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now outdated building at 102 Witherspoon Street.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
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
of Witherspoon and Paul Robeson Place, is a geometrical puzzle
a 12-sided pavilion, three triangular rooflines, his landmark
windows, and a striped brick treatment. All this is surmounted by
a stove-pipe type tower — it will be Graves’s first public
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
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
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
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
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
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
theater classes here. We provide an inexpensive place for artists
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
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
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.
Street, 609-497-4642. $15 advance purchase through December 23; $20
on the night. Proceeds benefit the Arts Council’s free community
Thursday, December 31, 8 p.m. to midnight.
p.m.; Horizon at 9 and 11 p.m.
Burkhalter at 8 and 9 p.m.; Anne Witt at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Victor Marshall at 9 p.m.
to 11:30 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
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.
Dorothy Rubin at 8 p.m.
Nathan Randall at 9 p.m.; Sharon Seeman at 10 p.m.; Sticks & Bones
at 10:45 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
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