A West Orange couple decided they wanted to make the performing arts accessible to those of limited means 14 years ago, and so they donated funds to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, who then created the NJPAC Ticket Subsidy Fund.
After Joan and Allen Bildner donated those funds, others contributed to the Ticket Subsidy Fund. And since then, NJPAC has been providing diverse community-based social service organizations that serve those of limited means with tickets to performances for a nominal fee. They are continuing to do so this year and the deadline for non-profit organizations to submit an application to get the tickets is Sept. 15.
"The arts belong to everybody but the they are not cheap to produce," said Jeffrey Norman, vice president of public affairs for NJPAC. "So, to have a series of donors recognize that and make the cost accessible is just a win-win situation for all."
NJPAC works with the social service organizations to ensure the tickets are used and there is a nominal price of $6 so that people value and use the tickets, Norman said. And although NJPAC gives preference to organizations within 20 miles of Newark, he said, any non-profit organization with the exception of churches or schools is eligible to apply.
"To bring in community-based organizations to see performances is very much a founding value of the arts center," Norman said.
Toni Caldwell, executive director and chief executive officer for Tri-City Peoples Corporation, a community based development corporation that provides social, health, mental health and housing services to children and families in need, uses the Ticket Subsidy Fund and gets positive feedback from her constituents.
"We get rave reviews from these kids," she said. "Every time they come back from a performance, it's absolutely phenomenal. Stuff that they would not have thought they would like, they like."
She said they have especially liked Chinese dance performances, hip-hop dance performances, tap dance performances, Alvin Ailey's Dance Troup of Harlem, and the seniors like the Martin Luther King Performance.
Caldwell said it is important because they are performances that Tri-City Peoples Corporation's constituents would not otherwise be able to afford.
"It's a phenomenal program," she said. "I love it. The performances are excellent."
Nearly 60 non-profit organizations have participated in the Ticket Subsidy fund during its first 14 seasons.
Some of those organizations have included Babyland Family Services, Inc., Broadway House for Continuing Care, Children’s Aid and Family Services, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, La Casa de Don Pedro, Inc., Newark Best Friends, New Jersey Korean American Youth Center, North Ward Cultural Center, The READY Foundation, Salvation Army, Success Stories, Vailsburg Services Organization, Offender Air and Restoration of Essex County, YouthBuild Newark, PEP Foundation, Essex County Casa, Family Connections, Friendship House and Westfield Community Center Association.
For an application to get tickets, call 1-888-GO-NJPAC (1-888-466-5722). To contribute to the Ticket Subsidy Fund, call 973-353-8045.