Giants co-owner gave $5M to NJPAC. Here’s what the huge donation will do.

He’s that good at the art form of vocal percussion in which he uses his mouth and voice to mimic sounds and drum machines. Not only did it bring him out of his bubble, NJPAC programs exposed him to classical and jazz music, leaving him with a memorable theater experience on what it takes to put a show together.

“Wow, we really did that," he said. “It was definitely transforming."

You never know what the arts can do for young people. With funding, so much is possible, especially when it supports arts education, civic and community engagement and fine arts.

That’s why John Schreiber, NJPAC’s president and chief executive officer, is thrilled about the $5 million gift from Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, who is co-owner of the New York Giants and chairman and chief executive officer of Loews Hotels & Co.

The couple, known for philanthropy in the arts, has given the money for those important platforms as part of NJPAC’s 20th-anniversary capital campaign. Overall, the arts center is looking to raise $175 million in five years, and on Oct. 15, it will sponsor a public event to announce how much has been raised so far.

In recognition of the Tischs’ gift, Schreiber said the stage of NJPAC’s Victoria Theater -- a venue where all of the art center’s productions take place for some 20,00 Newark area kids who visit NJPAC annually -- will be named the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Stage.

“For many of them its first time they’ve ever seen a live show," Schreiber said.

And for the ones serious about learning - some 1,000 students are trained in NJPAC programs – Schreiber said the stage can be life changing.

“I think kids feel like when they are on a stage, they feel like they can do anything," he said.

It’s where the magic happens, an experience Tisch knows well. Born in Atlantic City, Tisch said he used to take his 9-year-old son to NJPAC shows. Now he’s 26 and a producer on Broadway.

“I think some of those early years for his growth and understanding of the arts and culture can ring true for so many other young boys and girls in Newark," Tisch said. “Lizzie and I believe NJPAC does an excellent job of illustrating how important culture is in the arts and we’re just pleased to be able to support them."

Tisch, who is also vice chair of the board at The Shed, the new multi-disciplinary arts center adjacent to New York City’s High Line, knows the gift is in the right hands, having seen how NJPAC has evolved under Schreiber’s leadership.

The arts center, known for its diverse staff, audience and programming, has put together a creative menu with the Tisch family’s generosity. There are plans for a new arts and community center on the NJPAC campus, a Black Box Theater and a tech common space with curriculum that’s in line with the Maker Movement of allowing kids to create by doing.

Adults have a seat at the arts table, too. Pencil in classes for seniors, early childhood music programs for mothers with babies and space for non-profit organizations. Some of these ideas have come from meetings the arts center has been holding in city neighborhoods, where staff ask residents what the center should look like to make it a destination.

“We’re excited to be able to assist them in the mission of creating and even more vibrant arts community not just in Newark, but in the entire state of New Jersey," Tisch said. “Creativity can greatly help a child learn and grown and offer them the opportunity to look at the world through many different lenses."

Look no further than Amari Key, 19, of Newark. NJPAC, he said, changed his life.

While he already had talent, having performed at age 10 on “Showtime at the Apollo” with Stevie Wonder, NJPAC programs polished his potential and showed this promising singer and actor what it takes to make it in the industry.

“They treat you like a professional," Key said. “I became more confident of who I was, and I was able to express myself more freely and openly."

The Seton Hall University freshman recently performed in the “Tap Dance Kid” with Savion Glover, a Newark native, who did a new production of the show with NJPAC arts students.

Schreiber said the shows were sold out at the arts center, another reason why gifts like the Tischs’ will continue the work of providing opportunity for young people.

“It’s an important gift certainly from a dollar standpoint, but it also connects a family that has deep Jersey roots with an important Jersey anchor institution," Schreiber said. “Their gift is acknowledgement of the value of this work, and what I’m hearing them say by this gift is – ‘keep it up.’"

Frias no longer lives in Newark, but stays connected to the NJPAC programs, the best thing his mother could have ever done for him growing up.

“It gave me another way to express myself," said Frias, a student at Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy in Elizabeth.

Maybe there’s kid like him tapping beats on the refrigerator or another young person like Key, who admires singers and artists who came before.

We’ll find out with the Tisch family gift.

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