Arts Advocates Petition Jersey City Council for “Percent for the Arts”

Artists, arts organizations, and arts advocates are encouraged to come together at City Hall (280 Grove St.) tonight at 6 pm, to attend the June 14 meeting of the City Council, to ask for a “Percent for the Arts” to be allocated in the Jersey City budget. A rally to support this initiative will be held outside City Hall at 5:30 pm.

“The purpose of this gathering is to show the City Council how many people value the arts in Jersey City, and how important it is to have institutional, civic support for the arts,” said Robinson Holloway, chair of the Board of Trustees of the recently formed Jersey City Arts Council (JCAC).

The Jersey City Arts Council was formed in November 2016 with a mission to support and advocate for the arts in Jersey City, with four areas of focus: venues, re-granting, promotion and policy. The JCAC believes that the success of artists and arts organizations is vital to our city.

As difficult as it is to believe, there presently is no provision for funding the arts in the Jersey City budget. There is however a hotel tax which generates more than $6 million, and in 2006 the City Council approved a resolution (by an 8 to 1 vote) urging the city to set aside 1 percent of this revenue toward the arts. The resolution pushed for this 1 percent to be allocated to the promotion of tourism, particularly “Jersey City’s art community, its cultural resources, such as museums and theaters, and its historic sites and recreational opportunities, all of which should make Jersey City both a unique tourist and vacation destination.”

Over the course of the 2013 mayoral campaign, local nonprofit arts groups Pro Arts, Art House Productions, and Nimbus Dance Works joined forces to create an arts-specific questionnaire which the Jersey City Independent published so that locals could get a better understanding of how each mayoral candidate would support the thriving arts scene in Jersey City if elected. One of the questions asked the candidates: If elected, would your administration commit to making these monies available to Jersey City arts and cultural organizations? If so, what process/procedure would you propose to disburse these monies equitably?

Mayoral candidate Steven Fulop’s reply at the time was, “I would certainly like to commit to making these funds available to the arts and cultural communities here but it would be subject to looking at the municipal budget post May 14. Per recent Jersey Journal articles, the administration has been using overtime and raises as part of its campaign strategy and I would be hesitant to 100 percent commit on this front ‘til I saw what the final impact is of their decisions during that time–with that in mind I do think this sort of funding is crucial and would do everything to see it through.”

To date this resolution has not been adopted.

The Jersey City Arts Council and other arts groups who have helped organize this campaign are targeting a percentage of the hotel tax be dedicated to the arts, with the further aim of a referendum in November that will provide a stable and sustainable revenue source for the arts in Jersey City.

JCAC members have been distributing red t-shirts that read “% for the ARTS,” and they are asking all supporters to show up wearing “red” to tonight’s City Council meeting to show their solidarity and “heart for art.”

According to Ann Marie Miller, Director of Advocacy & Public Policy at Art Pride, “The arts play a major role in making Jersey City one of the most vibrant cities in our state. We are now learning that every 3 cents of public support generates 1 dollar of economic activity through jobs, household income and spending by arts patrons. Investment by local government in its cultural assets now will assure that the arts remain vital to Jersey City’s future.”

“Now is the time to advocate on behalf of local arts organizations and artists, to tell our government that we need to prioritize the arts and make it a part of the public conversation,” said Christine Goodman, founder and former Executive Director of Art House Productions. “We want to see the good work of Jersey City’s arts organizations and artists thrive. To move the arts forward, to create a sustainable, arts-friendly Jersey City, we need to support of our neighbors on June 14. Let’s come together to make a positive impact on the future of the arts.”

The most powerful statement that supporters of the arts in Jersey City can make is to show up in numbers at City Hall. Those who want to speak directly to the City Council can sign up by calling the City Clerk’s office at 201-547-5150. Those unable to make it to the Council meeting in person can call or email their council representative to make their voice to be heard on this issue.

Tonight’s City Council meeting will be held at City Hall (280 Grove St.) starting at 6 pm. The rally for “percent for the arts” starts outside City Hall at 5:30 pm. For more information on the Jersey City Arts Council and to get involved, visit jerseycityartscouncil.org.

© Harmony Media, NJ. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission.

Catherine Hecht

is the owner of Harmony Media, NJ, the publisher of Jersey City Independent and blogs about urban gardening at dig a path. She's lived in Jersey City since 1999 and resides in the Heights section with her wife Beth Achenbach, they were the first couple to file as legal domestic partners in Jersey City. Cat has over 10 years experience in communications, marketing and publishing, she's studied anthropology, art history, woman & gender studies, botany, ethnobotany, and herbology and she is a graduate of the Rising Tide Capital Community Business Academy. She is also is a community activist, registered voter, gay rights activist, art lover, gardener, environmentalist, and an animal advocate.

  • ink_stained_wretch

    So it’s late September now. Any progress on this to report?