The Façade

Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District

Funding Received: 2013
Newark, NJ
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 1, 2013

Summers in Lincoln Park are fun. It is busy because we have construction projects, visits to grandma’s house and the Lincoln Park Music Festival. This year was no exception, since I’m working on projects. I need to sneak away for a few days to pick up my children from their annual pilgrimage to my mother’s house in Dunn, North Carolina. The trip was more difficult than normal, including a flight cancelation for mechanical reasons and me missing the second flight while sitting at the bar. When I finally get on the plane, I saw a beautiful woman sitting next to my seat. Maybe there are some benefits to all these hassles, I think. Then I noticed her huge wedding ring and the impulse to chat her up is doused. However, chatting isn’t a crime so we talk. Her name is Rae Ellis; she is a gospel, jazz and R&B singer, and she is listening to her own music and coming from a performance. I listened to her music—she is really good.

I want her to perform at our new venue, the Façade. However, the Façade is still in the process of getting the right permits and will not be finished for some months. I ask her if she would be willing to perform at the Lincoln Park Music Festival in a few weeks. We can add her to the gospel line-up. She lives in Charlotte, but by coincidence she would be back in New York that weekend (which meant we wouldn’t have to pay travel costs) and she agreed. As I listened to her songs, style and spiritual demeanor, she reminded me of another artist I have been thinking a lot of lately—Sybil.

I went to same elementary school as Sybil. In 1994, I studied at the University of Natal—Durban, South Africa and while I was there, Sybil toured. She hadn’t seen me since I was 11, and I rushed the staged while she was performing. She was a huge international star with top ten hits in the UK and South Africa. She took me on tour with her as a roadie, and I was always grateful. Confident about Rae’s participation, I told my staff, call Sybil too.

We have been trying to figure out how to program the Façade, our new 600-person venue scheduled to open next year. I want to challenge our emerging artist community to think more boldly about performances and give them artist in different stages of their careers from whom they can learn. Rae Ellis and Sybil would be perfect, for different reasons, but I needed to introduce Rae to Newark first.

We placed Rae Ellis on the gospel day. I saw the audience in awe with her skills and in love with her creativity. Her new Newark fans ran over me to get to her after her performance. I was so proud of her, but also, of our fans. They can be a bit parochial and for them to receive her gifts with such love gave me confidence that we can balance the Façade programming with emerging, regional and national artist.


Sybil is a Jersey girl, thus without a need for introduction, and quickly becomes the main attraction

She was incredible. Her voice was grand, robust and she gave one of the best performances we have had in our total eight years of hosting the Lincoln Park Music Festival The shows were very different but both will serve as a base for how we conduct our shows at the Façade. We will do weekly shows with artist such as Rae Ellis and bi-monthly shows with artist like Sybil--the goal being to provide audiences and the local artists with entertainment that embodies great talent, ambition and commitment to their craft. Rae is an emerging national artist who is brilliant and works hard. Sybil is a seasoned artist who has toured all around the world, but now has a day job in community services and performs internationally and has a wealth of knowledge. Both artists are assets to our community.

This structure came to me on the plane while talking with an artist. There are so many talented people in this country needing and wanting venues to perform. As we develop and redevelop neighborhoods, and book acts, we should just ask people what do they do, and we may be surprised by their answers and how they overlap with our own ambitions.