Passionate arts professionals bring the gallery at the historic Park Theatre back to life

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Passionate arts professionals bring the gallery at the historic Park Theatre back to life
Gallery at the Park - One of 5 rooms of the gallery.

The grand opening of the Gallery at the Park at the Park Theatre in Union City, with an exhibition of paintings by New Jersey artist Cara London, occurred in early March, just a few days before everything shut down due to the pandemic.

While it will still be some time before the theatre can safety be filled with audiences or can have social opening receptions, the gallery has finally re-opened! Over 88 of London’s paintings are on display in the gallery’s five rooms, including the theatre’s lobby. In addition, to the work present at the opening, some of recent paintings have been added.

The Park Theatre, a 1300+ seat house owned by the Archdiocese of Newark, was built in 1931 and had been an active performing arts venue, made famous by The Passion Play. In recent years it had fallen into disuse and in need of restoration.

Over the past year, a group of passionate volunteers/donors and art professionals have worked tirelessly, turning the Park back again into a viable arts venue. Cleaning, repairing, repainting, replacing carpeting, upgrading lighting . . . and restoring the Park, while lining up many performances and events to make the Park a financially self-sustaining venue, looking towards the future, and honoring its past.

At the beginning of March, a ribbon cutting was attended by Union City commissioners and Father John of the Holy Family Parish, with a grand opening of the art gallery (Gallery at the Park) and the mezzanine lobby which has been turned into a lounge and second performance space. There was an open house, tours of the theatre and musical performances in the new lounge. The main theatre was scheduled to have opened a month later and exciting performances were slated through the Spring.

Just a few days after the opening, COVID-19 shut the country down.

Once it was feasible, the volunteers returned, and working now with masks and distancing, continue preparing and improving the theatre, for eventual re-opening, while lining up many productions, performances and events.

The Passion Play’s costumes and props were preserved and organized with plans to resume its annual performance. “Go, My Child,” a new large cast biblical musical, will be a new addition to the Park. The Park Theatre will be the home of the new annual New Jersey Independent Film Festival. “Frankenstein,” a long running Off-Broadway musical, is scheduled to play regular school matinees at the Park. Many other performances, acts and events are lined up to make it a self-sustaining arts venue, once it is safe to do so for the performers and audience.

While at this time, performances in the theatre will have to wait, the Gallery at the Park, finally re-opened in October, with COVID guidelines being followed. The gallery features the exhibition which opened in March, of paintings by Cara London. Future exhibitions are planned, including work from artists from the local community.

For everyone’s protection, visitors must call ahead (201) 565-3630, or email gallery@ParkTheatreNJ.org. Masks must be worn, and social distancing guidelines will be followed. The hours for the next two weeks are listed below (or by special appointment).

Further dates will be kept updated on the website.

The Gallery at the Park is located at the Park Theatre, 560 32nd Street, Union City, NJ 07087.

Cara London earned a BA in Art History from Brandeis University and an MFA from Parsons School of Design. She studied sculpture at the New York Studio School and painting with John Adams Griefen, which profoundly shaped her direction as an artist. London has attended numerous international professional workshops, including Triangle Artists’ Workshop, Vermont Studio School, Emma Lake the Leighton Foundation and most recently Chateau Orquevaux, where she received the Diderot Artist-in-Residence grant.

She was a founding member of SOMI Fine Art Gallery in Flemington. She has exhibited her work regularly and is in numerous collections. She also teaches drawing and painting to students of all ages and levels of experience. Ms. London is known for her painterly representational work. Cara London was among the team who helped restore the Park Theatre and turned the space into a viable gallery. (website: CaraLondon.com)

The hours for next 2 weeks are as follows:
Wed, Oct. 7, 3-8 pm
Thur, Oct. 8, 3-8 pm
Fri, Oct. 9, 12-5 pm
Thur, Oct. 15, 3-8 pm
Fri, Oct. 16, 3-8 pm
Sat, Oct. 17, 12-5 pm
Sun, Oct. 18, 12-5 pm
(or by special appointment)
(future dates will be posted on the website ParkTheatreNJ.org/gallery
For everyone’s protection, visitors must call ahead (201) 565-3630, or email gallery@ParkTheatreNJ.org.

For more information about the gallery, please contact gallery@ParkTheatreNJ.org
For the theatre, please contact info@ParkTheatreNJ.,org

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