JERSEY CITY, NJ - While doubts emerged earlier this year about whether or not it would appear on the ballot in November, Mayor Steven M. Fulop this week reaffirmed his support for a “YES” vote on Municipal Question #1 which would dramatically change support for the arts community in Jersey City.
If approved, Jersey City would be the first municipality in New Jersey to establish an Arts and Culture Trust Fund. The Arts Trust will be funded at a maximum rate of $0.02 per $100 of assessed property value and will directly benefit local artists and arts organizations to help them grow and thrive.
“A vote ‘yes’ on Election Day for that small fee will collectively go a long way for the future of Jersey City’s dynamic culture, strengthening our vibrant arts scene and ultimately invigorating the community as a whole” Fulop said. “Now more than ever, we need to establish sustainable fiscal models to provide a strong foundation for our unique arts and culture to grow and thrive, now and for future generations to come.”
Fulop said he spent two years working closely with the Jersey City Arts Council to lobby state legislators to implement the mechanisms that would allow long-term arts funding. Jersey City was first to take action when the state bill was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in December 2019.
This modeled itself after the city and county open space trust funds which supported parks and other outdoor recreational projects around the city and had generated more than $3 million towards improvements and upgrades to city parks.
“Jersey City is blessed with a vibrant arts community, and the administration and advocates have done an amazing job reminding voters that the arts in Jersey City have social, emotional, and economic impacts,” said Anne Marie Miller, Director of Advocacy & Public Policy for ArtPride NJ. “I hope that voters will vote 'yes' to the Arts and Cultural Trust Fund so that we can ensure the arts in Jersey City are financially sustainable and can continue to burst with creativity.”
"As a teacher, parent, homeowner, and arts leader in Jersey City, I have personally seen how the arts have profoundly impacted both individuals and the city at large. I hope that our voters recognize that the establishment of this Arts Trust will not only make the arts more viable here in Jersey City but will, in turn, bring a thriving economy and vibrant inspiring atmosphere for all," said Heather Warfel Sandler, Chair, Jersey City Arts Council.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinze-Arey said that securing the funding is akin to securing a vital resource to the city, adding that “A burgeoning arts culture helps fuel the city’s economic engine by attracting business, building a strong sociocultural, expanding educational opportunities, and creating a unique and sought after culture that boosts property values while creating a unique sense of community for residents and visitors alike.
In an effort to address the pandemic’s financial burden on taxpayers, Fulop explored delaying the implementation of the referendum for a year. After a series of conversations, he held with Jersey City’s arts leaders, City Council members, and in open public forums, the mayor and council decided to move forward on the enabling referendum despite the budget challenges.
“We are fortunate to live in a city that wants to invest in the arts. By doing so they are investing in Jersey City's cultural and economic future,” said Beth Cope, Managing Director of Jersey City Theater Center and member of the Jersey City Arts Fund Committee.
Already severely underfunded by the state, the arts community has been among the most financially strained amid the pandemic, advocates have said. With no stable funding in place, Fulop announced arts relief funding in July which included dollars for 119 artists and arts organizations and 11 art program organizations through grants administered from the $2 million in private donations raised by the Mayor’s COVID-19 Community Relief Distribution. The financial boost has provided the temporary relief that artists and arts organizations have needed to address pandemic-related losses and funding and to create and implement visual and performing arts programming, with a priority on arts education for children as well as arts programming that will help revitalize commercial areas reopening.
Hudson County is one of the lowest funded areas for the arts in New Jersey, yet Jersey City’s dynamic arts scene has been increasing at an exponential rate in recent years, requiring a more secure funding source to continue expanding with cultural programming and events. Per the Arts and Culture Trust referendum, the tax revenue will be used to expand after school arts education programming and directly support creative and cultural activities which includes performance, visual, and fine arts, music, dance, graphic design, film, digital media and video, architecture and urban design, humanities, literature, arts and culture education, historic preservation, museum curation, crafts, and folk arts.
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