The Arts Council of Princeton will open the doors of its newly renovated and expanded Paul Robeson Center for the Arts to the public on Thursday, June 5, 2008. Opening Celebrations will begin with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. immediately followed by a dedication of the Witherspoon Jackson Neighborhood quilt and public open house. The festivities continue with a reception for the exhibition, “Return: Home,” from 4-7 pm.
The Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Quilt was created by artist Gail Mitchell in collaboration with individuals and families from the historic Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood adjacent to the Paul Robeson building. The Historical Society of Princeton has worked with the Arts Council to also organize a permanent exhibit about the history of the neighborhood in which the Robeson building is located. Included will be information about Paul Robeson, who as a child, lived in the house across the street from the Arts Council’s property.
“Return: Home” is the inaugural exhibition in the Robeson Center’s Peg and Frank Taplin Gallery. The show will include 11 New Jersey-affiliated artists who create work on the meaning of “home” reflecting personal, political, and cultural perspectives.
The design of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts was donated by internationally renowned architect Michael Graves. Mr. Graves, a resident of Princeton, has been integral to the project from its inception in 1998. Of the Arts Council’s project, the architect said, “This is a landmark project for Princeton and will make an enormous contribution to the cultural life of our community. I am very pleased to be involved.”
The WPA-era building was expanded in size from approximately 9,000 square feet to almost 17,000 and will feature local and national artists in its gallery and theater spaces. The programming presented will include classes and workshops in painting, drawing, digital and traditional photography, dance, music and theater arts.
“The completion of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts is a milestone achievement for the Arts Council and the community,” said Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson. “We anticipate that this center will serve as a major cultural destination and be a great resource for the Princeton region.”
Funding for the construction of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts has been privately raised and comes from individual, corporate, and foundation donors. Over $7 million has been raised for construction of the new Center and approximately $500,000 is needed for completion. Honorary co-chair, major donor and Arts Council Trustee Judith McCartin Scheide praised the project, stating, “Bill [Scheide] and I support the Arts Council for its unique ability to bring together our diverse community through its excellent programs. We love the design by Michael Graves and are confident that the Robeson Center will be our perfect new home.”
Named spaces at the arts center will be utilized with children’s classes in the Dede and Jim Burke Studio; ceramics classes in the Helena Bienstock Studio; an Artist-in-Residency Program in the Anne Reeves Studio; contemporary exhibitions in the Peg and Frank Taplin Gallery; music, dance and theater performances, film screenings, literary events, lectures, and panel discussions in the Robert L. Solley Theater. A sculpture designed by artist Joshua Kirsch will list all 2,000 Capital Campaign donors in the entry rotunda of the new arts center.
The Arts Council will continue to reach out to the community with programs such as free summer concerts; exhibitions and artist talks at the Princeton Public Library, the Annual Hometown Halloween Parade, and Princeton’s biggest cultural event, Communiversity Festival of the Arts, which attracted nearly 30,000 people on April 26. The Arts Council’s popular Arts and Drama Camp will continue again this summer at the Princeton Junior School.
The Arts Council of Princeton addresses a major aspect of its mission by presenting programs that are designed to reach at-risk and area youth. Community Youth Programs to expand with the new facility include: Arts Exchange, a weekly visual and performing arts class for homeless children organized in partnership with HomeFront in Trenton; ArtReach, an after-school enrichment program in Princeton’s learning centers, organized in partnership with Princeton Young Achievers; and art instruction at the Princeton Nursery School.
In addition the Arts Council publishes Under Age, an annual anthology of student literature and art, runs a seasonal hands-on gallery program with local schools called Kids at Work, and co-sponsors the annual Summer Youth Jazz Festival with Princeton University’s music program. The Arts Council has developed a scholarship program designed to ensure that no individual will be excluded from fee-based classes or camp programs because of financial reasons.
For more information about the Robeson Center or on Arts Council of Princeton programs, events, classes, and exhibitions, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org or call Michael LaRiccia at (609) 924-8777 ext. 106.
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