NJ Arts Center Closes

The South Jersey Performing Arts Center in Camden, N.J., announced it will close at the end of June following state lawmakers’ decision to cut off public funding for the organization.

The center has staged performances at the Clear Channel-operated Tweeter Center since 1996, but has struggled to fill seats. The arts organization utilized a 1,500-seat indoor configuration at the amphitheatre, which holds 18,000 at full outdoor capacity.

Last year’s total attendance capped at 9,586 people for 41 events – including performances held at another venue, the Gordon Theatre at Rutgers University-Camden – according to a report by Newark’s Star-Ledger.

SJPAC reaped only $102,448 in total ticket revenue, less than one-tenth of its annual $1.1 million grant, the paper said. The state effectively paid a subsidy of $119 per patron – 24 times the average for other arts groups in the state.

The center relied on public funds for 78 percent of its budget – a mirror image of the figures for similar New Jersey organizations, which average 22 percent public funding.

State legislators, facing a budget crisis, decided to suspend funding earlier this month and SJPAC’s board subsequently voted to close the center.

SJPAC executive director Mark Fields blamed the closure on the awkward indoor venue configuration and a contract with Clear Channel that he said has restricted the center’s booking abilities.