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Arts and Entertainment

By Deb Starker

When it comes to arts and culture, Madison may well be the biggest little town in New Jersey.

Madison is home to two of New Jersey’s five professional live theater companies designated by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts as “Major Arts Institutions.” The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, which offers its main stage productions at the Kirby Theatre located on the campus of Drew University, is one of the leading Shakespeare theaters in the nation. Playwrights Theatre has been devoted to the development and presentation of new American plays for 23 years.

A sparkling 431-seat, state-of-the-art concert hall opened in 2003 on the campus of Drew University, and presents music events that draw on the talents within the university community and brings renowned professional musicians from around the world to Madison. The Concert Hall at Drew University is the only facility in the state that was architecturally and acoustically designed as a single-use forum for the performance of live music.

For jazz, there’s no place better on either side of the Hudson River than Shanghai Jazz, named by Downbeat magazine as one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world. With a regular array of world-class jazz artists, fans enjoy the music while dining on outstanding Asian cuisine. The Harmonium Choral Society, a 75-voice auditioned community choir, performs a diverse repertoire of musical offerings throughout the year, and often host world renowned artists including the American Boychoir and the Harlem Gospel Choir, in addition to presenting their own music programs.

The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is a landmark in downtown Madison and is devoted to telling the story of how people in New Jersey lived and worked before the rise of large-scale industrialization in America. With a permanent collection of over 8,000 artifacts, The museum presents educational and historical programs, interpreting the lives of artisans, craftspeople and tradespeople of New Jersey around the time of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Madison is also a haven for visual arts. The Korn Gallery in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts on the campus of Drew University presents exhibitions on a regular basis. Our town is also home to many local artists art classes are offered at Creative Hands, and Art in Progress, two studios primarily devoted to the education of young (and sometimes not so young) artists. For those interested in pottery, Madison Mud is a fine art pottery studio providing classes on the pottery wheel or in hand building. Private workshops and classes are offered.

Connecting the arts and culture to the community is the primary focus of The Madison Arts & Culture Alliance (MACA), a coalition of arts organizations, cultural institutions, neighbors, colleagues and friends dedicated to encouraging collaborations among the wide-ranging cultural offerings in “the Rose City.” This non-profit group coordinates local events such as the Holiday Arts Festival, the Madison Artist Studio Tour, music for Bottle Hill Day, the Madison Sidewalk Gallery and advocates for arts education in the schools, colleges and universities.

Deb Starker is the President of the Madison Arts & Culture Alliance (MACA).

Attractions & Events

of Interest in Madison

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey: One of the leading Shakespeare theaters in the nation, and New Jersey’s only professional theater company dedicated to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Main Stage: F.M. Kirby Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue, on the Drew University campus. 973-408-5600.

Playwrights Theatre: Professional theater devoted to the development and production of new American plays, and provider of writing programs for ages four to adult. 28 Walnut Street. (973) 514-1787.

Shanghai Jazz: Live jazz Wednesday thru Sunday evenings, with gourmet Asian cuisine. 24 Main Street. (973) 822-2899.

The Harmonium Choral Society: 75-voice community choir that performs a wide range of standard and uncommon works, and sponsors local outreach events and a N.J. High School Student Composition Contest. Dr. Anne Matlack, Artistic Director. (973) 538-6969.

Grace Community Music: Concert series at Grace Church, including ensemble-in-residence The Baroque Orchestra of North Jersey, spring performances by Harmonium Choral Society, and featuring local and international artists as well as a Lenten organ recital series. 4 Madison Avenue. (973) 377-0106, ext. 17.

Sidewalk Sounds: For twenty weeks throughout the summer, local performers offer free sidewalk entertainment as you shop, eat and enjoy downtown Madison. All sponsored by the Downtown Development Commission. (DDC) (973) 937-8084.

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts (METC): Exhibits that explore and interpret the history of the people who lived and worked in the New Jersey area from early 18th to late 19th centuries. Call for hours. (973) 377-2982.

METC Summer Concert Series: Bring a blanket/chair and sit back and relax with a pleasant evening of music. Picnicking welcome. For more information call

(973) 377-2982 x10 or visit

Madison Sidewalk Gallery and Art Gala: This outdoor exhibit features large, colorful art banners installed in and around downtown Madison. In October, art lovers and collectors will have the opportunity to purchase one of these works of art at our Sidewalk Gallery Auction.

For more information visit:

Madison Mud Clay Studio: An art studio offering Ceramic Classes in Hand building and the Potter's Wheel. Ages 8 and up welcome! 6 Main Street. (973) 520-8480.

Creative Hands Art Studio and Atelier Gallery: Art exhibits and professional instruction in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and pottery wheel for students from ages three to adult. 14 Kings Road. (973) 377-2848.

Art in Progress: Children’s art studio. 2 Green Village Road, Third Floor. (973) 660-1122.

The Arts at Drew University: Gallery exhibitions, music and theatre performances. (973) 408-3000.

Madison Public Library: Concerts, art exhibits, lectures. (973) 377-0722.

Visual & Performing Arts Department, Madison Public Schools: The Madison Public Schools offer a comprehensive curriculum from grades K-12 with offerings in music, theater and the visual arts. Exhibits and productions of student and faculty work are presented throughout the year. Visual & Performing Arts Chair.

(973) 593-0168.

Madison Arts and Culture Alliance: MACA coordinates many programs in Madison that promote cultural events in town.

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