New Year’s Eve:

Corrections or additions?

This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

dated Wednesday, December 23, 1998.

Out with the Old Including the Building

As 1998 rumbles to a close next week, and community

members stream gratefully out of their homes to celebrate, the Arts

Council of Princeton will once again be the focus of the fun. In the

streets and at 10 sites around town, Curtain Calls, the annual New

Year’s Eve family-oriented, alcohol-free strolling party will be in

full swing. For the price of a button, revelers can attend all the

music, storytelling, humor, dance, juggling, and magic they can take.

At 11:45 p.m., Times Square comes to Princeton with a grand finale

and countdown to 1999 in front of the Arts Council building.

For the past 15 years, the Arts Council has operated out of a modest,

now outdated building at 102 Witherspoon Street. Here it has faced

challenges of inclusion, both of its ethnically diverse neighborhood

and the limitations of its 1939 WPA building. The new year — and

the new millennium — bring the promise of a sparkling new facility

that should become a magnet for all.

Now the poor stepchild of such venerable halls as Richardson

Auditorium

and McCarter Theater, the Arts Council is emerging like an eager new

kid on the block, with jazzy plans to renovate and expand its downtown

arts center donated by international architecture superstar Michael

Graves. The eye-catching structure, a dramatic beacon set on the

corner

of Witherspoon and Paul Robeson Place, is a geometrical puzzle

featuring

a 12-sided pavilion, three triangular rooflines, his landmark

four-square

windows, and a striped brick treatment. All this is surmounted by

a stove-pipe type tower — it will be Graves’s first public

building

in Princeton.

Graves’s plans will more than double the art center’s size, from its

present 9,900 to 21,000 square-feet. The new addition is to be named

for David Mathey, son of the late Princeton philanthropist, Dean

Mathey,

who has donated $800,000, the lead gift to the capital campaign.

"This is an extraordinary act of generosity from a member of a

family that has provided philanthropic leadership for two

generations,"

says campaign chair Peter Bienstock. The gift raises the campaign

over the $2.6 million mark, and ever closer to its $3.5 million goal.

Curtain Calls is also an organization fundraiser, but any profits

go toward the council’s free community programs that include

Communiversity,

the Hometown Halloween Parade, and the Summer Sounds concert series.

The fact that the capital campaign has steadily grown in ambition

from $2 to $3 million to its present goal is a signal of community

support for expansion. "The need for a real community performance

has led us to raise our sights," says Suzanne Goldenson, president

of the Arts Council’s board of directors. Whereas original plans

called

for a simple, gymnasium type black box theater, the new plan calls

for a 200-seat multi-disciplinary performance space appropriate for

music, dance, theater, film, and lectures. Funding is in place for

a Steinway grand piano for the hall. The planned theater joins the

newly announced McCarter Theater second stage, unveiled last month

as the Roger Berlind Theater, that will seat 350.

Arts Council plans also call for a new high-ceilinged gallery flooded

with light, indoor and outdoor reception areas suitable for community

non-profits to hold fundraisers, and an all-purpose community room.

The clay, sculpture, and photography studios will be enlarged, and

the existing 120-seat black-box Loft Theater will be retained.

Founded 30 years ago as an umbrella organization for artists and arts

groups, the Arts Council has nurtured such organizations as the Opera

Festival of New Jersey and Princeton Chamber Symphony. Operating with

a professional staff and a volunteer board, its annual budget has

grown from $10,000 to over $500,000 today.

"The arts council is about bringing out the arts in the

community, not bringing in art," says Goldenson. "It’s about

developing what’s here. The town is immensely blessed with great

riches,

this is a way to bring people together through the arts.

"There are 68 musical groups in Princeton, all seeking places

to perform. Our popular classic and art film series is now dark for

lack of a venue," she explains. "Even McCarter holds its

children’s

theater classes here. We provide an inexpensive place for artists

to perform."

Children’s programing is high on the agenda, with plans for regular

Saturday events for young people. "We’re thrilled that the Public

Library is staying downtown and that the `Y’ is just down the

street,"

says Goldenson, elated by the prosepct of a child-friendly pedestrian

culture that brings library, swimming, arts, and even ice cream at

Halo Pub within reach.

The fundraising effort, says Bienstock, is now "in the home

stretch.

With the Mathey gift, we feel quite sure we will be successful in

bringing Princeton the center for the performing, visual, and literary

arts in the heart of town which it has for so long needed."

The Princeton Regional Planning Board is not so sure. At its December

17 meeting it aired worries about the expansion that will eliminate

13 parking spaces. Compounding the parking problem is the fact that

the immediate vicinity is in a state of growth, with the expansion

of Princeton Public Library and the Nassau Inn, and a Hulfish Street

townhouse development all on the horizon.

But if talk of parking problems sounds like old news, then you’ll

want to buy your button to roll "out with the old, in with the

new," at the Arts Council’s Curtain Calls.

Top Of Page
New Year’s Eve:

Curtain Calls

Curtain Calls, Arts Council of Princeton, 102

Witherspoon

Street, 609-497-4642. $15 advance purchase through December 23; $20

on the night. Proceeds benefit the Arts Council’s free community

programs.

Thursday, December 31, 8 p.m. to midnight.

At the Arts Council Loft: Dorothy’s House at 8 and 10

p.m.; Horizon at 9 and 11 p.m.

At the Art Museum, Princeton University: Music by John

Burkhalter at 8 and 9 p.m.; Anne Witt at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.

At the First Baptist Church: Freedom Sound at 8 p.m.;

Victor Marshall at 9 p.m.

At the Garden Theater: Laurel & Hardy comedies from 8

to 11:30 p.m.

On the campus at McCormick: Sharon Seeman at 8 p.m.;

Anita Wise at 8:45 p.m.; and Caroline Moseley at 9:30 p.m. At

McCosh 10 : Michael Gregory at 8 and 10 p.m.; Rasa Don & Divine

Fruit at 9 and 11 p.m. At Richardson Auditorium: Chris Harford

& the Band of Changes at 8 and 11 p.m.; Keystone Jazz at 9 and 10

p.m.

At Nassau Presbyterian Church Assembly Room: Jersey

Transit

at 8 p.m.; Princeton Opera at 9 and 10:45 p.m.; Anita Wise at 10 p.m.

In the Music Room: Suzie Bertin & Sandy Maxwell at 8 and 10

p.m.; Princeton Woman’s Barbershop at 9 p.m.

At the YM/YWCA: Magic by Rich Westcott at 8 and 11 p.m.;

Dorothy Rubin at 8 p.m.

At the University Chapel: Princeton Girlchoir at 8 p.m.;

Nathan Randall at 9 p.m.; Sharon Seeman at 10 p.m.; Sticks & Bones

at 10:45 p.m.

For other New Year’s Eve events see story on page 36.


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