The History of the Jersey Shore Arts Center: Beginning With A Vision
The restoration of the "old" Neptune High School, and its subsequent transformation into the Jersey Shore Arts Center, is a remarkable story that began with the shared vision of Herbert Herbst and some very determined and far-sighted individuals.
Built in 1896,the building was celebrated at the 1906 World's Fair as an " Architectural Splendor, " had fallen into ruin in the 1980s and after weather and neglect came close to destroying it entirely. In 1997, the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, led by Herbert Herbst, stepped in, took title to the building and began the quest to not only save the badly damaged historic building, but to realize a dream: turning it into what it is today, a beautiful Historic building and a home for the cultural arts at the New Jersey shore.
A Lesson In Making the Impossible , Possible
When the Historic Preservation Society began their labor of love, they faced a task many called impossible. They were greeted by fallen ceilings, ruined floors and walls and the need to upgrade virtually every aspect of the building from plumbing and electrical to sprinkler systems. With their dream of opening an Arts Center for the Monmouth County community firmly in mind, they began the gargantuan task of restoring the building step by careful, caring step. Contractors were hired for major structural, plumbing and electrical work. But it was a dynamic and dedicated group of skilled volunteers who labored since 1996 working to restore every detail both big and small: from each stair banister and light fixture to every theater seat and doorknob.
The Arts Center is "Open for Business"
The first phase, completed in 2000, saw the opening of the first floor with five newly renovated classrooms, restrooms, lobby, office space, and a magnificent 400 seat theater. Subsequent phases saw the construction of dressing rooms, costume and workshop rooms and kitchen area in the lower level of the building (completed in 2001). Since then, the entire second floor has also been restored and renovated, including classrooms, the theater's Loge (balcony) with a seating area of 200, two dance studios and a third beautiful extensive ballroom studio.
In the summer of 2014 we officially opened up our third floor facilities. This includes our culinary center, two studios, a beautiful lobby, and the Herbst Theater. The mission for the third floor culinary center is to provide the facilities and service instruction to address the needs for the handicapped. A strong positive educational curriculum will be developed. The Culinary Workshop will provide the facilities and training to equip students with culinary skills for employment and to enjoy life. The Herbst Theater is a small theater which seats 75 people. This theater will host a variety of theatre productions and musical acts which are too small for our main theater.
A Cultural Center "At the Head of Its Class"
Today, the former High School and current Jersey Shore Arts Center still provides an "education " to Monmouth County. In addition to providing a venue for arts-related activities, the JSAC also is a home to creative professionals who offer instruction and participation in the arts, dance, music, theater, pottery and ceramics. The JSAC serves the Writers Association, a violin academy, civic associations and is also home to two in-house theater groups which host first class dramatic and musical productions.
The Center was given an award in 1999 by the Monmouth County Planning Board as "One of The Most Significant Projects in Monmouth County." The 1906 World's Fair recognized the building as an "Architectural Splendor." General Colin Powell, USA (Ret), former United States Secretary of State, learning of the Jersey Shore Arts Center activities, wrote "My congratulations to all the wonderful volunteers of Ocean Grove for what you are doing for your community." The Chief Judge for Monmouth County Superior Court, the Honorable Lawrence Lawson, has taken an interest in the arts center efforts and is havingMonmouth County judges assign selected individuals to perform community service at the Center. The use of volunteers is a way of life at the Jersey Shore Arts Center. A former New Jersey State Senator Joseph Palaia, a graduate of the school, has provided continuous support, advice, and assistance with legislative grants. The Alumni of the "old" Neptune High School has provided gifts and financial support.
(Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, INc. President Herbert G. Herbst giving his renowned opening remarks before Aloborada Dance Theater's Festivals of Spain on April 13, 2013)