Author Topic: Hackensack Cultural Arts Center Part 1  (Read 4519 times)

Offline HCAC

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Hackensack Cultural Arts Center Part 1
« on: October 15, 2004, 08:54:55 PM »
          For years now I have been addicted to reading the message boards on this website.  Whether or not I agree with the posts or not I feel that this website provides a fantastic forum for communication about our community from citizen to citizen.  This is my first post so please be gentle with your responses.
          My name is Gregory Liosi and I am the Arts Director for the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center.  The Arts Center is a City Run facility that falls under the heading of the Recreation Department.  To help you had better understand some of the information I am going to convey to you, I am going to give you a brief history of the Arts Center.
          For years, before the Arts Center existed, this current administration, at the overwhelming request of the arts community here in Hackensack has been looking for a venue that will be a home for the arts in our city.  Many facilities were conceded, the Fox theater (before its demolition), the Womens Club, lodges and halls throughout the city just to name a few.  All of these facilities fell through the cracks for a number of different reasons.  Some of the most important reasons were that all of these venues were private facilities and private property.  That meant that the city would have had to shell out a truckload of money to purchase the building or the property.  One of the big problems with that is that many times when private owners get wind of the fact that a municipality is interested in their property, the price tends to skyrocket and even doubles.  That is not a criticism of the seller, its well within there right to set any price they want for their property.  In addition, some of the property was under such disrepair that it would be cheaper to build a mega-complex than try to bring them up to code.
          This hunt took place throughout the late 80s and early 90s.  At around that time the Johnson Library, due to lack of use, decided that it would be more cost effective to close their Broadway branch.  For years, it was left abandoned.  The books were shipped to the main branch, they locked the doors and it was left in that state for about 5 or 6 years.  Rather than demolish it or sell it, the Johnson Library GAVE the building to the city.  All the city had to do is get it up to code.  All of the construction was done through state and local grants.  So when the ribbon was cut in October 2000, the city had a beautiful historic building with plenty of parking ready to open its door to the arts community and it didnt cost the citizens one red cent!!.  The funding for programming comes out of funds that had already existed in the Recreation Department for cultural activities.
           For the first year, the Arts Center brought in just a few events to get it off the ground.  We had a few concerts and a couple of exhibits.  A consultant was brought on board for the first year to launch the facility and I acted as her assistant.  The first official season started in September 2001.  The building was just a shell of a facility at the time, it had no sound, lights, seats, or curtains, yet somehow we were able to produce 3 concerts 2 exhibits 2 plays and one major musical which as become one of our signature events. With my degree in theater arts, my years as a freelance Director in NY, my experience as an executive staff member in many different well known theater companies and art gallerys in NY, plus, thanks to my vast knowledge of lighting, sound, set design, set construction, acting, and directing, I was brought on board officially as the Arts Director early in 2002.
          Once we proved that there was a need for lights, sound, curtains, and seats (other than folding chairs brought from the Rec. center), the city allocated money for everything to fulfill all of those basic needs.  The Arts Center transforms form a "Black Box" theater too a cabaret, too an art gallery that rivals any in Manhattan.
          We cater to arts organizations only.  We give Hackensack based organizations first priority.  Over the past 3 years we brought in professional and non-professional organizations, many of who are based right here in Hackensack.  We have brought in Playwright festivals, full length plays, one act plays, childrens plays and musicals, comedy nights, poetry nights, cabaret nights, Black history month celebrations, Hispanic history month celebrations, book signings, full length adult and family musicals.  Concerts, including Rap, R&B, Jazz, folk, country, bluegrass, rock, opera, and classical.  We transform the facility 2 times a year to an art gallery where we have brought in art in every medium imaginable.  One of the things that we added in that I am very proud of is our summer concert series, The Shakespeare in the park series, (which has been described in the Start Ledger as one of the best in the state), and the Theater Camp, (a 6 week program held at the Arts Center for children 7 14 in the summer, culminating in a full length production).

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