New Jersey Performing Arts Center

New Jersey Performing Arts Center
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), in downtown Newark, New Jersey, United States, is the sixth largest performing arts center in the United States.[1] Home to the Grammy Award-winning New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), approximately 6 million visitors (including more than one million children) have visited the center since it opened in October 1997.

NJPAC has been an important component in revitalization of New Jersey's largest city.[2][3] Located just west of the Passaic River waterfront, the Center lies in the heart of the city's cultural district around Military Park and Washington Park that also include Newark Museum, New Jersey Historical Society, and the Newark Public Library. The Prudential Center is just to the south.

NJPAC offers several arts education programs, including arts training classes, scholarships, in-school residencies, professional development, and family and children's programming, allowing students, teachers and families to interact with professional artists and explore the various genres of music, theater, dance, poetry and more.


Performance halls and other facilities

  • Prudential Hall, a 2,750-seat hall arranged in four horseshoe-shaped tiers, with boxes and the orchestra seating.
  • Victoria Hall, a 514-seat smaller theater.
  • The Chase Room, is home to center's cabaret performance series, bi-annual hip hop festival, and spoken word series.
  • Horizon Theater, a 88-seat black box theater


The State of New Jersey decided to build a world class performing arts center in 1986, when then Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean appointed a committee to decide the location and the needs of New Jersey's performing arts organization. They chose Newark over other cities because of the density of the surrounding areas, proximity to New York City, highway and rail access to the site, and a location inside a dying city in need of revitalization. The last reason was considered especially important, since government authorities had long forsaken the city, becoming a ghetto for minorities in notorious housing projects. A major goal of the NJPAC was to help in revitalization of the city, bringing people back into blighted areas and provide jobs for local businesses.

The planning commission decided that the new center would directly integrated into the city, encouraged walking, and provided a plaza for the city. Previous redevelopment schemes in Newark had all involved skyways that connected all the main office buildings to Newark Penn Station above street level, further segregating the city. The master plan, executed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill consisted of plazas and pedestrian boulevards, joining major thoroughfares.

After a selection process, the board chose Barton Myers as the lead architect, based on his experience with theaters and his contextual buildings. They instructed him to build a complex that was the opposite of the Kennedy Center or Lincoln Center, and more like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Instead of a monument to the arts, Myers saw it as another part of the city tying it to residents and inviting them into it. He related the physical structure to the context by using brick, exposed steel, and glass as the materials, to reflect the industrial roots of Newark.

During the bidding process, NJPAC President & CEO Lawrence Goldman mandated that most of the construction jobs had to go to local minorities. The board of the company successfully implemented this program, suspending a contractor in 1995 for failing to do so. Some, however, questioned whether the $187-million-dollar project was really worth building, when there are so many social ills in the city, an aging infrastructure and a low median income.[citation needed]

Construction began in 1995 and was completed in 1997, receiving rave reviews by The New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp upon its opening.[4] The New Yorker has said that it houses one of the best modern concert halls on the Eastern Seaboard - handsome in appearance, warm in sound.[5]


Since opening, artists that have appeared on NJPAC's stages include the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Yo-Yo Ma; Julian Lloyd Webber; Bob Dylan, Diana Krall, Ballet Nacional de Cuba; Lauryn Hill, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Twyla Tharp Dance; Dance Theatre of Harlem; Israel Philharmonic; Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis; Berlin State Opera Orchestra; Royal Danish Ballet; Hilary Hahn; Bill T. Jones; Itzhak Perlman; the Vienna Choir Boys; Midori, Sarah Brightman; Sting; Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; Elvis Costello; the National Song & Dance Company of Mozambique; Don Henley; the Afro-Cuban All-Stars; Audra McDonald; the Buena Vista Social Club; Melissa Etheridge; the Czech Philharmonic; Bette Midler; The Chieftains; Herbie Hancock; Sweet Honey in the Rock, Garrison Keillor; Maurizio Pollini, Gewandhaus Orchestra; Balé Folclorico da Bahia; Peter, Paul & Mary; Bobby McFerrin and Savion Glover; Three Mo’ Tenors; Orchestre National de France; Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Art Garfunkel; Kodo Drummers; Cirque Eloize; Kirov Orchestra; Flying Karamazov Brothers; Dresden Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance; Johnny Mathis; and Evgeny Kissin.

NJPAC has also played host to tours of popular Broadway musicals such as Evita; The Sound of Music; Grease; Annie; Blast!; Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk; Fame; Fosse, Sunset Boulevard; Peter Pan; Movin’ Out; Les Misérables; The Full Monty; Fiddler on the Roof; Oklahoma; 42nd Street; The Producers; and Cats.

A regular season is presented by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. In 2010 the Center for the first time hosted the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.[6][7]

NJPAC has attracted over 6 million patrons (including 1 million children) since its October 18, 1997 Opening Night.

In 2011, a new director/CEO for the center, John Schreiber, replaced its founding director, Lawrence Goldman.[8]


NJPAC is collaborating on the development of One Theater Square, a mixed used skyscraper that will include market-rate apartments, affordable housing, retail space, and become the tallest building in Newark upon its completion.

Future plans including expansion across McCarter Highway to the Passaic River, opening up more of the waterfront and connecting it to Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium. Eventually the company will build two residential buildings for performers and condominiums, completing a boat-shaped plaza at the center.


Newark Light Rail service opened as July 17, 2006, at the NJPAC/Center Street station, connecting the site with Broad Street Station and Penn Station Newark.

See also


  1. ^ NJPAC achieves 180 million fundraising goal for nation's sixth largest performing arts center (retrieved November 18, 2009)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ The New Yorker, January 24, 2011
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links

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