Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 28
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
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Arts Council's New Robeson Center Taking Shape

Linda Arntzenius

Located in the heart of downtown Princeton at the intersection of Paul Robeson Place and Witherspoon Street, the Arts Council's new Paul Robeson Center for the Arts has been taking shape with seemingly increased speed over the last few weeks.

The Michael Graves-designed renovation and extension, including a new wing, will be ready for touring by members of the press on Thursday, July 12.

The Princeton resident and world-renowned architect, who donated his design for the historic building, has described it as a "landmark project for Princeton" that "will make an enormous contribution to the cultural life of our community."

Though the new facility won't be completed until later this year, the tour will offer a sneak preview of what is to come.

The new 16,740 square foot facility (that's an extra 8,040 square feet of additional space), designed to be a state-of-the-art theater for dance, drama, music, film, and literary arts, will include a gallery for contemporary art, studios for ceramics, photography, painting, and children's art, as well as administrative offices, and rehearsal, gathering, and meeting spaces for use by the community.

Named for Princeton's most famous son, Paul Robeson, an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist who lived as a child in the neighborhood adjacent to the building, the center will honor his personal significance to Princeton and pay tribute to local history with a permanent exhibition featuring the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, including a commemorative quilt.

Mr. Robeson's son Paul Robeson Jr. has said that his father would have been proud to lend his name to the center.

The capital campaign to fund the new center began in 1999. With honorary chairs Michael Graves, Cokie Roberts, Estelle and George Sands, Judith and William Scheide, and Vivian and Harold Shapiro, the campaign originally set out to raise $8 million for construction-related costs.

While $6.5 million has been raised, an additional $2 million is being sought for an endowment and another $500,000 to support expanded programming and administrative capacity. The capital campaign hopes to raise a total of $10.5 million.

The public is invited to contribute through pledges and contributions, including the purchase of theater seats at $1,000 each. Several naming opportunities are available for donors at higher levels. All contributors to the Capital Campaign will be listed on a permanent donor wall sculpture in the center's lobby, designed by artist Joshua Kirsch.

Founded in 1967 to "build community through the arts," the Arts Council of Princeton is led by President of the Board of Trustees Wendy Mager; Capital Campaign Chair and Trustee Peter Bienstock; Executive Director Jeff Nathanson; and Founding Director Anne Reeves.

Programs serving the greater Princeton Region include contemporary exhibitions, performances in music, dance and theater, readings, film screenings, classes and workshops in visual, performing and literary arts, free community festivals and concerts, and free arts education programs for at-risk youth.

While the new center is under construction, programs and exhibits are being held at the conTEMPORARY Arts Center located in the Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison St.

For more information, call (609) 924-8777, or visit:

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