bergenPAC Kicks Off Capital Campaign for Theater Renovations
Bergen Performing Arts Center announced a $15 million public-private partnership capital campaign.
Bergen Performing Arts Center announced a $15 million public-private partnership capital campaign during a groundbreaking ceremony today. The capital campaign, with $4 million already raised during a silent phase, will support the renovation and restoration of the beloved and historic theater, as well as an expansion of its arts education programs.
In addition to the $4 million raised through the generosity of key stakeholders from New Jersey’s philanthropic and cultural community of donors, businesses, corporations, and foundations during the silent phase of the capital campaign, the County of Bergen has initiated the funding of $6 million, helping bergenPAC reach a remarkable $10 million toward its overall goal of $15 million. At the groundbreaking event, the bergenPAC Board of Trustees unveiled its ambitious follow-up public-private partnership campaign to secure the additional $5 million in capital. Further, bergenPAC announced that its “Invest In the Arts” campaign has entered its public phase, and invited all members of the community to join the campaign and become a part of this transformational legacy that is inspiring young performers and thrilling theater patrons.
Frank Huttle, III who founded bergenPAC in 2003, says, “We are elated that bergenPAC is poised to bring entertainment to more people in the community with a renovated state-of-the-art theater, featuring enhanced technology and sound taking us into the future along with the expansion of arts education programs that take place at our Performing Arts School and in New Jersey’s Public Schools. The county has marshaled its considerable governmental powers in support of our theater and the educational programs, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Robert Cook, bergenPAC Chairman and Founding Trustee, says, “bergenPAC is a vital and ever-evolving institution within the community. I am delighted that, through this capital campaign, we can make good on our commitment to provide top-quality arts programming and arts education as a vital resource for the general public. It means the world to our students as well as to everyone who benefits from our programs and steps through the doors of our theater.”
Among the speakers at today’s groundbreaking ceremony were U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5); Robert Cook, bergenPAC Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Frank Huttle III, Founder of bergenPAC; and Darlene Love, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and frequent bergenPAC performer. Vince Ermita, an 11-year-old Bergen Performing Arts student who is currently playing Young Simba in the Disney Broadway musical, The Lion King, kicked off the event with a special performance.
The venerable 1,367-seat theater, which originally opened 1926 as a vaudeville and movie theater, is one of the few such buildings still operating in the United States as an entertainment venue. The intent of the renovation and restoration plan is to retain the venue’s original décor and design, with enhancements and reconstruction meant to take bergenPAC into the future. The architect company is DMR, and construction will be led by Ray Reduce Development. The renovations and upgrades revealed during the groundbreaking ceremony will be carried out by a local union workforce.
The $15M campaign will continue the legacy of providing world-class entertainment and expanding the already lauded Performing Arts School recognized for training pre-professionals. One former student performer, Rachel Zegler, starred as Maria in Steven Spielberg's acclaimed big-screen version of the musical, West Side Story, which received seven Academy Award Nominations and earned Zegler a Golden Globe for Best Actress. NBC's recent Annie Live! featured students Felice Kakaletris and Sophie Knapp, as orphans Molly and Judy. Kakaletris and Knapp continue to participate in the Young Professionals Vocal Academy at bergenPAC.
With the additional funding bergenPAC can expand two critical arts education programs. The Special Needs program "Voices in Harmony" is a partnership with N.J. public schools for students and young adults with special needs where students work together and participate in residencies focused on hip hop, music, dance, and theater.
The Performing Arts School has a track record of partnering with over 140 N.J. public, private, and independent schools, bolstering their existing arts programs and benefiting 15,000 students with workshops, masterclasses, residencies, assemblies, and co-theater presentations. Co-productions result in musicals led by a team of professional directors, choreographers, sound techs, and more, provided by bergenPAC. The Performing Arts School also produces assembly programs teaching real-life issues, including anti-bullying, drug abuse awareness, health and nutrition, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
"It is our mission to change lives through music and it’s our belief that music belongs to the community,” said Robert Cook. “We are committed to continually engage, support and learn from our diverse community, with the goal of enhancing our facilities and programs for years to come.”
The renovations and restorations at bergenPAC will take place now until the Fall of 2022, but the show must – and will – go on. bergenPAC, throughout the spring and summer, will produce a Broadway series and several kids’ shows that will be held indoors at Westfield Garden State Plaza. And, already, new concerts are being scheduled for bergenPAC’s reopening. bergenPAC is proud to announce Darlene Love’s Annual Holiday show (Dec.9) R&B superstar group Dru Hill (Oct. 8) and hilarious comedian Anthony Rodia (Nov.25.)
Please Invest In the Arts by supporting bergenPAC’s Capital Campaign and to stay up to date for new show announcements, visit www.bergenPAC.org.
Among the planned upgrades are:
- New LED marquee
- New theater seats, carpeting, and stage
- Refurbishment of the theater's interior ornamental elements
- Enhancement of the theater's state-of-the-art sound system and the addition of acoustic sidewall curtains
- Additional mezzanine-level bathrooms
- Expanded lobby and bars
- Redesigned and ADA-compliant box office windows
- Improvements to The Performing Arts School at bergenPAC's dance and recording studios
- Enhanced bergenPAC membership programs, with exclusive amenities, for new and existing patrons
- Premier show lighting system to meet today's industry standards
- Superior audio/video system and upgraded technology throughout the whole theater