South Orange Performing Arts Center


South Orange, NJ 07079
County: Essex


Mr. Mark E. Packer

Grant Amount


Program Area



Grant Details

For project support of SOPAC's presentation of a regional dance series of five New Jersey-based dance companies.

Organization Background

The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) opened in 2006 with a mission to connect audiences to artists through performances, partnerships and arts education activities that reflect the diversity of the region. SOPAC evolved from discussions among the leadership of South Orange and Seton Hall University (SHU), who envisioned a performing arts center that would present superb artists, anchor the downtown business district, become a community gathering point, and serve as a regional source for cultural pride and education. In addition to its intimate 439-seat theatre, SOPAC has a 2,170 square-foot multi-purpose space and expansive art gallery.

SOPAC recently experienced an exciting leadership change. Mark Packer, after serving as Executive Director of Appel Farm Arts & Music Center for 29 years, assumed the same position at SOPAC in March 2013. He brings his years of experience at Appel Farm and the New Jersey arts community -- including serving as a founding board member of ArtPride New Jersey and President from 2006-12 -- to SOPAC. Known for ensuring the highest artistic, financial and administrative standards SOPAC has already experienced dramatic changes under his leadership. Securing nearly $500,000 in new funding, engaging David and Nancy Grant in the strategic planning process, and doubling the number of SOPAC-presented performances are just a few of the feats achieved during his brief tenure.

SOPAC also engaged music consultant Steve Lurie to assist in artist selection. He has considerable experience and programs for the Tarrytown Music Hall and Rubin Museum of Art, as well as the Clearwater Music Festival, providing valuable artist routing opportunities. Other key staff include: Director of Development Vivian C.R. James; Dee Billia Director of External Relations and Mary Whithed, Director of Audience Services; Linda Beard, Director of Community Engagement; and Raf Ricci, Director of Production.

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