What’s happening at the Arts Center? So much! 

This is your source of news about your home for performances, arts training, free community events, well-being initiatives and more. Stay in-the-know with Arts Center happenings and NJPAC in the news.

The view from box b: building a new neighborhood

Last month, NJPAC got some very good news.

At its February Board meeting, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded NJPAC almost $200 million in Aspire Program tax credits to support the construction of the residential, retail, educational and cultural projects that make up NJPAC’s long-planned campus-wide redevelopment.

This award is unprecedented in the Arts Center’s history. It is the largest award of financial support that NJPAC has ever received, exceeding even the state support given to construct the Arts Center building itself and the $33 million we received from the NJEDA to build One Theater Square in 2012.

After years of planning, with this award turbocharging our efforts, construction on the first of those projects will commence … next week!

The award itself is wonderful, but what it means is even better: A generation after the Arts Center opened, we will make the ambitious vision of our founders a brick-and-steel reality.

Because those founders – former Governor Tom Kean, Ray Chambers, former Mayor Sharpe James and Larry Goldman – never saw NJPAC as just a theater.

Instead, they saw us as the cornerstone of an entire arts district. That’s why they intentionally secured 12 acres for the Arts Center to sit on, even though our current building only takes up about five.

And that neighborhood is what we start building on April 1, an effort that will continue in phases with move-ins expected by first quarter 2027. We will transform the campus surrounding NJPAC’s theaters into a whole new walkable and liveable Newark destination, filled not only with apartment buildings and townhouses for downtown residents to live in, but with restaurants, shops and cultural spaces that will draw visitors into the city, as well as a new park, a new arts education and community center, even a new headquarters for one of Newark’s longest-lived cultural institutions, WBGO, the nation’s premier jazz public radio station.

That NJEDA award is the final piece of the puzzle that will make this next phase of the redevelopment of the Arts Center’s campus, a $336 million proposition, possible.

We’ve been planning and working towards this moment for more than six years.

And now, in just a few days, the work begins. The first element of construction will be the re-architecting of our front yard, Chambers Plaza, into a four-season urban park, where concerts, markets and more can be held all year round.

The next time you come to see a show here, you’ll notice new fencing, construction equipment — and a palpable sense of excitement in the air.

While NJPAC gets ready for its close-up, you’ll notice some changes on our campus. As work on Chambers Plaza begins next week, you’ll see fencing and equipment on the campus.

The Arts Center’s box office, Parking Lot A and NICO Kitchen + Bar will all remain open throughout this phase of construction. (The Arrival Court parking area will be closed.)

And never fear: The Horizon Sounds of the City concert series will still take place this summer, launching on June 27 with Felix Hernandez and his Rhythm Revue Dance Party.


One of the reasons getting to this point has been such a long process is that all of us at the Arts Center were committed to ensuring that NJPAC’s campus would not simply become an apartment complex. We engaged in what’s called creative placemaking — the practice of creating spaces where art and human interaction are centered.

Our goal was never to wring every dollar out of every inch of the land our theaters stand on; rather, we wanted to make the space as beautiful and as useful to our community as it could be.

Ommeed Sathe, who led social investments at Prudential Financial, first had the idea of masterplanning our campus, creating a road map to ensure that the Arts Center was surrounded by an arts-infused, human-scaled, dense and lively urban neighborhood. With Prudential’s help, we began working years ago with RePLACE Urban Studio, a holistic city planning firm, to create a blueprint for the entirety of our campus. And in 2018, we launched NJPAC’s third Capital Campaign, to raise funds for the Arts Center’s future, 25 years after opening, including dollars required to underwrite elements of the campus redevelopment.

As of last month, our Campaign is complete: It has now raised more than $244 million to set NJPAC on a path to an extraordinary future.

I’m enormously grateful to the donors and supporters who embraced our vision of what this Arts Center could become, and the many partners — architectural firms, developers, city, state and federal officials and community groups — who helped us refine that vision.

Here’s what our campus will look like in 2027 when this redevelopment is complete: On what is now Parking Lot A, along a new pedestrian-friendly extension of Mulberry Street, we’ll have ArtSide, a new mixed-use development that includes 350 residential apartments and townhomes. (20 percent of the units will be affordable.)

The ArtSide project, which will include high-rise and low-rise buildings with shops, restaurants, cultural venues and WBGO’s new home, is a joint effort between NJPAC and developers including LMXD and Sirree Morris, and Prudential Impact & Responsible Investments. Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), the celebrated architecture firm, is designing this new Newark neighborhood.

Across the street on Parking Lot C, we will build the Cooperman Family Arts Education and Community Center, designed by the renowned architectural firm of Weiss/Manfredi.

The Cooperman Center will not only be a purpose-built home for our Arts Education programs for kids, teens and teachers — and a home base for our Community Engagement and Arts & Well-Being work — it will be a facility that expands what we can teach. The Center’s programmatic activities will include offerings for everyone from senior citizens to toddlers and their caregivers. High-tech classrooms will enable us to offer virtual and hybrid classes. We’ll be able to teach technical theater skills like light and sound design, in a new theater “lab” with a walkable tension-wire grid above its performance space, offering Newark’s young people a new way to find careers in the entertainment industry.

The Cooperman Center will also be a place where community groups can meet and rehearse; a space-grant program will let them use our classrooms whenever a class is not in session.

Just as exciting: The Cooperman Center will have a full floor of professional rehearsal rooms where professional artists and production companies can create, refine and rehearse performances, bringing our students into contact with performing artists of all stripes.

And our front yard, Chambers Plaza, will undergo a makeover, outfitting it with everything from new lighting, new seating areas, a rain garden — and the addition of a new space we’ve named the Essex County Green, in recognition of a grant from Essex County that will help us create it.

When it’s finished, the Arts Center’s plaza will be transformed into an urban park that not only invites our neighbors and visitors to linger in the outdoors, but that can host outdoor events in every season.

And finally, we’ll be renovating our main building for the first time in more than 25 years, creating a new East Wing facade and entryway facing the extended Mulberry Street.

NJPAC will look, and feel, very different in three years: It will be a place with almost a thousand new neighbors; a place where students, community members and artists come and go from the Cooperman Center all day, every day; a place where visitors flow into restaurants and shops on weekdays and weekends alike.

But all of this is in service to what has always been our mission: To make the arts accessible to everyone in our community, and to use the arts to do as much good for our community as we possibly can. I can’t wait to see this iteration of the Arts Center. I can’t wait for you to see it, too.

All of this has been a long time coming, and as we expected, the road to breaking ground on this project has been winding and frequently an uphill climb. But we’re just about there now.

There’s a song that Sammy Davis Jr. used to sing called “Gonna Build a Mountain.” Its lyrics talk about the stick-to-it-iveness that all of us need to get from here to there everyday.

Take a listen — this tune tells me that a good idea and perseverance can make anything possible.

With gratitude and high hopes,

John Schreiber


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The view from box b: Philip Thomas’ Impact

Did you know NJPAC presents more than 280 free events every year? 

Did you know theater can be therapy?

Did you know that 20% of NJPAC’s operating budget comes from the support of our Members?

The view from box b: Philip Thomas’ Impact

When this Arts Center was in its infancy — before its stages were built, even before anyone had put a shovel in the ground — there was already an Arts Education department at NJPAC.

We sent artists into public school classrooms, staged family performances and offered teachers resources for bringing the arts into their classrooms, all years before we sold a single ticket.

That we did so was one of the gifts given to this organization by one man: Philip Thomas, the Arts Center’s founding Vice President of Arts Education. After stints working with the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Philip joined NJPAC in 1992 — a full five years before our doors opened.

Like everyone who had a hand in shaping the Arts Center into what it is today, Philip had big ambitions for this place. Before our opening night, he’d created programs that put National Dance Institute classes into schools in Essex and Union counties, arranged a series of workshops at community organizations where members of the renown a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock sang with children, and launched the Arts Basic to the Curriculum Conference — an arts integration conference for teachers, held on multiple Newark college campuses.

He hit the ground running, and never let up.

“Our goal from the outset was to build partnerships with schools, with school districts, with community based organizations all across the state,” he told me when he came back to Newark recently for a visit. And that determination has shaped our arts education efforts ever since.

So many of the programs that NJPAC still proudly presents today, from our SchoolTime performances for school children to our annual Kwanzaa Family Festival, were first implemented by Philip.

But in November, when our campus is filled with the sounds of jazz all month long during the TD James Moody Jazz Festival, it’s hard not to think that the crown jewel of Philip’s years of work here was his foresight in establishing what is to this day our signature Arts Education program: TD Jazz for Teens. This year-long Saturday arts training program offers young jazz vocalists and instrumentalists, ages 12 to 18, an unequaled opportunity to hone their skills — and to play with a cohort of talented peers. (By the way, if you know a talented teen: Registration for the spring semester is now open; audition tapes are due by Dec. 9. Learn more here.)

Philip came back to our campus this past spring, when TD Jazz for Teens held its 25th annual spring concert for its graduating students — always a wonderful celebration, but this year also a reunion of sorts for those who established the program, including Philip, our inaugural program director, the great bassist Rufus Reid, and saxophonist Don Braden, who directed the program in later years.

Philip recruited Rufus to design this program during NJPAC’s first season — and persuading a performer of his caliber to create our curriculum instantly set the program apart.

“I was adamant that if we did it, we had to do it a certain way,” said Rufus, who has now retired from teaching, but still tours and records. That included making sure that everyone on the faculty was a working professional artist.

“All the teachers can play. They are in the trenches, making music by touring and gigging. To me, that’s why the program has been successful,” he said.

In addition to multiple-GRAMMY®-winning alto sax player and jazz composer Mark Gross, TD Jazz for Teens’ current Director of Jazz Instruction, the program’s faculty today includes a roster of more than a dozen working jazz musicians including GRAMMY®-nominated artists saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and guitarist Alex Wintz (himself an alum of the program) as well as celebrated percussionist Alvester Garnett and acclaimed, Russian-born trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, a member of The Jazz Messengers. Even more bold-faced names, including eight-time GRAMMY®-winning bassist Christian McBride, the Arts Center’s Jazz Advisor, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and MacArthur “Genius” fellow and Doris Duke Artist Award winner Regina Carter offer master classes, working directly with students.

Teens studying percussion, guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, piano and other instruments, as well as jazz vocal performance, are invited into the program via audition. Throughout the school year, they fill the Center for Arts Education on the NJPAC campus every Saturday, turning its hallways into a festival of sound, with beats and melodies spilling out of every doorway. Although the program is not free, scholarship assistance keeps it accessible to talented students regardless of their financial circumstances. Any interested student is welcome, regardless of means.

Critically, our students also perform publicly together, both at semester-ending concerts and at events throughout the year, both on and off NJPAC’s campus. All students record their own compositions together in a studio setting, an annual highlight of the program.

Music has taken the program’s alumni far: Percussionist and composer Tyshawn Sorey, a MacArthur “Genius” grant winner, was among the program’s first students. Guitarist Alex Wintz, now a TD Jazz for Teens teaching artist, got his first GRAMMY® nomination for his work with the Terraza Big Band. Vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan performs around the country.

“There are a bunch of students I have taught here who’ve gotten scholarships to go on to Berklee or NYU or the Manhattan School of Music, major conservatories. I started teaching here 10 years ago now and I’m seeing quite a few of my earlier students out in the New York City jazz scene working professionally,” noted Wintz.

“But I think there are some of my students who just want music to be part of their life forever, even if not professionally. They understand that music can bring a lot of light into your life.”

Gross echoed that thought. “Whether they go to a higher-ed program or not, whether they play professionally or not, we want to give them a love of music, and through that, a sense of what life is about,” he said.

We can’t thank Philip enough for bringing that light, that love, to so many of our students for so many years.

All good wishes,

John Schreiber


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The view from box b: building a new neighborhood
Did you know NJPAC presents more than 280 free events every year? 
Did you know theater can be therapy?
Did you know that 20% of NJPAC’s operating budget comes from the support of our Members?

Did you know NJPAC presents more than 280 free events every year?

While the Arts Center already offers hundreds of free community performances in Greater Newark every year, NJPAC’s newest community engagement initiative, the ArtsXChange, is designed to begin the process of bringing NJPAC arts programming into all the neighborhoods of Newark.

The project kicked off this spring in the South Ward’s Clinton Hill area. There, the Arts Center is partnering with Clinton Hill Community Action to offer performances, workshops and celebrations in local parks, schools and community centers, with a focus on the talents of local artists.

(And we know that Newark has plenty of talent: Sarah Vaughan, Frankie Valli, George Clinton, Queen Latifah, Wayne Shorter and Michael B. Jordan all hail from Brick City!)

Born out of the feedback NJPAC received while planning the new Cooperman Family Arts Education and Community Center on our campus, the ArtsXChange program is our answer to the many Newarkers who told us that a community center downtown would be welcome — but that they also wanted Arts Center programming right in their own neighborhoods.

Before launching ArtsXChange, NJPAC’s Community Engagement team went on a listening tour, meeting with organizations in all the neighborhoods of Newark, to hear about what kind of arts programming would be most welcome in each corner of the city. Through these conversations, the Arts Center crafted a plan that would expand NJPAC’s calendar of free events by producing arts programming in equal partnership with community members and organizations. The South Ward program is the first of what is hoped will eventually be a city-wide network of such partnerships. 

ArtsXChange is unique because it is designed and informed by community residents and local artists who work with an NJPAC production team to mount events. These community events advance the Arts Center’s vision of featuring all of Newark’s talent, diversity, and creativity, in ways that make their performances and events most accessible to local audiences.

“ArtsXChange makes space and provides a platform for artists at every level,” says Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement Eyesha Marable. “We want to make room for their gifts and support them. Not just one time but everlastingly.”

The ArtsXChange with Clinton Hill Community Action in the South Ward launched in April with a kick-off performance featuring the Shabazz Dance Troupe, spoken word poet Mia X, a choir from the Belmont Runyon Elementary School (which hosted the performance), the hip hop collective The Other Side of Newark, and Mayor Baraka. After that spectacular start, at least two events have been held in the neighborhood each month. 

Among the events: In May, ArtsXChange produced a playwright’s workshop; as a result, one of the written pieces that came out of the workshop will be performed this August.

 “We are committed to creating consistent and predictable programming in the community that uplifts local up-and-coming and professional artists,” says Marable. 

Everyone is warmly welcomed to upcoming ArtsXchange events, including a festival of one-act plays in Mildred Helms Park on August 10 and a performance of local writer Pia Wilson’s play Eternal City, presented by the Yendor Theater Company, on August 24. Get all the details on upcoming ArtsXChange events here


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The view from box b: building a new neighborhood

The view from box b: Philip Thomas’ Impact

Did you know theater can be therapy?

Did you know that 20% of NJPAC’s operating budget comes from the support of our Members?

Did you know theater can be therapy?

A man in a black hoodie and black jeans stood center stage under a spotlight, most of his face hidden by a white paper mache mask.

“I had to shut down to survive,” he said, staring straight at the audience through holes in the mask. “The thing I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to open up again. How do you become human again?”

Although the story he told — of hiding all emotion while serving a years-long prison term, only allowing himself to feel when his infant daughter visited — was dramatic, the man was not an actor.

He was one of eight formerly incarcerated men who took part in Ritual4Return, a homecoming rite of passage program for those returning to the community after imprisonment. The program was offered at NJPAC in the fall, as part of the Arts Center’s Health Promotion Productions — a series of programs that use the arts to directly address mental and physical health issues.

Just one program of the first season of NJPAC’s new Arts & Well-Being initiative, the 14-week Ritual4Return program concluded in December with a deeply moving finale — a public performance in the Center for Arts Education’s black box theater.

“We’re not here to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. We’re here to bear witness,” Kevin Bott, Artistic Director of Ritual4Return, explained to an audience of community members and families of the performers.

“A ritual is something we do to bring meaning and purpose into our lives. A rite of passage is a particular kind of ritual, and it’s one of the oldest tools we have,” he said. The purpose of this devised theater ritual was to welcome the formerly incarcerated cast members back into the community and, through sharing and storytelling, excise the shame many of them experienced while imprisoned.

Bott, a Camden-born Rutgers University graduate, spent his life in the theater, starting with directing productions at community theaters as a teenager. The Ritual4Return program, which Bott created while studying theater as a graduate student at New York University, uses improvisation, mindfulness exercises, chanting, mask-making and storytelling to help participants overcome feelings of shame and isolation caused by incarceration.

The end result of those weeks of work is a ritual in which they tell the stories of how they were imprisoned and what they faced during their sentence. Drums, a variety of masks, stomping feet and call-and-response exchanges with the audience heightened the theatricality of the event, which Bott devised by incorporating elements of the rituals of multiple religions and cultures.

At the end of the show, the men remove their masks and are embraced by their families. (The man who could only feel when his baby daughter visited? He wrapped his daughter, now a young woman taller than him, in a bear hug as he took off his mask.)

“These men spent 213 years in the wilderness,” said Bott (referring to the cumulative time the men in the program had been incarcerated). “We need to say to them: We see you, we see the transition you’ve made. Welcome home.”

NJPAC will host another session of Ritual4Return, open to formerly incarcerated women, in spring 2024.


view more articles

The view from box b: building a new neighborhood

Did you know NJPAC presents more than 280 free events every year? 

The view from box b: Philip Thomas’ Impact

Did you know that 20% of NJPAC’s operating budget comes from the support of our Members?

Did you know that 20% of NJPAC’s operating budget comes from the support of our Members?

From teaching Newark’s kids to play music, to filling the city’s parks with performances – all of NJPAC’s work as a nonprofit is supported by our Members and Donors.

That’s why we offer our Members so much: Early access to tickets, discounts on performances, even reserved parking (at some levels) and 20% off at Newark restaurants like our own Nico Kitchen + Bar!

We need your support to continue to bring the arts to students, elders, and all of our Greater Newark community. We can’t do it without you.

Please, join us today!


view more articles

The view from box b: building a new neighborhood

Did you know NJPAC presents more than 280 free events every year? 

Did you know theater can be therapy?

The view from box b: Philip Thomas’ Impact

press releases



NJPAC has announced that construction on the redesign of Chambers Plaza — the outdoor space in front of the downtown Newark theater complex — began on April…


NJPAC and Rutgers University–Newark jointly launch Teaching Artist Certificate program

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The Festival Only Jersey Can Handle Is Back!

North to Shore, produced by NJPAC, returns this June with an expanded lineup of comedians,  musicians, artists, thought leaders, film screenings, panels, and more. 



The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation (Dodge Foundation) and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) announced plans for the 2024 Dodge Poetry initiative – a…


NJPAC’s Standing in Solidarity programming moves from the screen to a stage in 2024

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will reimagine its long-running social justice conversation series, Standing in Solidarity, as a series of in-person events in 2024. 


Charles F. Lowrey and Carmen Villar Elected NJPAC Board Co-Chairs

Charles F. Lowrey, Chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), and Carmen Villar, Vice President of Social Business Innovation for Merck & Co.,…


PHILIP ROTH UNBOUND: Illuminating a Literary Legacy

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), the anchor cultural institution for the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey, in collaboration with the…



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Tony Award winners including Aladdin and Hamilton star James Monroe Iglehart, Broadway’s Barnum, Jim Dale, and Broadway and recording star Debbie Gravitte, plus Tony nominee…


New Jersey Performing Arts Center Launches Colton Institute for Research and Training in the Arts

Made possible by $10 million in philanthropic support from Judy and Stewart Colton, The Colton Institute extends NJPAC’s commitment to advancing arts education December 3,…


NJPAC unveils next phase of transformative redevelopment masterplan for Newark campus

Arts Center and Center Street Owners to break ground on the new expansion of arts and education district in 2022 Exciting vision will create a…