Creative Placemaking, Arts Funding Helps N.J. Cities

Arts districts are driving downtown revitalization.

New Brunswick, New Jersey (Photo by Forevaclevah)

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When it comes to boosting local economies and driving downtown revitalization, arts districts in New Jersey cities are gaining momentum, thanks to a mix of public and private investing and an uptick in city leaders’ interest in cultural placemaking.

At NJ Spotlight’s recent conference on cities, panelists on “The Arts as an Economic Factor” noted that $16 million in annual grants from New Jersey’s Art Council helped fund up to 175 artists and art organizations, and put New Jersey in fourth place nationwide when it comes to state spending on the arts. According to NJ Spotlight, “… this money — generated through a hotel tax — prompts grant recipients to collectively spend another $250 million, while patrons provide $125 million in economic activity. All together, New Jersey boasts some 20,000 arts organizations, both nonprofits and businesses, which employ roughly 75,000 people … .”

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation adds about $6 million annually to that pot. Chris Daggett, CEO at the foundation, said almost half of the funds contribute to arts education funding and a school poetry program.

The panelists noted the important role of local leaders in creative placemaking that will bring together the community and attract outside investors.

“The real key here is to try and convince legislators and the governor … to fully fund the formula as it could be,” Daggett said, according to NJ Spotlight. He said some hotel tax revenue had been diverted for other programs.

New Brunswick was also singled out as great example. Ongoing arts support there helped draw one panelist, Tom Carto, to work at the city’s State Theatre as president, and retain Johnson & Johnson, and contributed to a booming restaurant scene and housing market.

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Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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Tags: taxesdowntown revitalization

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