Mayor Sharpe James (D - Newark, NJ)

Local Arts Leadership

Elected in 1986, Mayor James’ dynamic stewardship has been a driving force for the new vibrancy of Newark’s cultural and economic life.  Expressing his belief that a healthy arts and cultural community is essential to a city’s revitalization, he often notes that “even during the depths of the Depression and during the Second World War, the lights of Broadway were never dimmed.”  Against the odds and major skepticism, Mayor Sharpe James propelled the building of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) forward with determined commitment.  This was vital to making a reality the now sixth largest performing arts center in the country with the fourth largest arts education program.  Since NJPAC opened in 1997, more than 2.2 million people, including 500,000 children, have visited the 12-acre, $185 million, 2,700 seat complex.  Not a small feat for a place within a stone’s throw from New York City.  With James’ leadership, the momentous impact of the arts has helped Newark win national recognition for livability. 

Key in the revitalization of the Newark area, The Downtown Newark Arts District which includes the area around NJPAC, supports nearby shops, restaurants, and area hotels and reports outstanding safety.  This has been important in the growth of Newark’s nightlife and arts activities, providing a cultural outlet for the 4.5 million people living around the Newark area. 

In addition, Mayor James also led the campaign that raised $20 million for the expansion of The Newark Museum.  This world class institution houses the largest collection of Tibetan art and artifacts in the Western world, a planetarium, a fantastic American Art collection, as well as much more. 

Mayor James also has been a leading champion of local artists and smaller Newark-based arts organization by supporting their efforts and encouraging Newark’s Division of Recreation and Cultural Affairs and other larger organizations to promote and provide venues for these local talents.  The growth of these organization during his tenure in office led to the formation of the Newark Arts Council, a highly regarded, nonprofit oversight and advocacy panel, which represents these individuals and smaller groups, as well as the larger arts organizations.