NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The State Theatre, a downtown cultural center, raised more than $500,000 at a recent benefit gala to support artistic and educational programs, theatre officials said.

This year, the Grammy award-winning Kool and The Gang performed at the annual black-tie benefit evening. Clearly, it was time to "Celebrate."

In addition to the performance, there was a dinner dance at the Heldrich Hotel and a silent auction with more than 70 items available.

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Serving as co-chairs for the evening were John Fitzgerald, president & CEO of a local bank, and John Reissner, who runs the bank's marketing. “It was a remarkable evening in support of the State Theatre’s mission of providing arts education programs to inform and build future audiences,” the co-chairs said in a statement.

The theatre gala committee and board recognized Bank of American as the corporate honoree of the year, and selected philanthropist Betty Wold Johnson, who was recognized as the leadership in arts honoree.  Douglas and Diane Garback, of the Garback Agency - a North Brunswick financial services company - were named the patron honorees.

More than 200,000 patrons attend shows at the theatre annually. In addition, more than 30,000 students and teachers attend school performances and educational programs.

The theatre recently selected it first woman president and CEO to direct the cultural center. Sarah Bartlo-Chaplin was named the seventh person to hold the top position at the center. She most recently served there-and-half years as executive director The National Theatre Corporation in Washington D.C.