Posted by West Orange Chronicle on June 6, 2012 at 9:52am
By David Jablonski, Managing Editor
The New Jersey Arts Incubator has entered into an agreement with the township of West Orange to begin presenting year-round programming at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center.
“We’re very excited,” said Carol Berman, executive and artistic director of the New Jersey Arts Incubator. “We’re very grateful for the Town Council for giving us this opportunity to work with West Orange. In the future, we might have a summer expo, multiple musical events and two-dimensional and three-dimensional art and wonderful art like that. We did just get the lease, so I’m hoping we can have a community opening by the end of June,” she added.
An agreement like this doesn’t just happen; it takes time, planning and hard work. It takes the dedication that Berman and Amy Simon, the chairwoman and founder of the New Jersey Arts Incubator, have displayed time and again. Indeed, one of the main reasons the New Jersey Arts Incubator was created was to serve as a link to all of the artistic endeavors which exist in the township of West Orange.
“The New Jersey Arts Incubator was created in West Orange to be an arts-based economic development tool for the community from the onset, while providing New Jersey artists a place and the tools where they could develop their arts based businesses, create and present the world class art that is indicative of our state,” explained Simon in a press release.
“Now, the New Jersey Arts Incubator is poised to fully embrace our core mission with this partnership with the township of West Orange at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center.”
The two organizations agreed to work together for the benefit of our residents, who will hopefully benefit from a full and varied schedule of programming at the facility, explained West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi in an email responding to questions sent to him by our newspaper.
“It’s a very exciting prospect to be able to give to a community like West Orange what they are looking for in the world of art,” said Berman.
With the direction of Berman, the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center will add additional artistic disciplines to the programming and work towards creating an all-weather, year round facility. “I am really excited to build upon the foundation created at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center to bring new and diverse programming to the facility.”
“Our plans include creating a facility that supports our mission, serves the New Jersey artist community and is a gathering place and events location for the residents of West Orange,” said Berman. “We will both present and produce theater, music, dance, gallery exhibits, classes, summer camp programs and more.”
But much of this can’t happen without community involvement and, for that, Berman is expecting the kind of positive feedback and interaction that have always been a selling point of West Orange.
“We’re looking for community members to join us in a community board so we can give the community what they want at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center,” said Berman. “We want to work with the school, the PTAs. We would love to work with our community to give out what it’s looking for in terms of art.”
Any undertaking such as this might seem prone to additional expense for residents, but Parisi explained, in his email response, that wasn’t so in this instance. “Neither receive direct funding from the township,” he said. “The township absorbs the maintenance cost of the facility, but the NJAI provides for all the operational costs, including their own insurance. When available, the township may partner with the NJAI in pursuing grant opportunities.”
“There are some amazing funding opportunities in the world,” added Berman. “We are always looking for community members to give us a direction. We would love to start a capital campaign, a fundraiser to expand our space.”
“We are all aware of the value of investing in the arts in our communities, not only as a way to engage our residents but also as a way to bolster the economic realities of our small businesses,” said Parisi in a press release. “Creating this partnership at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center with the New Jersey Arts Incubator, one of our established West Orange Arts organizations, is a great opportunity for our community.”
Although art is clearly the focus of this partnership, there will be other advantages for the community. Simon was quick to point out that the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center is a wonderful place for the people to spend time and get back to nature.
“In addition to the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center amphitheater building and grounds, there are five additional acres of open space that abut the property which we hope to help the township utilize for art and environmental use, creating an 8+ acre art park for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Simon in a press release.
“We will also be opening up the space for youths,” said Berman. “It’s such a wonderful location. We have a beautiful lake called Crystal Lake. There are five acres in the back that, with funding and community support, we could create an art park or a sculpture garden or just make it a full year-round place to be.”
A trail around the lake already exists and is maintained as part of our recreational facilities, confirmed Parisi in his email. “The township maintains the property and will continue to.”
“We clearly want to … make this performing arts center a wonderful year-round facility,” Berman added. “It’s so beautiful back there. I want the community to be able to walk around the lake and be in nature.”
Such events will attract visitors to the township but, although the township often promotes the many important organizations by proving programs to our residents, we do not directly advertise for any of them, explained the mayor.
“The arts world is one that works best when we work in terms of working together with others,” said Berman. “That is why I’m so excited to work with other communities and agencies. We absolutely would love to speak with South Orange, Maplewood, Millburn, Verona and other neighboring towns.”
And while other towns and residents from neighboring communities might get involved with the New Jersey Arts Incubator, in the end, conformed the mayor, they will be the ones running the events. “The NJAI will develop programming, organize and run the event within the parameters of the agreement,” said Parisi.
Berman is looking forward to some wonderful presentations and performances outdoors and appreciates the support local businesses, the town government and residents have already given.
“The Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Arts Incubator and the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center have always had a view for outdoor music,” she explained. “We have lots of agencies and community support for outdoor festivals and plays and musicals.”
Even now, planning is under way for some exciting upcoming events, insists Berman. “On June 16, we’ll be having our first outdoor Cafe Zed, with an open mic, so everyone can come and bring chairs and join us.”