The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College

Mark Fitzgerald Wilson

Director of Cultural Affairs for Ocean County College since 2013, has been instrumental in the growth of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts. Through his leadership, annual attendance at the center has increased from 9,000 patrons to over 25,000 in 2017.

THE IDEA

One of the largest economic drivers of a community is a thriving arts culture. We spoke with members of the Toms River community who determined that Ocean County College would be the natural place to bring an influx of world class performers and visual art, while also growing our own local talent.

In 2014, the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation gave a $5.75 million gift, the single largest gift in the 50-year history of OCC’s Foundation, to establish an arts center endowment allowing OCC to develop quality programming housed in the Center.

The income generated from this endowment is used for a number of initiatives that benefit OCC, Kean-Ocean, the Performing Arts Academy, and local high school students, as well as county residents and visitors.

In addition to bringing in world-class performers, the Center provides students and local talent with a venue to display and hone their skills while benefiting and enriching the cultural life of our Central Jersey Shore residents.

THE IMPACT

This gift has enabled the Grunin Center to bring in premier acts from around the world, giving patrons a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Music performances of all genres, theatre, film, and dance are included. The upstairs area is a professional visual arts gallery for student, local, and national art exhibits, as well as classrooms for college and high school students, guest artist lectures, and workshops.

The Grunin Center is home to resident companies and partners, such as the OCC Repertory Theatre Company, the OCC Concert Band, the OCC School of Arts & Humanities, and the Garden State Philharmonic. In addition, it’s the host of the Ocean County and New Jersey State Teen Arts Festivals, as well as many other local award ceremonies and programs honoring our county residents.

Since the gift from the Grunin Foundation, there has been a 50% increase in ticket sales, 125% increase in gross sales and a 177% increase in patron donations.

THE UPDATE

The Grunin Center continues to thrive and elevate the level of programming it offers each year. The Center placed in two categories for the 2016 New Jersey Stage Awards:

Gold – Best Place to See Live Dance Performances
Bronze – Best Place to See Emerging Artists

The Foundation continues to be involved and meets with Mark Wilson and the Grunin Center team quarterly to review financial and marketing goals, most of which are surpassed. We have no doubt that the Grunin Center will continue to grow the selection of performances, audience attendance and geographic reach.

For more information on the Grunin Center and a schedule of performances, please visit www.grunincenter.org.