. The current climate of communication and truth, Lewis said, is both disturbing and dangerous. “We have leaders around the world imitating [United States President Donald] Trump, using words and phrases

like ‘Fake News,’” he said. “I was in South Africa and some other countries, and they are all the despotic leaders throughout the world, enjoying the role of being a character and saying slightly off-the-wall things that become shtick. “They all are highly amused by it and in the course of that amusement, they are abusing their power. It is not like that that didn’t happen before, necessarily, but the slightly cartoonish and buffoonish elements of that would be funny if it weren’t also very scary. “The whole world is kind of upside down in some ways. I have a granddaughter and a daughter and a son, so it makes me worry about the future.” The photographs on Charles Lewis’ desk at American University are the reminders of a career spent chasing his curiosity. There is very likely much more room in his office for additional photographs. “I am very lucky,” Lewis said. “I’ve worked with amazing people. I love all these journalists. I mean, we’re all comrades, you know, we’re all kindred spirits and investigating ambassadors…I was going to be a politician, and I ended up investigating the bastards.” To learn more about Charles Lewis, visit







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|Newark Arts|

The f inder of discarded things

Influenced by her childhood visits to her family’s company, Jane Kavanagh Morton has conducted a 15-year love affair with art that has melded her talent with the ingenuity and curiosity she inherited from her father By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer

The concentration of her father’s body as he tinkered and invented, and turned old shapes into new shapes. very so often when she was a child, The tactile connection of her father’s Jane Kavanagh – one of nine chilhands to the tools of his trade. dren – got to accompany her father This was Jack Kavanagh’s inherited Jack on Saturday mornings to the family domain, and every time Jane Kavanagh business, which was then located at the joined her father it was like being given corner of Pratt and Central in downtown the keys to the family kingdom. Baltimore. “I work very much the way my father Begun in 1866 by her great great grand did,” Jane Kavanagh Morton said from uncle, The Joseph Kavanagh Company her JaneKav Gallery in Newark. “I look started as a coppersmith business that at how I work now as an artist, and when Courtesy photo I’ve worked with material for a while, I designed and built distilling equipment, artist Jane Kavanagh Morton’s work but by 1959, Jack had taken over the Newark look at other materials to see how I can has been showcased regularly at museums, company and transformed it into a pipe galleries and at shows throughout Delaware convert them into a possible vision of and Maryland. what I have. and tube bending business. “My father was very similar. He was Everyone in the Kavanagh famnot afraid to try new things and go on ily referred to The Joseph Kavanagh Company not by its formal name, but as “The Shop,” and different paths. He was an artisan, and to be a good copfor the young girl, it held the magic and the mystery of a persmith, you need to have a good eye, and you have to children’s fairy tale, and was accompanied by the scents respect the process.” and sounds of work. The rattling clank of a tool dropping to the floor of the ‘It’s great when you can connect workshop. with your father in another way’ The large windows of the building that let in the yellowish morning light. While Morton’s artistic life began with drawing and The permeating whiff of soil and dirt. painting, it wasn’t until she took ceramics classes at Hood The glistening sheen that would radiate off of steel. College in Frederick, Md. that her life as an artist took hold



Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Courtesy photos

Throughout her career as an artist, Morton has created a wide array of ceramic art, made at her studio in Newark.

Photos by Richard L. Gaw

Some of Morton’s art can be seen at the JaneKav Gallery, which is located in the Barksdale Professional Building.

of what she’d remembered from The Shop as a child and chose not to let go. In fact, she would sometimes drive to her parents’ retirement home in Ocean City, Md. and show them what she had been creating, and watch her father run his hands over her artwork. Often during her first years as a ceramic artist, Jack would look up at his daughter and tell her, “I have an idea. I have a lot of ideas,” which took Morton back to the kingdom at the corner of Pratt and Central where she watched her father work.

“One time, he gave me a small copper cup he had made, and then wrote down the step-by-step instructions on how to make it,” she said. “It was as if he opened up his whole world to me, and gave me everything I could ever wish to receive as an artist. It’s great when you can connect with your father in another way, other than in the traditional sense. “This was a different way to help me to grow.” It is not known for certain whether creativity is an inherited gene. Yet, to hear Morton discuss the process Continued on Page 20 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Jane Kavanagh Morton Continued from Page 19

by which she creates her copper and ceramic sculptures, porcelain figures and her melted metal pieces (words like “pit firing” and “kilns” and “metallic paint” are often heard) is to make the argument that there is truth to the adage that the fertility of a creative mind is passed from generation to generation. “My great-great-grand uncle taught my great grandfather who taught my grandfather who taught my father who taught my brothers and my youngest sister, Ann, who runs the bending machines in the shop,” Morton said. “Since the company was first founded, the Kavanagh Company makes pieces of things, and a lot of my work that has been coming out has been made from pieces. I play around with them, and I see what piece fits with other pieces. I will reach back to pieces I’ve had for several years, and I bring them back into being because they play well with other pieces that I now have, and they found the world that they need to live in.” For Morton, the scents, sounds and sights


Courtesy photos

The JaneKav Gallery also displays the encaustic creativity of Morton’s sister, Baltimore-based photographer Nancy Kavanagh O’Neill.

that she experienced as a child have absorbed themselves into the bloodstream of her creativity, and served as guideposts for a 15-year career as a well-respected artist. From her home studio in Newark, she has created a diversity of art sourced from clay, metal, paper, paint and ink that has led to her work being showcased at the Delaware Art Museum, the Dover Art League, the Biggs Museum of American Art, as well as



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Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

the University of Delaware, the Newark Arts Alliance, the Newark Library and the Newark Municipal Building. ‘Artistic confidante and soul mate’ Most prominently, the showcase of Morton’s artistic catalog is on display at her JaneKav Art Gallery in the Barksdale Professional Building, where throughout the year, she organizes shows that feature the work of local artists – a glittering, room-by-room changing display of handcrafted textiles, pottery, jewelry, encaustics, sculpture and glasswork. While the gallery has become one of Newark’s must-see locations for new art and new artists, there is one fellow artist who has been Morton’s artistic confidant and soul mate for years: her sister Nancy Kavanagh O’Neill. Courtesy photo For the past 40 years, O’Neill This subject was a has been a portrait photographer collaborative effort that in Baltimore, and used her skills combined the talents of Morton and her sister, behind the camera to develop the photographer Nancy art of encaustic photography, a Kavanagh O’Neill. technique that uses beeswax and damar resin as a medium to create paintings or mixed media artwork. Morton called her older sister “the other artist in the family.” “A lot of the shows I do at the gallery are in conjunction with Nancy,” she said. “We’ll talk about what we’re doing, but won’t actually see each other’s work until we put it out before a show. When everything finds its perfect place in the gallery, we’re always amazed and amused by how well our pieces blend together. Nancy has called it a common dialogue that our pieces have with one another. “It’s a very special thing to have your sister as literally your best friend, and to share our art together has allowed us to take our friendship to another level,” she added. “We often describe ourselves as sharing the same brain.” During the time the JaneKav Art Gallery has been closed Continued on Page 22 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Jane Kavanagh Morton Continued from Page 21

due to COVID-19, Morton has continued to combine her curiosity as an artist with new and existing mediums. Her studio is dotted with melted metal she is working on. There is porcelain paper clay that she wants to fire in her kiln. She just finished a wire sculptural weaving class. “I am constantly taking my art on a different tangent,” she said. “It’s a free-thinking studio, and it’s where I get to figure things out. I am in a constant conversation with my art.” In the end, Morton said that her mission as an artist is to extend that conversation to her audience. “Life is a journey and along the way we gather pieces that form our lives,” she wrote on her website. “Some fit easily; some struggle to find their place. Sometimes we need to make pieces and sometimes we just find them along the road. What are we made of? Happiness, sadness, despair, who knows? We are made of many emotions and events. How are we formed? With love, anger, loss and whatever gets us through the night. “For me, it is hope that summons the pieces of my life together to form a connection; to create a dialogue that opens a door to invite the rest of the world to join in.”


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Courtesy photo

Often, Morton combines several textures and items to create eclectic forms of artistic expression

The JaneKav Gallery is located in the Barksdale Professional Building, 625 Barksdale Road, Suite 103, in Newark. To learn more about the art of Jane Kavanagh Morton, visit, or email To learn more about Nancy Kavanagh O’Neill, visit www.nkophoto,com or email To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@ | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark People| For recent University of Delaware graduate Saharra Dixon, her young career as a health specialist and arts facilitator allows her to integrate her love of theater with her life’s other passion – helping others

Healing through drama By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


n order to fully comprehend how the divergent influences of Health and Theater have led Saharra Dixon to become a certified health specialist and dramatic arts facilitator at the age of 24, one simply needs to go back to her childhood in southern New Jersey, when she became mesmerized by the spoken and performed words of her father. Lamont Dixon, aka Napalm Da Bomb, has been a prominent presence on the Philadelphia-area cultural scene for the past few decades, both as a poet/ performer and as a teaching artist and mentor to young artists. Through his selfdescribed “vibepoetics,” he has combined an eclectic blend of artistic genres – jazz, hip hop, blues and drama -- to give young people a dramatic language arts education. As a child in Atco, N.J., Dixon often accompanied her father to his classrooms and workshops, and to her young eyes and ears, she saw that what her father was doing in service to others was not only an expression of his passion, but the honorable gift of leaving an imprint on those who came to see him. To the young girl, watching her father was an immediate and powerful sensory overload of sounds and motion and pitch-perfect words that tangled with harmonious rhythm. Dixon said that her father introduced her to a variety of art forms as a child. She described that period of her life as “transformational.” “I learned that it is magical to be able to represent the feelings, thoughts, emotions and metaphors of theater, in an effort to help people see themselves,” said Dixon, who graduated from the University of Delaware in 2018 with a degree in Health Behavioral Science. “By doing so, it enables people to see themselves, and look inward in the hopes of finding emotional and behavioral growth.” Continued on Page 26


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Courtesy photo

Dixon’s interactive play Turbulence explores the experiences of Black and Brown people of color. Opposite page Photo by OffBeat Studios

Saharra Dixon, a 2018 University of Delaware graduate, is a certified health specialist and dramatic arts facilitator, who has conducted several performances and workshops in Delaware. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Saharra Dixon Continued from Page 24

“To put the human experience up on stage allows us to examine our lives and see how we can behave in different ways.” Today, the dovetailing of influences that began when she was a child – that also intersected with her early theater training at the New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia – has paved the pathway to Dixon’s current work as a certified health education specialist and community-engaged theater artist. Through live workshops and performances, she visits schools, youth centers and non-profit organizations – several in Delaware – to curate interactive and educational arts-based health and social justice interventions, focusing much of her work on children/adolescents, young adults, women and minority groups. Newark: Where Health and Theater collide When Dixon arrived on the campus of the University of Delaware in the Fall of 2014 as a theater minor, she balanced the demands of higher education with the happy problem of owning supreme aspirations for what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to be an opera singer. She wanted to be the President of the United States. She wanted

to be a veterinarian. She wanted to be a heart surgeon. During her freshman year, Dixon took an introductory level medical anthropology course, merely to fulfill a requirement of graduation. “I became fascinated with what was described in the class as the social determinants of health, and how our social standing and our environment play a big role in health outcomes, particularly for people of different socio-economic status, who are the victims of a system that sets them up for failure,” she said. “I began to learn that there is more to health that just a 15-minute visit to a doctor. I wanted to work in public health at a much more community-engaged level.” By her sophomore year, Dixon declared a major in Health Behavioral Science, and took courses in behavioral change, personal health management, public and global health and women’s reproductive justice. She completed internships at Planned Parenthood of Delaware and the United Way of Delaware. By the time she reached her senior year in Newark, the dots of Dixon’s theater and performing arts background and her academic studies finally began to connect. Searching

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Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

for ideas for a term paper for a behavioral science course, Dixon remembered that she had read the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined by the playwright Lynn Nottage, which tells the story of women living in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. In her senior year, she took a theater course called “Black History Live on Stage,” which used theater and other artistic elements of performance in telling the story of Black history. “I was mind-blown with the idea that theater can be used as a mechanism to bring issues to life,” Dixon said. “I had been learning about public health for the past four years, but I also had been doing theater for all of my life, and I thought it would be an injustice if I put all of that theater training away.” Continued on Page 28

Photo by OffBeat Studios

Dixon develops and facilitates interactive workshops for young people that address mental health awareness, building strong relationships and preparing for a career. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Saharra Dixon Continued from Page 27

During her graduate study at New York University – where she received her master’s degree in January 2020 -- Dixon directed Bandaids: A Temporary Fix, which was performed with members of the Steinhardt Educational Theatre Youth Ensemble. The interactive play explored how school dress codes disproportionately target feminine bodies, and gave students the opportunity to not only act but also discuss the issues related to dress codes. As a member of NYU’s Theatre & Health Lab, she co-wrote the interactive theater play Turbulence, which explores the experiences of Black and Brown people of color. By placing her characters in clinical settings, it engaged the larger world through drama therapy.

Courtesy photo

While at the University of Delaware, Dixon drew creative inspiration from Ruined, a play by Lynn Nottage that tells the story of women living in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

A conduit to breakthroughs, discoveries and positive outcomes From her early experiences and training in theater to the University of Delaware; to her graduate work at NYU and to her career as a healing arts facilitator, the upward trajectory of Dixon’s path have now enabled her to begin her career as, quite simply, a conduit to breakthroughs, discoveries and positive outcomes. • Dixon creates age-appropriate, and evidence-based sexual education programming to youth ages 10-21 in high-need communities and schools. • She develops and facilitates interactive workshops that address mental health awareness, building strong relationships and preparing for a career. • As the COVID-19 pandemic began this past spring, Dixon developed the #StayHomeProject, a communitybased dramatic – and for now, virtual – “ethnodrama” that depicts how some people are coping with isolation during state-mandated quarantine, based on interviews she conducted with people of different socio-economic levels and the medical field. From this project, Dixon was able to connect the participants and community members with a network of advice and resources, therapists and COVID-19 relief funds. Continued on Page 30


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 | | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Saharra Dixon Continued from Page 28



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Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

• In June, she founded Soul Circle, an arts-based wellness center primarily for women and girls of color. It promotes a culture of health and wellness by helping these women reclaim and harness their power through socially-conscious arts in health programming including theater, yoga, dance, and more! • Dixon is currently writing We’re Having a Party, a threecharacter play that invites children in the audience on the stage and help the actors prepare a party while making healthy food choices and using proper hygiene. It is scheduled to be presented virtually at a national arts and health conference in October, and following COVID-19, she aspires to bring the play to other youth audiences and perform it live. “I have been lucky to work with people of all ages and cultures, but I continually find myself drawn to teenagers, young adults and minority populations, especially now with everything going on the world in terms of exploration of new ideas and concepts about social justice,â€? she said. “Theater by itself is not going to be the change. It has to be in connection with something else. Through these techniques, they can pick and choose how they want to see the world – and themselves -- in a different way.â€? When Dixon speaks about the power of theater – and how the resolute strength of its messages can impact lives – she speaks from direct experience. When she was in middle school, she was cast in a stage adaptation of The Giving Tree, based on the book by Shel Silverstein. She played the tree. “I remember at first I was irritated to be cast in what I thought was an insignificant role, but then as I began to learn my lines and understand the play, I realized that there was a lot more going on there,â€? she said. “I learned that it is a story about love and loss, and I became grateful for being able to tell this story to people. “Even at that age, the play gave me an inkling of knowing that there is more to theater than just entertainment. Live theater – in any form -- helps us connect on a much deeper level to our own stories. I began to understand that if we are able to connect to a lot of audiences on a deeper level, we begin to connect people to who they are. “I am passionate about being able to use the arts to heal, to inspire, and to foster change across cultures and life spans.â€? To learn more about Saharra Dixon and her workshops and scripted performances, visit To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark Life Q&A|


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Judith Provencal, astronomer, UD professor

Dr. Judith Provencal is an associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Delaware. She’s also director of the Delaware Asteroseismology Research Center and astronomer at the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory.

By Natalie Smith Contributing Writer Not only does Dr. Judith “Judi” Provencal teach about the stars, she’s also unlocking their secrets. And Provencal knows her stars. A University of Delaware associate professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and director of the Delaware Asteroseismic Research Center, Provencal is also resident astronomer at Mt. Cuba Observatory in Greenville. Newark Life asked her about telescopes, white dwarf stars and the skies. All photos provided by Judith Provencal.

The Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory is on Hillside Mill Road in Greenville. Another dome will be built and a new, more powerful telescope added.

As an astronomer, what is your latest project? We have a big project going on at Mt. Cuba Observatory right now that’s going to benefit the observatory and the university, too. We’re Continued on Page 34 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Judith Provencal Continued from Page 33

building a new telescope at Mt. Cuba and it’s going to have about a 50-inch diameter mirror. It’s going to be one of the largest telescopes on the East Coast. New Castle County finally approved our building permit. We’re going to start digging in the next couple weeks and they’re building the telescope now at a company in Colorado. We’re putting up a whole new building at the observatory. The students at the university are going to be able to use this telescope to do research projects, and so will graduate students and my Observational Astronomy classes. It’s going to be a really exciting. What will the new telescope enable the observer to see? The telescope that we have now at Mt. Cuba that we use with my class and with the students has a mirror that is only about two feet, a 24-inch mirror. How faint a star you can detect depends on the size of the mirror, so the bigger the mirror, the fainter you can go. We’re going to be able to see much fainter stars. You’ll be able to look at galaxies, to look planets around other stars. We can do just about anything with this new telescope. Sounds like quite a venture. When will it be finished? We’re hoping to have the building up before winter comes; the telescope itself will be ready about next fall.


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Dr. Judith Provencal showing her students how to use the computer program that controls the camera on the 24-inch telescope. The program interface can be seen on the monitor. The camera is a digital camera called a CCD camera. They use it to take all of the images done with the 24-inch telescope.

They’ve got to use a big crane to lift the telescope, then put in through a slit in the dome’s roof. That’s going to be scary to watch. What about the existing telescope? The existing telescope is going to remain. It’ll still be good for some research and some public nights. It was built in the 1960s, so it’s definitely not Continued on Page 36 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Judith Provencal Continued from Page 34

modern and computerized. But the students have a lot of fun, because to move that telescope around to find things you actually have to pull on it and push. There are no buttons to make it move. The students think it’s great fun to do. What is asteroseismology and how do you use it to study white dwarf stars? A white dwarf is a dead star. So a star like the Sun, in about four billion years, is going to end up with just a core left after all the nuclear fusion is finished. We wanted to figure out a way to look inside of a dwarf star, because the photons [light particles] that you see when you go outside at night are coming from the surface, not the inside. Asteroseismology uses pulsations of the star to probe the inside of the star. But you said white dwarfs are dead stars. They still pulsate? Yes. They do have temperatures where they pulsate and those are the stars that I study. Like when the Earth has an earthquake and they can use how the earthquake propagates through the earth to figure out what the interior of the planet is like. We do the same thing with the pulsating stars. It’s like they’re having earthquakes and if we can figure out how this pulsation propagates, we can learn what’s going on inside of the star. It’s kind of like being a stellar archaeologist.


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

The Flame Nebula is a bright nebula in the constellation Orion, near his belt. The nebula part of a large cloud of gas and dust that spans most of the Orion constellation. The bright star Alnitak (which is the easternmost star in Orion’s belt) shines energetic photons on the cloud in this region, causing the gas to glow. There is a cluster of young stars in the center of the nebula. They can’t be seen in visible light, but they have been observed by the Chandra X-ray telescope. This image was taken by Provencal’s 2020 Winter session students using the 24-inch Mt. Cuba telescope.

You’re digging around in the remnants of the white dwarf, and that’s pretty cool.

Is this done with the Whole Earth Telescope? Yes, the idea of the Whole Earth Telescope comes from wanting to observe a star 24 hours a day, but I could only observe eight Continued on Page 38

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Comet 2017T2 (PANSTARRS) was discovered in 2017 by the PANSTARRS survey. PANSTARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. The telescope is based in Hawaii and is designed to search for asteroids. It also finds lots of other things, like comets. PANSTARRS usually finds comets when they are very far out in the solar system and so they are very faint. The image was taken with the 24-inch MCAO telescope on Jan. 23 by students in Provencal’s UD 2020 Winter session class. By this time, the comet was much closer to the Sun (and to Earth), and so it was much brighter.

And that’s all done with telescopes? How? Yes, with telescopes. But observing a pulsating star can be kind of [tedious]. Once you’re set up, you just kind of sit there all night and make sure nothing crashes, taking picture after picture. Then at the end of the night, you end up with -- it depends on the star -- you end up with 3,000 or 4,000 pictures. You go back later the next day, after you’ve gotten some sleep, and you take all these images and you extract the brightness of the star from every single one of those pictures. You turn that into what’s called a light curve on the x-axis and then the brightness of the star on the y-axis and so you see the brightness go up and down and up and down as the star pulsates. With the white dwarfs, their pulsation period is about ten minutes or so. So, they go up and down once every ten minutes. You can get a lot of pulsation cycles in a reasonable amount of time.

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Judith Provencal Continued from Page 37

or nine hours until the sun came up. Then you have gaps in your data and it makes analysis really hard. You want to get rid of the gaps, so that’s where the Whole Earth Telescope came from. A bunch of friends from around the planet are interested in the same kinds of stars that we study. So, every once in a while, we organize. I’ll be observing a pulsating star here in Delaware. And then I have some friends in Texas who start observing when the sun rises here, then friends in Hawaii. We’ve got friends in China and Thailand and lots of telescopes in Europe. The idea is to keep everything going continuously 24 hours a day, which makes it easier to figure out how the star’s pulsating. What would you like the average person to know about the skies? That there are so many more things in the sky than they’re seeing. There’s so much light pollution now. It’s sad that you go outside in New York and you see maybe five stars, if you’re lucky. I wish there was one night a year when we could all just turn off all the lights and let everybody go outside. With no telescope, no nothing. Just take a blanket and lie down on


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

the ground and stay outside for about half an hour or so [until] your eyes are fully dark adapted and you can see what’s really there. The Milky Way is really there and it’s this glowing mass of stars that go across the whole sky. [Watching the stars] was like video games to people back before lights. That’s what they did. There were no TVs or computers. They went out at night and watched the sky. We’ve lost that. I just wish people would go outside and look up. There’s not any place really dark around here. Maybe Fair Hill [Natural Resources Management Area in Elkton, Md.] or someplace like that. Even if you had a pair of binoculars, you could go out and look at the moon and see its craters. It would help you understand how special this planet is and how it’s just a small part of something that’s so much bigger. We used to think the Earth was the center of everything and it’s not. And then the Sun was the center, but, no, it’s not and then that the Milky Way was the center. Nope. There is no center. Natalie Smith may be contacted at natalie@ | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark Recreation|

Parks & Rec keeps up the pace Revised program lineup aims to ‘bring the community together’ All photos courtesy of Newark Parks & Recreation Department.

The Newark Parks & Recreation Department has programmed dozens of activities with coronavirus in mind.

By Ken Mammarella Contributing Writer


rom archery to Zumba, the Newark Parks & Recreation Department is pushing forward with as many activities as feasible in this time of coronavirus restrictions. Plus it’s adding virtual ones and looking to add programming to fill new and unmet needs. “We’re still providing community activities that build a feel-good feeling,” said Joe Spadafino, department director since 2016 and a staff member since 1996. “We’re doing the things we know the community loves and wants to be part of, and we’re creating new events that will bring the community together.” The department’s Fall 2020 Activity Guide lists about 100 activities, following pages of information on the cleaning, 40

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

temperature checks, face coverings, social distancing and other measures combatting the virus. There’s also key information about registration: The city in August switched to a new system, and everyone needs to create new accounts. “We spent months developing a plan for everyone to be safe,” Paula Ennis, the department’s assistant director, explained. The “everyone” includes not just the participants, but the ten full-time staff members, the 30 part-timers and the volunteers who have given thousands of hours to make it all happen with sports and aquatics, fitness, visual and performing arts and special interest programs – and the parks themselves. “We started planning soon after the shutdown in midMarch,” Spadafino said. “It’s been a waiting game, waiting for regulations from Delaware Department of Health and

Social Services and waiting for the phases.” Delaware is using three phases for restrictions: Phase 1 has significant community spread of coronavirus. Phase 2 has minimal to moderate spread. Phase 3 has minimal spread. New cases per 100,000 people, the percentage of positive test results and average daily hospitalizations per 100,000 people are used to create an overall rating, then assigned a phase. Adjusting to the guidelines Although recreational programs have been limited in various ways, park usage has soared. Newark has 36 parks, 17 miles of trails and more than 650 acres of parkland and open space. “People have cabin fever,”

Archery is one of the sports taught by the department.

Spadafino said. “And these are places where they can get out and exercise. We’re seeing more cars in the parking lots and a lot more trash. We’re going from once a week trash pickups to two or three times a week.” The department decided to plan programming the rest of the year as best as they could, with the goal of issuing a supplement to the seasonal schedule in October, when they’ve developed “better ways to do things” and as regulations evolve. They’re also working with the Christina School District to provide child care for parents who are working but their children are in virtual classes. “We need to fit the pieces in that puzzle,” Ennis said. Continued on Page 42

Before- and after-care at Downes and West Park Place elementary schools was put on hold when Christina schools opened virtually. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Parks & Rec Continued from Page 41

“Lots of kids don’t have child care.” The department in the past organized before-and after-care at Downes and West Park Place elementary schools for 120 children who attend those schools, but the district started the school year on Sept. 8 with remote learning and its buildings closed to outside groups. By the end of June, the department had started summer programs a few weeks later than The department sponsors seasonal cleanups. usual. “People said, ‘We were wondering how you could pull this off, and it worked family and friends and come make Newark beautiful.” Of course, not every program could be adapted. great,’” Spadafino said. “We were getting support. We were getting disappointment. But most people understood.” Disappointing cancelations, revised offerings The toughest early part, Ennis said, was getting all the staff One prominent cancelation was Community Day, run on board, getting them to understand the rules and be early role models as well. Some staff members and some families with the University of Delaware and the Christina School who have participated before chose not to get involved, District and unifying the city’s town and gown parts for a she added. So what’s changed? Recreational programs have had their capacity reduced to allow for social distancing. Health surveys are requested, involving temperature checks and exposure to those with coronavirus. Participants are asked to bring some personal equipment, such as yoga mats. For adult dance classes, partners need to be from the same household, as contrasted to past years, in which participants could switch partners during class. Some programs have gone virtual, including yoga, Zumba and sketch comedy.“Even if you are not comfortable out in public, there are many classes and programs that you can now enjoy from the comfort of your own home,” the department writes on its Facebook page. Some new programs are virtual, including a Beau Biden Foundation seminar on child predators, seminars on essential oils and the Stroller Social Club, a get-together at the Newark Reservoir for parents and their young children. And one sold-out program occurred in the comfort of families’ cars. “It was great!” Jessica Cody wrote on Facebook about the annual pop-up drive-in movie in July. “I can’t wait until next time!” The Fall Community Cleanup is planned to continue in mid-October. As one earlier invitation reads: “Grab your


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Summer programs were the first with masks.

September Sunday. Another was the Halloween parade, a tradition for 75 years, drawing 2,000 to march and 10,000 to watch. They were just too popular, the logistical challenges unsurmountable, Spadafino said. That said, the department is looking to host a virtual Halloween parade on its Facebook page for costumed

participants and antique vehicles. Winterfest – which features holiday entertainment, roasting chestnuts, caroling, a tree lighting and ice carving demonstrations – “will not be held this year in the usual format,” its official webpage says. Again, there are too many people for social distancing while enjoying some holiday Continued on Page 44 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Parks & Rec Continued from Page 43

cheer. Officials are planning to livestream a tree lighting and are working on other elements. The Snack with Santa and Santa’s Secret Shoppe is still on the department calendar, with plans to require signups and limit participation. Ditto for the Halloween party. The Turkey Trot, a tradition the weekend before Thanksgiving, is going virtual, with participants asked to log their own 5K or 10K for the Trot’s T-shirts. The 34th annual Thanksgiving Day breakfast is being rethought, maybe becoming a drive-through event. The thought still counts, but the mission to “create a warm and caring atmosphere among community members, older adults and area students


Zumba this fall is all virtual.

who are unable to share the holiday with family members or a companion” is diminished. “When we first started [coronavirus restrictions] people were hesitant. Now they know what to do to be safe,” Spadafino said. “We’ve ben a big part of allowing them to be active and create memories. We’re glad to do so.”

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Halloween is celebrated with a party at the George Wilson Community Center. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark Life Photo Essay|

The Michael C Newark’s gate Chesapeake


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

l Castle Trail: ateway to the e Photos by Jim Coarse

Text by Richard L. Gaw By our very nature, we are naturally drawn to large waters. We are mesmerized by the soft yet mighty flow of a river, and captivated by the tributaries that join together to form a bay. From a passing car on a bridge, we admire a waterway’s energy, its volume and its never-ending promise that it will always lead us somewhere. In a world of constant change, the waters offer us a permanent accompaniment to our life’s journey – a companion who mostly listens. Continued on Page 48 | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 47

For the thousands of Newark residents who travel just south to the Michael Castle Trail along the C & D Canal every year, they walk beside that companion. The trail, named after the former governor and U.S. representative whose efforts initiated its formation, forms a continuing stream of human activity and natural wonder. Starting at the eastern end of the trail in Delaware City and ending at the Summit Bridge, trail users see ships passing by. They stop to admire the views at one of the dozens of park benches along the trail. In the early evening, they bike and run and rollerblade towards the sun setting over the Chesapeake Bay in the west, and at every stretch along the trail, they are surrounded by large grasses and native wildflowers. Continued on Page 50


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 | | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 48

The trail connects with the 5,000-acre C&D Canal Wildlife Area that lines the north and south shores of the Delaware portion of the canal, and to the Ben Cardin C & D Canal recreational Trail at the Delaware/ Maryland state line. For the residents of Newark who make the short drive to the Michael Castle Trail, this 12.4-mile stretch of Delaware is their gateway to the Chesapeake, and the promise of what happens when we stop to admire the beauty of large waters, and follow their currents. To learn more about the Michael Castle Trail, visit or


Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 | | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|In the Spotlight|

On the mayor’s m Diversity and quality of life are important to Jerry Clifton By Ken Mammarella Contributing Writer


ewark Mayor Jerry Clifton loved Newark before he became mayor. Before he became a city council member. Before he moved there. “Being a native Delawarean, I have always loved Newark,” he said. “It’s a town that has a lot of character. It’s a town that’s really progressive. You almost have to live there to understand it. There’s a hometown feeling there unlike any other town in Delaware.” And he does understand it, and he wants to improve it. One plank in Clifton’s campaign to become mayor was promoting diversity, and one of his first prominent actions early in 2019 was working with the NAACP to celebrate diversity with a reunion of the School Hill community, a traditionally Black neighborhood centered on a New London Road school, now the George Wilson Community Center, named for the city’s first Black council member. He networked and got the Marriott up the street to donate the refreshments. The city didn’t charge for using the community center (“it was theirs before it was ours”), and a good time was had by all.

“I want to bring together and recognize communities that aren’t being recognized – not just Black and white. Latino. Asian. LGBT.” Another promotion of diversity will be in updating the faded welcoming mural on the Cleveland Avenue railroad bridge. He formed the committee for the update and is co-chairing it. Life outside the mayor’s office Clifton is 69 and was born in Wilmington in the now-yuppified Trolley Square. His first politicking occurred when he was nine, passing out flyers for presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon. He served five years of active duty in the Army and had a career with the Delaware National Guard. After leaving Wilmington, he moved to Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, and New Castle before moving to Newark on Aug. 17, 1992. He ran for city council three years later, losing by three votes. He won as a write-in candidate two years later and served multiple terms until 2014, when vision problems prevented him from reading all the material he needed to get through, and he resigned in mid-term. Continued on Page 54

UD Kathy Atkinson photo courtesy of the University of Delaware Courtesy of Rick Betz

At his Wilmington High School reunion. 52

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

With University of Delaware engineering student Robyn O’Halloran, a member of the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission.


Courtesy of Rep. Paul Baumbach

Addressing those gathered at Bike to Work Day.

Courtesy of Rob Walters

Being sworn in as mayor, with his wife Linda by his side.

Shelby Scheels photo courtesy of the City of Newark

At Patriot Day. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


Mayor Jerry Clifton Continued from Page 52

Three operations later, he was back on council, then moving up to mayor. As a council member, he figured he devoted 15 to 20 hours a week to the $7,000 job. As mayor, he devotes 28 to 30 hours to the $8,400 job. Clifton recalled advice from mentor Terry Spence, a veteran speaker of the house in the Delaware State Legislature. “As long as you vote the way the majority of the people in your district want, you can never be wrong. It just may be against your judgment.” “Jerry was born to be a politician,” Spence said, citing “his personality, his family values, his attitude and his willingness to help anyone.” Spence was a Republican, and so was Clifton then, even serving on the state committee. He’s now a Democrat because “what I feel is more important is better represented by Democrats.” City council, though, is nonpartisan. Clifton and his wife, Linda, a University of Delaware retiree, have four children and nine grandchildren. Jason is a political observer in Manhattan, and his father expects him someday to serve in government. Daughters Jennifer and Beth live in New Castle County. Son Wesley lives in a special-needs group home in Newark. Wesley make his father realize “how much more government could be doing for special-needs population, in terms of shelter and workshops.” Clifton, who attends Catholic services at St. Thomas More Oratory, then paraphrased Mathew 25:40: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The city’s biggest issues “Jerry gives the city 110 percent,” said Newark resident Continued on Page 56 54

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Above: Jayme Gravell photo courtesy of the City of Newark

At a Black Lives Matter march. Right: Courtesy of Rob Walters

Cutting the ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the end of construction on Main Street. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


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Mayor Jerry Clifton Continued from Page 54

Rob Walters, adding that Clifton is both a friend and a client of Worldwide Travel, his travel agency in Avondale. “He’s dedicated, committed and fair. And he always puts the health and welfare of our residents and businesses first.” When asked about the city’s biggest issues, Clifton first cited the budget of about $97 million to $98 million, which, like so many things, has been torn asunder by the coronavirus. He feels the solution is tapping into the city’s $24 million in reserves, rather than considering higher taxes that unemployed and under-employed residents cannot afford. He was much more interested in talking about quality of life and “ties that bind” small communities and eventually his city of 33,000. He ticked off the picnics and parades, the Easter egg hunts and other holiday events that build such ties. And then he expressed regret that the pandemic has forced the cancellation of so many events. He expressed concern about the inefficiency of Unicity bus routes, which is one of the ways that he espouses for enabling residents to live car-free. Walkability scores vary widely across the city’s 9 square miles, according to Some random addresses generated a high of 85 out of 100 for walking and a low of 6, with City Hall itself at 62. He wants his legacy to be in diversity. “Not just in government, but how we do business and to make this a more diverse place. Newark, according to U.S. Census analysis of race, is 78% white, 9% Black and 8% Asian. Other key stats: 12% are foreign-born; 7% have Hispanic origin; 4% have a disability; 25% live in poverty; and 53% of those 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some stats, like that one about education, are skewed by being the location of the main University of Delaware campus. The city and the university have a complex Continued on Page 58

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Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Shelby Scheels photo courtesy of the City of Newark

At the city Parks and Rec Egg Hunt.



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Mayor Jerry Clifton Continued from Page 56

relationship, and Clifton is encouraged by “better than ever communication between them. The University supports our initiatives, and we’re supporting theirs. And the real winners are the residents of Newark.” The city and university students have a complex relationship as well. Clifton expects the character of the city to change with the private sector building upscale apartments that students and their families increasingly want. As for the students, he wants them to know “Newark loves you. We welcome you.” But citing the 2019 Unruly Gathering audience, “bad behavior is not tolerated.” The interview ended with a question about how Clifton wanted to be remembered. A park like the one named for Mayor Norma Handloff? A street, like Elwood Roy Way, named for a community leader? A building, like so many on the UD campus? A trail, like the one named for parks and recreation director James F. Hall? A statue? “History has to be the final judge,” he said. “I hope that history is kind. Whatever some future council decided to do would be quite nice. Darn sure I would never want a statue.” Courtesy of Rob Walters With friend Rob Walters.

Courtesy of Rob Walters

His latest birthday, complete with cake and a candle. 58

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 | | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


|Newark Life Business|

3 of a fun kind Monthly subscription boxes from Newark company surprise and enchant fans of cryptozoology, 3D printing and dice

All photos courtesy of Matt Gorton

For one recent delivery, Matt Gorton’s mask featured Champ, a legendary creature from Lake Champlain.

By Ken Mammarella Contributing Writer


f you’re interested in cryptozoology, 3D printing and dice, there’s only one place in the world, according to Google, that delivers on all three, and that’s an unassuming Newark fulfillment center. Each month, Matt Gorton and Mike Oreszczyn each month send out interesting things to people interested in all three subjects. “We’re a bunch of nerds,” they write on one of their websites. “Just. Like. You.” It all began in 2013 when Gorton started a 3D printing company in his Hockessin basement called Printed Solid. He expanded it into a full-time business in 2016 with an 60

Newark Life | Fall/Winter 2020 |

Ogletown Road store. Oreszczyn came in to buy a printer and started working for Gorton to pay it off. Maker Box, which sends out monthly packages of 3D printing filaments to subscribers, was founded in 2016 by college students Nick Moretto and Kevin Naughton. Printed Solid bought it in 2018, and Gorton sold the store in 2019 but kept the box. In 2019, Gorton and Oreszczyn created Pips Mountain for dice, and in 2020 they bought Cryptid Crate. “A cryptid is an animal that has yet to be recognized by the scientific community, i.e. Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Mothman, Jersey Devil, Nessie, UFOs, aliens, ghosts and many more,” they explain. “It’s really exciting to see something that I started in my basement become global,” Gorton said.

A sample of their Pips Mountain box, for fans of dice.

They began Pips Mountain in 2019.

Some items have crossover appeal, like these dice featuring cryptids.

They used a 3D printer to create this tray for sorting dice. | Fall/Winter 2020 | Newark Life


3 of a fun kind Continued from Page 60

“All these wild things that people would not buy on their own,” Oreszczyn said. Every month The ancestor of subscription boxes is the Book of the Month Club, which in 1926 started sending the same book every month out to every subscriber. It quickly got competition from the Literary Guild. The idea spread to other products, like Harry and David’s Fruit of the Month in 1938. And in the early 2010s, Birchbox became famous with a selection of beauty products. Ditto for the Dollar Shave Club and shaving and BlueApron and cooking. Mostly, subscription boxes select samples in their sector, which is called curation. Subscribers can enjoy the variety or buy more of their favorites. In 2018, Ashwin Ramasamy, founder of an e-commerce analytics company called PipeCandy, estimated there were 7,000 subscription boxes, mostly in the U.S. That’s enough to support a trade association and multiple conventions, conferences and events, but it is very tiny in the grand scheme of retail. “Subscription commerce companies focus on products and services that are supposed to satiate the

They bought Cryptid Crate in 2020.

craving for experiences and a sense of well-being,” he concluded in a post on Gorton grew up in New York, started working for W.L. Gore as an engineer in Arizona and moved to Delaware to be closer to family. Oreszczyn was born in New York City, moved to Delaware when he was three months old and moved multiple times, in and out of Delaware. “Somehow I keep ending back in Delaware,” he said. He lives in Edgemoor and works for a printing company. Working in their free time, they’ve shipped 40,000 subscription boxes, costing $17 to $40 a month. That’s lot of 3D printing material, swag, clothing, stickers, books, décor, figurines, dice and candy. Maker Box was the first 3D subscription box, Gorton said, but now faces many competitors. There are lots of dice boxes, too, but their Cryptid Crate is the only one featuring cryptozoology and the paranormal. They’re online at for Maker Box, with links to the other two;; and cryptid-crate. Each site has Facebook and Instagram pages. Inside the Maker Box The most popular boxes of Gorton and Oreszczyn’s boxes are the Maker Boxes for 3D hobbyists – about 1,300 a month. Some components are basic 3D materials like PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Continued on Page 64


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3 of a fun kind Continued from Page 62

Some are costly materials, like filaments filled with bronze, glow-in-the-dark stuff and sparkles. Some are just “my favorite filament of the month,” Gorton told Joel Telling, the 3D Printing Nerd, in a Facebook video called “How a Maker Box Is Made at Printed Solid.” Examples include marble, wood-fill and Proto Pasta Glitter Flake. They break big spools of filaments into samples running about 16.5 meters that buyers can try out with their instructions on the optimal speed and temperature for the printer. The boxes might have manufacturers’ discounts on larger orders that could cover the cost of the box, Gorton said in the video. Maker Box’s Basic plan includes four samples from four manufacturers. The Easy plan includes four colors from the same manufacturer. And the Everything plan combines them both. “It is very much worth the few bucks just to see and try the different types of filament,” Bryan Fox wrote in a review on the site that echoes the business model. Continued on Page 66

A sample of their Cryptid Crate, for fans of the paranormal.

It’s a monthly ritual for Matt Gorton and Mike Oreszczyn to post of photo of their packed boxes on social media for their Maker Box subscribers. 64

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3 of a fun kind Continued from Page 64

Inside Cryptid Crate For Cryptid Crate, they generally pick a monthly theme and allow creativity to run rampant with collectibles, clothing, books, films and other themed items. Boxes have included masks, socks, pennants, umbrellas and dice, all with creature features. One of the odder items among all these odd items was a Emergency Bigfoot Noisemaker, allegedly featuring the Northwest monster howling, snorting, roaring and groaning. “You know, all the noises Bigfoot is known for,� the site says. They sell two Cryptid Crates: the Original and Lite (about half the contents). “It’s always a fun mix of interesting items,� Sarah B wrote on the site. “It’s one of the few things I look forward to anymore.� They’ve grown the cryptozoology business to about 350 subscribers, which gives them enough scale to commission exclusive content, including coins, figurines and books. The commissioned books are all fiction, they said. How many facts are there in cryptozoology anyway? More than you think: There are 200 pages of encounters in “Beyond The Fray: Paramalgamation,� part of the September box.

3D printed cookie cutters of the Fresno Nightcrawler for one of the Cryptid Crate.

Like the stars of “The X-Files,� they diverge on their beliefs in cryptozoology. “As an engineer, I know that many are well-documented not to be real,� Gorton said. “I’m more Mulder,� Oreszczyn said. “I tend to have an overactive imagination.� Continued on Page 68


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3 of a fun kind Continued from Page 66

Inside Pips Mountain Pips Mountain has about 20 subscribers, and they’re grabbing attention in a crowded space by producing the boxes like an Advent calendar, with instructions to open only one paper pouch a day. It’s a nice idea, but “a lot of customers don’t have the patience,� Oreszczyn said, with their unboxing photos showing they couldn’t resist that gratification of seeing their latest acquisitions. To most people, dice have six sides, but “normal� sets for gamers (and Oreszczyn was using air quotes here) have seven polyhedral dice: four sides, six sides, eight sides, 10 sides, percentile (10 sides with percentages on them), 12 sides and 20 sides. They promise a matching set in each box and there won’t be “any boring, white opaque dice. All the dice will be pretty. Pip insists on only shiny math rocks. So expect: marble, translucent glitter, pearl swirl, opalescence, galaxy, jade, layered, iridescent, luminous, snowglobe, vampire, etc.� “I love dice,� Oreszczyn said, “but dice hate me.� By that, he means he’s known to roll poorly. He’s been a fan of role playing games since the early 1980s, with his well-worn dice

September’s Cryptid Crate.

to show for it. He also used to sell custom dice. “I always have dice near me. Dice in my car. Dice in my pockets.� Just not at the time of the interview. No dice.



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