Roberto Lugo, featured in this month’s new episode.
Photo by Ryan Collerd, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage
State of the Arts begins its 41st season this month! As far as we can tell, it’s a record run for a regional public television series about the arts. Our Emmy award-winning program has evolved over the years, but the central mission remains the same: to explore the remarkably diverse cultural scene in New Jersey and beyond. In fact, profiling artists, musicians, writers and other creative people in our state sometimes takes us farther afield. In recent years, we traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts with artist Willie Cole, Greensboro, North Carolina with playwright Emily Mann, and to Athens, Greece with Byzantine artist George Kordis. Most of the time, however, we don’t have to travel far to find compelling stories.
This past summer, we premiered a documentary about internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Nai-Ni Chen, who tragically died in a swimming accident last December. It made us appreciate once again the depth and value of our 40-year archive, as we used footage in Unity: Choreographer Nai-Ni Chen Remembered that was filmed for State of the Arts in 1991, 1997, 2004, 2012, and 2019.
Our first show of the new season debuts this Wednesday, September 14, at 8:30 pm on NJ PBS. As usual, we have some great stories to tell! After decades running Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, Victor Davson has now returned to his own artistic practice full-time, and is painting monumental landscapes. Ceramic artist Roberto Lugo says that pottery saved his life—after growing up in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia, he took a pottery class at age 22 that led him to art school and a career that has taken off. We visit his new exhibition at Grounds for Sculpture. Samara Joy won NJPAC’s Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019 while still a teenager. Fast forward, and her second album is being released by Verve! Our story features her in performance at the Bethany Jazz Vespers and The Apollo.
State of the Arts began in 1981 as a partnership between the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the state’s PBS affiliate, NJN Public Television. For the past 10 years, the Arts Council and Stockton University have co-produced the series in cooperation with PCK Media, and more people than ever see the show. It airs on NJ PBS, New York’s WNET, Philadelphia’s WHYY, and ALL ARTS. Online, it can be seen on PBS.org and on our own YouTube channel.
Upcoming shows will take viewers to ArtYard in Frenchtown, Alexander Hall for the Princeton Symphony, the Morristown National Historical Park, and many other locations. We are always searching for new stories, so send us your favorite ideas.
To all those who have supported, watched and participated in the series over the years, we thank you and hope you enjoy the new season!
Eric, Susan, and Mae
P.S. State of the Arts received four New York Emmy nominations this year. This year’s award ceremony will be held at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square, October 8th. Wish us luck!