The IDEA Center for the Arts opened on Market Street in downtown Camden Thursday. It will offer performances and classes in drama, visual arts, music and more.
Cherry Hill Courier-Post
London Daniels, age 10, sketches at a desk at the IDEA Center in Camden. (Photo: Phaedra Trethan)
CAMDEN — London Daniels sat alone, quietly sketching in a notebook, as politicians, business leaders, artists and performers milled around inside the IDEA Center. Soon, her brother Nash and her father Larry joined her, though, and Nash had a lot of thoughts about what he wanted to get out of the new center.
“Can I try more than one?” he asked his father, a retired Camden City police officer.
“I want to take drama,” said the 8-year-old. “But can I take more, too?”
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There’s no shortage of programs for the Daniels children to choose from at the newly opened center on Market Street near the Camden Waterfront: The IDEA Center will host aspiring musicians and graphic designers, painters and dancers, singers and poets, actors and filmmakers.
Joanna Gardner sings The Carpenters’ ‘What the World Needs Now’ at the opening of the IDEA Center in Camden. (Photo: Phaedra Trethan)
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday drew a crowd, some perhaps drawn by the moving rendition of The Carpenters’ “What the World Needs Now” by singer Joanna Gardner (accompanied by keyboardist Suzette Ortiz) and the festive sounds of the Snacktime Brazz Band, a Dixieland ensemble.
The 1,800-square foot center includes musical and recording equipment, computers for graphic design, a stage for performances and other amenities for the underserved youth who can go there to learn visual and performing arts disciplines.
Paintings lined the walls, and signs urged mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. The Michaels Organization renovated the space, formerly an abandoned storefront, free of charge and Subaru of America donated equipment and monetary support.
“We’ve got a Philly vibe, but this is Camden,” said Mayor Frank Moran. “We’re finally giving Philly something to look at.”
The IDEA Center, Primas hopes, will also be a gathering place, at least as safely as possible during a pandemic. It will host Jazz on Market, outdoor performances on the first Sunday of each month beginning Oct. 4; Reel 2 Real film series every fourth Sunday starting Oct. 25; and a poetry series each third Friday beginning Oct. 16.
“This is just what we want,” said Jonathan Latko as he looked at the posters advertising the events. “This building was abandoned for a long time, but to find an anchor like this is not easy.”
Latko, president of the Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association, said he hopes the performances will draw more people to the neighborhood — and give them reason to stay past the workday.
“I hope it spurs continued growth down here,” he said. “This supports giving people things to stick around for, to spend their money here, spend their time here past the 9 to 5 rush, maybe even make a home here.”
The Daniels children, who do make their home in the neighborhood, certainly seem to have a lot of reasons to spend their time here.
“Can I do drama?” asked Nash, one of many programs he wants to join.
The IDEA Center is at 215 Market St., Camden. To learn more about its programs and performances, visit https://ideacfta.org/home
Phaedra Trethan has been a reporter and editor in South Jersey since 2007 and has covered Camden since 2015. She’s called South Jersey home since 1971. Contact her with feedback, news tips or questions at [email protected], on Twitter @CP_Phaedra, or by phone at 856-486-2417.
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