Hundreds of nonprofit arts, cultural and historical organizations and thousands of artists and sector workers have sustained catastrophic financial losses that threaten irreparable damage. New Jersey’s cultural industry has sustained losses of more than $30 million due to pandemic related closures and cancelations. Institutions, some of which have been serving New Jersey communities for decades, have exhausted reserves, laid off staff, depleted endowments, and increased debt.
New Jersey’s cultural industries – when open and thriving – are essential components of our state and local economies. Nonprofit arts organizations generate more than $600 million in economic activity, employ nearly 30,000 workers, and engage more than 9.5 million people who stay in hotels, and eat and shop locally, all year round. Millions of dollars are spent through heritage tourism annually, and thousands of jobs are created to accommodate visitors who explore New Jersey’s rich role in history.
While business as it was before COVID-19 came to a screeching halt, these same arts and history groups, as well as individual artists continued working, many without pay, to offer relief and hope for residents of all ages, including many of our most vulnerable populations. As we emerge from the pandemic, cultural organizations offer opportunities for connection, stress relief, healing, learning, and much needed entertainment. Many also serve as community anchors, capitalizing on strategic partnerships and innovative programs that intersect with vital social services.
The recovery of the creative sector and heritage tourism lags behind the recovery of other sectors in New Jersey, even as restrictions ease. The sector at large has suffered devastating losses, including some permanent closures – and the threat of a pandemic resurgence looms. With support, the sector can thrive and continue to offer connection, resilience and renewal now and into the future.