Mission & History
Our Home | Your Home, bergenPAC is a Theater of and for the community dedicated to enhancing the quality of life through the Arts while stimulating a culture of equity within the community and fostering the future talent of tomorrow.
bergenPAC’s mission is to make live performing arts and arts education accessible to its diverse community by building a creative home for artists and teachers of excellence who entertain, enlighten, inspire and inform audiences and students.
A Nonprofit IRC 501 (c)(3) Tax Exempt Organization
bergenPAC is recognized as one of the largest and iconic performing venues and a performing arts school in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan region.
In the fall of 2004, the 1,367 seat Bergen Performing Arts Center reopened the doors of the former John Harms Center, long considered one of the leading cultural institutions in North Jersey. Founded on April 30, 2003, a small group of dedicated individuals led by its Founder, Frank Huttle III, and joined by Edmondo Schwarz, Robert Cook, Sam Mann, Chris Yegen and Donald Aronson, were determined to preserve this special theater that had brought some of the world’s finest performing artists “right next door” for so many years.
The theater originally opened as the Englewood Plaza movie theater on November 22, 1926. United Artists purchased the building in 1967 and kept the doors open through 1973, when it closed. Through the efforts of a group of local citizens under the leadership of John Harms, the John Harms Center came to life on October 10, 1976 with the performance of the Russian pianist, Lazar Berman.
The John Harms Center was one of the largest performing arts centers in New Jersey. Its closing on April 14, 2003 left a gaping hole in the area’s cultural life.
Through the creativity and commitment of bergenPAC’s founding trustees the doors of this historic institution were reopened with Tony Bennett performing at the inauguration gala. A new public/private partnership was formed that could coordinate and leverage the resources of the community - city, county and state, as well as private performing arts patrons and donors. Working together with its supporters and artists, bergenPAC has built the framework to enhance the quality of life for cultural devotees, families, and the community at large seeking entertainment and inspiration close to home. Leading Grammy Award winning jazz artist George Benson led the way on the reopening in publicly acclaiming the acoustical magnificence of the vintage 1926 Main Hall.
The Bergen Performing Arts Center became a recognized home for recordings through its partnership with the former Bennett Studios, a state-of-the-art recording studio with whom the theater was fiber-optically linked. Thus, this vintage acoustic hall became the home of a media production system that was unique and unparalleled with Grammy Award winning recordings. The main stage at bergenPAC was the host for several artists performing live worldwide televised productions in collaboration with Sony. bergenPAC quickly became Our Home | Your Home for the community with Tony Bennett’s invite during a holiday season to record his Christmas Album with the Count Basie Big Band on the Main Stage.
In March 2020, along with the rest of the world, bergenPAC was forced to shut its doors. In true form, bergenPAC led the way with virtual programming and pivoted to virtual instruction from in-person to the screen. Additionally, bergenPAC was recognized as a vital organization throughout the pandemic because of the impact of the virtual programs and flexibility of instruction.
In March 2021, bergenPAC presented one of the most renowned virtual galas, featuring Paul Anka, Aly Stroker, Jack Antanoff, John Fogerty, Darlene Love, Itzhak Perlman, Dionne Warwick and students from bergenPAC’s Performing Arts School.
In 2022 bergenPAC completed a historic restoration of the Main Hall, preserving one of America's beloved majestic theaters to its original 1926 architecture and design. Significant upgrades and enhancements include, the precision of the hand-painted columns and proscenium restored to their brilliance from the 1900s, new comfortable seating, and a state-of-the-art lighting and sound package.
bergenPAC's campus includes the bergenPAC Performing Arts School a premiere arts education home to countless students ranging from ages 2 - 18, where no student has ever been turned away due to the inability to pay. bergenPAC's Community Arts Access Program partners with social agencies, donating performance tickets to those in the community who may not have the resources to see a show.
bergenPAC recognizes its impact on the community. At bergenPAC, Our Home Is Your Home.