New arts center brings ‘Hope’ Heights church opens gallery and theatre space

Since it opened in 1996, the Hope Center has been primarily known as a church on Charles Street in the Jersey City Heights section. But since 2000, it also has served as an arts academy, and now it contains a new arts center as well.

On Thursday, Oct. 2, the Hope Center took the next step in establishing their arts-influenced ministry with the grand opening of The Hope Center for Visual and Performing Arts, a 10,000 sq. ft. building that includes a 5,000 sq. ft. gallery and theater space. The facility, which was once a warehouse, now can hold music and dance concerts, art exhibitions, and visual presentations.

Officials at the Hope Center thanked invited guests for their support at an Oct. 2 ceremony inside the facility at 110 Cambridge Ave., near Central Avenue.

The center had already been a haven for the arts for both children and adults since 2000, when it opened a 160-student Hope Center Arts Academy. There, they were able to move the ministry into creative realms ranging from music to costume design.

Pastor Mario Gonzalez, who founded the Hope Center along with his wife Leigh (also an ordained pastor), addressed the audience Thursday. Dignitaries included Mayor Jerramiah Healy, City Council President Mariano Vega, City Councilman Bill Gaughan (who represents the area where the new center is located) and other officials.

Gonzales thanked the one central influence in his life who made the center and the ministry possible.

“Thank God for the opportunity to be able give what we give … and how we reach out to the kids in our community and to the families,” Gonzalez said.

After the ceremony, hundreds of the Hope Center’s parishioners witnessed a ribbon-cutting outside.

Then, they were let into the new arts center.New hope springs from old warehouse

The project was more than two years in the making to transform an “old, nondescript warehouse,” as Mariano Vega put it after the ribbon-cutting. The building was transformed into a loud, shiny, modern structure that stands out on what is primarily a quiet residential neighborhood.

The vitality that came from seeing the completion of such a new edifice put a charge into the festivities.

Jersey City native Sam Cintron, a Pastor of Worship Arts for the Hope Center as well as an accomplished painter and musician, recalled meeting Pastor Mario Gonzalez when Gonzales recruited Cintron to join the ministry and impart his artistic expertise. Gonzalez lauded the pastor, his wife, and the entire Hope Center ministry.

“That’s what makes this place amazing is that the founders are artists; one is a musician and the other is a designer,” Cintron said.

Cintron’s art was also featured in an exhibition at the Center called Pandora’s Box that also featured the works of local artists Duda Penteado, Luis Pratts, Angel Franco, and Juan Morales. Visitors to the new center got to see the exhibit on opening day.

Also praising the new arts center was 17-year-old Matthew Sanchez, who has been a parishioner with his mother since he was 9.

“This is like a breakthrough because we have been waiting so long for this, over two years,” Sanchez said. “It’s like another home to me.” Comments on this story can be sent to


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