Archive for 2018

The HeART of Downtown Renaissance

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By Ann Marie Miller,
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, ArtPride New Jersey


What happens when you get five business leaders in a room filled with hungry learners who want to know the secrets to making their downtowns come alive? This was the scene at the recent New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference where ArtPride and the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey collaborated to showcase success stories in progress in Hackensack, Atlantic City, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Paterson.

Presiding Mayor Andre Sayegh of Paterson moderated the lively discussion and took time to share how the local arts scene is helping to rebrand the city in partnership with NJ Transit and the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park, along with Paterson’s grassroots arts commission and the Passaic County Cultural & Heritage Council.

Maureen Vanacore, a consultant with the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s Arts Bergen project, and Patrice Foresman of the Main Street Business Alliance in Hackensack offered insight into how creative placemaking has taken hold in the county seat with the help of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. NCCP supplies basic tools and guidance to map cultural assets, develop a creative team, and create a placemaking plan and timeline. Maureen and Patrice shared the success of the Main Gateway Mural Project and how it acts as a beacon of the city, and Main Street Alliance’s endorsement of arts and culture as a powerful tool to transform, connect, and serve communities.

Maureen’s suggestion for how to get started using the arts successfully to transform your downtown is to listen: “Listen to the community, to artists, to new imaginings that can reframe our neighborhoods in ways that make them more interesting gathering places for people to engage.”

Tom Gilmore of the Trenton Downtown Association shared the success of the Levitt AMP free concert series and made the announcement that the series will continue in Trenton in 2019. Tom talked about the difficulty of recovering from the violent incident this summer at Artwork’s Art All Night and how the Levitt AMP concert series helped rebuild an audience that could feel both comfortable and safe at a free outdoor public gathering at night in Trenton.

Evan Sanchez of Authentic City Partners in Atlantic City shared the energy and excitement of plans to re-envision the Orange Loop in A.C., which incorporates Tennessee Avenue near the Boardwalk and the Steel Pier. Evan serves as the Chair of the dynamic Atlantic City Arts Foundation, whichtransforms – with the help of visual and performing artists – abandoned sites in the Orange Loop through a program called “Arteriors.” Arteriors locations now set the scene for parties that gather the greater Atlantic City community and celebrate the work of local artists. Through the work of Authentic City Partners, other assets have also been added, including a new coffee shop (Hayday), a yoga studio, a chocolate bar (Made Atlantic City Chocolate), and a brand new beer hall. Each location has utilized the work of local artists to enhance the flavor of these welcoming meeting spaces. Evan’s advice for how to get started using the arts successfully in downtowns is: “Reach out to local artists AND community/neighborhood organizations to organize a public art event to get the ball rolling at the ground level. Start small and let it build.”

Dan Swern of CoLAB Arts in New Brunswick talked about how important it is to assure that artists are being properly remunerated for their work and how CoLAB embeds artists in a community projects that meet a variety of cross-sector needs (environmental, social justice, municipal, health, etc.). In this way, the arts are holistically integrated into settings that are transformational. Dan shared work with the Esperanza neighborhood in New Brunswick through the Esperanza Mercado project, which strives to provide creative access and food equity, and the Watershed Sculpture Project, which collaborates with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership to commission new public art works to be created from refuse collected in local stream clean-ups.

The standing-room-only audience for the session had many questions for the panelists, which served to provide a lively discussion and many post-session meetups with municipal leaders from all corners of New Jersey. For more information about the panel and to see the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the session, please click here. Contact ArtPride staff to learn more about first steps to transform your downtown and ignite a renaissance by incorporating arts and culture.


Ann Marie Miller is currently director of Advocacy & Public Policy for the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and served as Executive Director there for 20 years. Prior to joining ArtPride in 1995, Miller served as director of Development at McCarter Theatre and as grants coordinator for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Miller serves on the Executive Committee of the State Arts Action Network of Americans for the Arts; as chair of the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission in her hometown; as member of the Governance Committee of the NJ Arts Education Partnership; and served on the board for the Center for Non-Profit Corporations in New Jersey. Miller is a graduate of Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia with a B.S. in art education.

2019 People’s Choice Awards Nominations Now Open!

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Creative Art as a Tool for Community Revitalization

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By Jim Simon,
Deputy Director, Community Planning, Isles, Inc.

What does your mind conjure when asked to visualize Trenton’s art scene? Public sculpture concentrated near the State House? Street-style art on abandoned buildings? While both examples can be found across the spectrum of art in Trenton, the reality is much more vibrant and diverse.

Creative and performing arts have always played an important role in Trenton over the course of its history, but recent years have seen an incredible profusion of art and related activity, including live music, visual art, bike culture, theater, and countless other art forms. At Isles, we’ve supported and promoted public art with community partners across the city for most of our 37 year history. We are especially excited, though, about being the driving force behind the Creek to Canal Creative District (C2C), the prime result of the year-long Trenton Arts in Focus planning process. We are currently working with partners on implementing the plan with a focus on supporting the arts as a key tool in revitalizing downtown Trenton, while keeping an eye on promoting arts activity citywide.

Not content to just plan and organize, we are leveraging funding to make on-the-ground projects happen through a continued partnership with the I Am Trenton Community Foundation. The inaugural round of the Old Trenton Arts & Community Grants distributed funding through a competitive process to 15 projects ranging from murals, community art making, and public art installations, to bicycle repair clinics, book fairs, and gardens.

We are bringing resources to launch or reinvigorate projects like the new Broad Street Bank Gallery, the rebirth of the Studios at 219 East Hanover, the Orchid House, and Trenton Community A-Team studio and exhibition space at 51 North Stockton. Additionally, we are convening stakeholders and municipal officials to develop public art policy in ways to ensure that healthy dialog can be had about art in the City. We need to be able to talk frankly and critically about art – not just art that is deemed “safe,” but art that is controversial, subversive, or art that speaks uncomfortable truths.

All too often, public perception of Trenton is one of violence, especially when it affects innocent bystanders. Creative arts can help express reactions against violence or the conditions hospitable to it, but can also help reclaim and activate public space as a form of anti-violence. Public expressions and celebrations of art, like Artworks Art All Night/Art All Day and the Levitt AMP free concert series are critical to the future of Trenton’s revitalization. We are excited to be able to move the Creek to Canal Creative District forward and support others in pursuit of creative revitalization in Trenton.

Image: Isles’ site for Art All Day at Roberto Clemente Park, featuring the Mobile Bread House and Trenton Art Puzzle exhibit. Mural work by Lori Johansson and Celeste Huang.


Jim Simon oversees urban agriculture services and related education for Isles, Inc. In addition, he oversees vacant lot stabilization and improvement work and other neighborhood arts and green infrastructure initiatives. He is chair of the Trenton Green Team, a member the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and is on the steering committee of the Trenton Cycling Revolution, a bicycling advocacy group. In a previous life, he spent 10 years as part of a rock ‘n’ roll puppetry collective and has performed in venues such as NYC’s Knitting Factory, BRIC (Brooklyn Information & Culture) House, and Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Painted Bride Art Center, and Trocadero Theatre.

Arts Panels at 2018 NJ League of Municipalities Conference

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The NJ League of Municipalities Conference 2018 rolls out inspiration to plan for the future with a theme of Municipalities Leading the Way. The 103rd League Conference will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center November 13-15.

ArtPride has helped to organize two panels that focus on the relationship of the arts to municipalities:

The HeART of Downtown Renaissance
Tuesday, November 13 at 2:00pm

Co-hosted by ArtPride New Jersey and the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ

Experts will share how local arts and cultural programs–from festivals and mural projects, to pop up exhibitions and creative use of vacant spaces–spur economic and community development. Panelists will discuss arts and community partnerships that tackle local challenges head-on and help develop healthy and desirable neighborhoods where residents take pride and businesses succeed.

Maureen Vanacore, Northern NJ Community Foundation, ArtsBergen
Patrice Foresman, Main Street Business Alliance, Hackensack
Evan Sanchez, Co-Founder, Authentic City Partners, Atlantic City
Tom Gilmour, Executive Director, Trenton Downtown Association
Dan Swern, Producing Director, CoLAB Arts
Presiding: Andre Sayegh – Mayor of Paterson, NJ

Tourism & Local Governmnent Engagement
Thursday, November 15, 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Room 414, Atlantic City Convention Center
Hosted by the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association

Explore the partnership between government and professional tourism marketing. Learn about your Destination Marketing Organization; using the local option Hotel and Lodging Occupancy tax for tourism; how to promote your town and take advantage of existing alliances. Understand cutting-edge proposals to create Tourism Development Authorities (TDA) used successfully in other states to empower local governments to establish their own marketing program with community participation and funding.

Joseph Simonetta – Executive Director, NJ Tourism Industry Assoc.
Jacqueline Morales – Director, Tourism and Somerset County/Business Partnership
Jennifer Costa – DMO Director, Elizabeth
Adam Perle – President & CEO, ArtPride New Jersey
Presiding: J. Christian Bollwage – Mayor, Elizabeth; Past President, NJLM

Click here for conference registration information.

Secretary of State Visits McCarter to Support Voter Registration

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Last week, we had the extreme pleasure of welcoming  the New Jersey Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, to McCarter Theatre Center. Our partners at New Jersey State Council on the Arts invited Ms. Way to visit one of the fantastic cultural organizations hosting voter registration tables as part of the Support the Arts – VOTE campaign. It was a wonderful opportunity to show her how art organizations can shine as civic leaders.

Way echoed the importance of these community connections and campaigns like Support the Arts – VOTE:

“Much like the arts give people a platform to share their stories, voting gives people the opportunity to make their voices heard. Now, more than ever, communities across our nation are feeling empowered by the right to vote. A record number of people – 800,000 – registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day last month.

We are grateful to our state’s strong arts sector – and organizations like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, ArtPride New Jersey and McCarter Theatre – for recognizing the role of the arts in bringing communities together and seeing the potential arts organizations have to increase and celebrate civic engagement.”

For more examples of our members bringing their communities together in the name of civic responsibility, check out our latest Voices from the Field blog post. Also, check out more photos from Secretary Way’s visit on our Facebook page or on McCarter’s blog.

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