History

17 years. Nearly 8 million patrons. 1 million children. 2,600 artists. Plus 2 U.S. Presidents and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

NJPAC started in 1986 as just a grand plan, a belief voiced by then-Governor Thomas H. Kean that New Jersey deserved its own world-class performing arts center. Ultimately it was decided there was no better place for a Jersey arts center to take root than in Downtown Newark; a building that would not only host the world’s greatest performers, but also act as the catalyst for revitalizing the state’s largest city.

After critical public sector support and an unprecedented wave of philanthropy from individuals, corporations and foundations, NJPAC broke ground in 1993 on the site of the former Military Park Hotel. Architect Barton Myers designed the building, with Newark’s industrial heritage as inspiration. A momentous opening celebration on October 18, 1997 included the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Tango X2, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Chita Rivera, Savion Glover and American Ballet Theatre. The performance later aired on PBS’ Great Performances.

Since opening night, NJPAC has attracted nearly 8 million visitors and reached more than a million Newark and New Jersey children with innovative arts education programs. The free outdoor Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City concert series has brought thousands out to downtown Newark every week in the summertime. NJPAC hosted visits from two U.S. Presidents and the Dalai Lama, was home to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and provided the backdrop for several feature films, television shows and the blockbuster hit TV competition, America’s Got Talent.

Today NJPAC is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey—where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day.

Our story

Some called the plan to build NJPAC audacious. Here’s how we made it happen.

Archive

A look back: NJPAC in the headlines.

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