It Takes a Village to Sustain a Vibrant Arts City
By James Frazier
COVID-19 showed us in 2020 is that historically underfunded communities and community-based organizations of color were hardest hit by the economic downturn. In New Jersey, the coronavirus pandemic devastated the arts industry, costing the creative economy business $3.9 billion in revenue; 73,640 people lost their jobs. As part of the global response, some corporate sponsors and funders re-thought their diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies; and others continued or increased their tradition of giving to underserved and marginalized populations of creatives.
In Newark, Bank of America has expanded its support of Black Film Festival to include the Newark Museum of Art at Home programs and activities. The program launched in April 2020 and brings art, science, and cultural experiences to people online. The PNC Foundation forms partnerships with local nonprofit organizations to expand educational opportunities and promote the growth of communities through economic development initiatives. Audible is the fastest-growing employer in the city of Newark. The organization thinks about its neighborhood investments and how to contribute to the tech and innovation ecosystem, which is key in a virtual world where galleries have been closed due to the pandemic. Art spaces like Akwaaba Gallery in the West Ward and even 2019’s citywide Newark Arts Festival resorted to apps and virtual gallery experiences while potential patrons sheltered in place. The Prudential Foundation has aided the arts, business, and the community by playing a notable role in Newark’s redevelopment. In addition, their foundation supports local arts and cultural organizations and projects throughout the city, such as New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark Symphony Hall, Newark Public Library, Newark Museum of Arts, WBGO, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Newark Arts, and Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District.
Other funders and grant-making organizations include Newark Arts, Victoria Foundation, NJ CARES Act Funding via NJSCA, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, NJ State Council on the Arts, Momentum Fund of United Philanthropy Forum, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Resilience Fund, Turrell Fund, Bank of America, TD Bank, Verizon, M&T Bank, PSEG, Hanini Group, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. PSEG’s Newark Arts Emergency Grant, made possible by funding from the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund, is a need-based minigrant of $1,000. The grant provides financial support to individual artists to create music, dance, theatre, film, visual, and literary art projects.
In January 2020, Mayor Baraka announced the creation of the the City of Newark’s first arts grant program, the Creative Catalyst Fund, to ensure that the arts continue to thrive. The fund will provide up to $1 million dollars annually for at least the next three years, beginning with $750,000 provided by the City in 2020 to seed the initiative.
Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is the title sponsor for NJPAC’s “Sounds of the City,” a free, popular, outdoor concert series that brings residents together every week in Chambers Plaza. Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City is made possible through a collaboration between NJPAC and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and their mutual dedication to providing the community with access to enriching resources, including exceptional entertainment. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has been a stalwart supporter of the arts in New Jersey across a variety of disciplines including music, opera, theater, dance and visual arts with a strong emphasis on arts education programming.
The arts cannot happen without financial support, period. While our arts organizations and working artists of all disciplines are driving the culture and creativity forward, it would not be possible without the ongoing financial support from anchor corporate institutions, foundations and grant-making organizations at a national, state and local level. We are grateful for the funders and supporters that keep the arts alive in Newark, New Jersey and leading the way.
James Frazier is the executive producer and resident reporter with the Newark News & Story Collaborative and creative director of The Vision Room.