NJPAC, Nation’s “Most Glamorous Theater”

Exploring NJPAC’s beginnings, impact on the community, global reputation (described by renowned critics as one of the “world’s greatest concert halls” and “the nation’s most glamorous theater”) and ambitions for growth.

njpac-exterior-photo-credit-estoI met with Jeff Norman and Josh Balber to talk about what one might still consider to be Newark’s best kept secret: the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
“Pffft,” you say, “I’ve heard of NJPAC before.“  But, did you know that the center that has drawn over six million people to Newark since its open in 1997?  Did you know that the Center counts Yo-Yo Ma, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater among its performances?  Or that deeply embedded into the DNA of the Performing Arts Center is a desire to catalyze the city’s renewal?

Or even that the Center’s Prudential Hall has been described by renowned critics as one of the “world’s greatest concert halls” and “the nation’s most glamorous theater”?


Jeff and Josh were kind enough to share some of the details about how the NJPAC was conceived and built by Lawrence Goldman, the Center’s arts programs and its ambitions for growth.



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Further Reading

Mary B Photography: Branch Brook Park, Newark

Mary B Photography: Branch Brook Park, Newark
Some great photos of Branch Brook Park by photographer Mary B.

Recently I was out scouting a location for a photo shoot in Newark. I was set to shoot a family in Branch Brook Park the next day, so I needed to find a good location. I had not spent much time in the park previously or taken a tour of it.

My only time spent in Branch Park had been limited to Cherry Blossom season in April when I take my camera out to capture the amazing blossoms on the cherry trees. So, I hopped in my car to drive the length of the park in search of the perfect location for a Sunday afternoon shoot.

Newark USA: Gallery Aferro Shows

Gallery Aferro Shows
Craig at Newark USA photoblogs a visit to Gallery Aferro, here in Newark. Aferro has three shows going on right now, which opened on April 19: Theory and Practice, If So, Then So!, and Networked. Definitely worth a look.

For more information, check out Aferro’s site, Gallery Aferro: Current Exhibitions.

In Pictures: The Newark Arts Festival

The Newark Arts Festival took place last weekend. We headed over after walking through the Portugal Day festival across town in the Ironbound.
The atmosphere was not surprisingly (but nonetheless jarringly) cool and casual compared to the raucous outdoor club scene on Ferry Street. My wife and I walked across from the Washington Street station on the Newark Light Rail — the first time I’d walked through Washington Park. Jazz wafted through the air as we approached 27 Mix, the new arts-oriented bar and restaurant in what’s become known as “Halsey Village.”

Across the street stood the worn Hahne & Company building. The building once housed one of Newark’s first and largest department stores from Newark’s days as a shopping destination, a cornerstone of this neighborhood.

Hahne & Company Building

We continued walking to the end of the block at the Newark Art Supply store at New Street and turned left. What used to be the loading dock for Hahne’s had been converted to a fringe stage and an outdoor gallery by the artists at Redsaw. We walked through the gallery taking in the works, some of which were constructed from old TV tubes, and stopped briefly at the booth there — the artists, caught up in their own discussion, didn’t offer much conversation. 🙂

Redsaw Gallery

Fringe Stage

TV Tube Piece

Coming back along Halsey, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that a mural was being painted along the Hahne building street-level façade.

Painting the Hahne Mural


A parking lot on the other side of the building hosted a number of booths and the main stage for the arts festival. On the face of it — we were there in the mid-afternoon — it looked as though the festival was underattended. There seemed to be a lot more people attending the booths than were walking around the festival, and the empty space seemed to soak up the energy that should have been at this event.

Festival Grounds

Watching Carefully

Work in Progress

We did manage to get the attention of an artist at the Aljira gallery, clad in a bright orange t-shirt which said “We Newark”. We spoke at length and traded stories about how we came to the city after he’d asked if we were newcomers. 🙂 Before parting company, he mentioned to us that he views artwork every week on Friday, to “keep myself sane in these trying times.” Good advice.

We Heart Newark

We’re experimenting with a new Photo Gallery feature on the blog. It needs some love, but you can see all the (good) photos we took at the Newark Arts Festival.

Got some photos or stories from the festival that you’d like to share on the blog? Give us a shout.

Update: Craig at Newark USA is sharing photos of the event from Newark History buff Jeff Bennett at his blog.

Flickr Friday: Mounted Patrol

This week’s Flickr Friday photo comes again from Flickr user Nudnik N Da Hood. This photo features a mounted Newark policeman and his horse. The mounted patrol, which was once disbanded in the late ’70s due to department-wide layoffs, was reinstated in 1989 to patrol downtown Newark.

Mounted Patrol

Jeff Bennett, owner of Newarkology — a site focused on stories of Newark history and tours of the city — was kind enough to do some legwork and find some information about the NPD mounted patrol. Below is a reprinted article from the Newark Star Ledger that chronicles the return of the mounted patrol to the city.

These guys are all over the Ironbound on the weekends — we’ll have to get some better photos soon. 🙂

Newark Police Back in Saddle Mounted Patrols Downtown — February 21, 1989

The return of mounted police to the state’s largest city has reassured security-conscious residents and businesses with a heightened presence downtown, officials say.

“Everybody likes to see a horse,” said Lt. Pasquale Favata, the commander of the city’s seven-horse mounted unit. “You feel more secure with a horse because you have high visibility. “
An urban enterprise grant of $350,000 allowed the Police Department to reinstate the patrols in August after a hiatus of over 10 years, said Pam Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Sharpe James. The units ride in a 2-square-mile area downtown from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But the day begins at 7 a.m., when officers groom their mounts and prepare the animals, which usually stand 15 or 16 hands high slightly more than five feet. Favata said officers become very attached to the horses and even come in on their days off to care for them.

The duty, however, is not a ride in the park.

Officers spend much of their time citing parking violators, but they also have thwarted purse snatchers and muggers, said police Director Claude Coleman.

Managing a horse through streets congested with automobile traffic and blaring noise can pose problems for even experienced riders, Coleman said.

One rider fell off his horse while ticketing a car because an approaching bus startled the animal, Coleman said.

“The officer was OK, but he doesn’t ride anymore,” Coleman said.

Each horse costs the department an average of $1,200, Favata said. He buys the horses at auctions with an option to return the animal within 30 days if it does not become acclimated to the duty.

Officers usually can determine within two to three weeks if the horses will adjust, he said.

When a horse is deemed fit, it can provide several advantages not enjoyed by an officer in a car or on foot.

Officers can more easily spot criminals in a crowd and can maneuver better than a patrol car, police say, adding that residents and business people feel more secure with a mounted officer.

“A number of people, for one reason or other, feel it’s not safe to come into Newark,” Coleman said. “But people seem to feel more secure with the horses around. “

Goldstein said the mayor considers the program a success, though there are no plans to expand it.

Not every New Jersey municipality has managed to keep a mounted police unit. Newark’s original unit disbanded in 1978 as part of department-wide layoffs.

The horses in Newark’s unit do not go out when the temperature dips below 20 degrees, partly because it is uncomfortable for the rider, Favata said. Horses also remain in their home a renovated garage about a block away from City Hall when the temperature tops 90 degrees.

Nationwide, horses in mounted police units fare well compared with their counterparts in city work carriage horses, said Robert Baker, a field investigator in Washington for the Humane Society of the United States.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO – Police officers patrolling downtown Newark last week. After a decade’s absence, mounted patrols have returned to the city.

Copyright 1989 Bergen Record Corp.

Flickr Friday: Essex County Courthouse

This week’s Flickr Friday photo comes from Flickr user Nudnik N Da Hood. This photo features the historic Essex County Courthouse and the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln. The courthouse was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert (who also designed the United States Supreme Court Building) and was dedicated in 1907.

Essex County Courthouse

To find out more about the Essex County Courthouse, check out the Essex County Bar Association: The Historic Essex County Courthouse which includes photos from the recently-completed restoration project. More about Cass Gilbert’s work can be found on his Wikipedia page.

Flickr Friday: Popular Tag

Today’s Flickr Friday photo comes from Flickr user t3h_sw3d3, whose photo of the Industrial sunset we featured a few weeks back. This photo was taken at the Maas & Waldstein complex in Newark.

Popular Tag

Here’s hoping that, as Booker’s administration starts to curb crime in the city, that rampant graffiti in the city will start to become a thing of the past.