When two people come together who share a similar passion, there is no dream too big for them to accomplish. For Denise Badger and Bob Di Cerbo, that dream is the College Park Neighborhood Arts & Theatre Center.
Denise Badger has lived in College Park for over 20 years and says there’s no place like it. “When I first moved here I went to the post office for the first time, and the next time I came they remembered my name. It was fun to go to the post office because they knew you.” She continued, “It’s become not just a town but a place where ‘neighbor’ really meant something … and it mattered if you were there.”
From 2011 to 2013 Badger wrote an inspirational column in the College Park Community Paper called Footprints of the Soul. During this time a question was posed to the readers: “What’s missing in College Park?” Living in such a self-sustaining community Badger had some difficulty pinpointing what College Park was missing, or anything missing at all. She simply asked herself, “What do I wish was here?” Aside from a bookstore and an ice cream shop, a guiding light led her toward the idea for a nonprofit theater.
Badger had previously been involved in theater and loved how it brought people together and knocked down walls. “For the community, by the community” is what pushed her to take on this adventure. She wanted “people to realize just how creative College Park is.” In January 2013, Badger put out an ad calling for anyone interested in theater. The search led her to actor, writer, filmmaker and producer Bob Di Cerbo.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Di Cerbo lived in the suburbs where he developed his passion for the arts. At a young age Di Cerbo already had the idea of opening a performing arts center as he saw how impactful it could be to a community. “Involvement in the arts quantifiably provides great citizenship, and great citizenship provides great community and an enhanced enjoyment of life,” said the 12-year College Park resident. After attending college in Washington state, Di Cerbo pursued his acting career in New York City, where he lived in Manhattan for 10 years. He took part in over 150 movies and TV shows. Even though Di Cerbo went on to earn a Series 7 securities license and he started a traveling business, his passion for the community and fine arts remained intact. “I thought, ‘Wow, this could serve me,’” referring to the CPN Arts & Theatre center. “I can write, I can act, I can direct. And then I thought ‘What can I contribute?’ and that’s what’s really been the driving excitement since then,” says Di Cerbo.
His experience in business and performing arts made him the perfect candidate for the executive director of the CPN Arts & Theatre center. His and Badger’s combined passion and commitment has spread throughout the community, and they’ve received full support from residents.
Although ground hasn’t been broken, the center has kept a strong presence by putting on programming hosted at local schools like Princeton Elementary and by holding popular fundraising events like the I Love College Park Art & Wine Stroll, where residents and visitors enjoy an evening of fine wine and art along Edgewater Drive (starting at Albert Park). Many local restaurants and businesses stay open later to serve the participants, gaining exposure and new customers. (The last event raised $4,000.) This year the third Stroll will take place from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. November 14.
This is just the beginning of the opportunities the CPN Arts and Theatre Center will bring to College Park. As the center grows closer to reaching its goal, the well-being of the community is always in mind. Di Cerbo says the center “provides opportunity, education and possibilities … It’s not just for entertainment’s sake.”
You can help the center reach its goal of raising $125,000 by November 30, 2015. If you are passionate about the arts and your community, be among the first “Golden Donors” who will be honored with a plaque on the Donor Wall placed inside the center. To make a monetary contribution or volunteer, visit cpnarts.org.