Thanks to Funds from Numerous Supporters
Including $1.5 Million From The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
More than 180 nonprofits in the arts, culture and historical sectors have received grants
through an unprecedented collaboration
The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund (NJACRF), hosted by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and established at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, has been a lifesaving initiative for many of the state’s nonprofit organizations in the arts, culture and historical sectors. The Fund has prioritized support to small and mid-size organizations, led by and/or serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) that were found to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund is an unprecedented collaboration between private and public donors. It has awarded grants to 185 organizations representing every county in the state during four rounds of funding, which began in January 2021.
The Fund recently received a $1.5 Million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the Fund’s grantmaking. The Fund awards grants to organizations that contribute to cultural equity and community wellbeing, which aligns with the goals of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s philanthropy. The Fund has also received significant support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
A round of New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal grants totaling $2.2 million was announced November 17, 2022, with grants going to 96 organizations. These grants ranged in size from $1,500 to $50,000 with an average grant size of $23,000. See the full list here. This brings the total grants awarded by the Fund to over $6.7 million since it was established in 2020.
Major supporters include The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, The Grunin Foundation, Merck, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and Amazon.
An early gift from the Grunin Foundation was a catalyst for other foundations and institutions to join in supporting the Fund.
“The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund started as a RECOVERY Fund two years ago to help arts, cultural and historical organizations survive the COVID pandemic. We have now transformed into a RENEWAL Fund, focusing on the resiliency and future of the sector as its needs change and evolve,” said Jeremy Grunin, Co-Chair of the Fund’s Steering Committee. “This sector is essential to our social and emotional wellbeing – keeping us connected, fostering unity, and improving mental health. Through equitable grantmaking, the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund is helping smaller arts, cultural and historical organizations continue to thrive during challenging times, which in turn, positively impacts the entire New Jersey community.”
“In this round of our grantmaking, the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund received $5.8 Million in requests, indicating the great need that still exists among arts and culture organizations across the state,” said Sharnita C. Johnson, Vice President of Strategy, Impact & Communications at Victoria Foundation. “The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund directly addresses inequity and historical disparities in funding and intentionally fills the resource gap,” she added.
As we continue to heal from the devastating effects of the pandemic, a simple but important fact has emerged – arts and culture are a critical part of our humanity, are important to our well-being, and play a vital role in our economy and its recovery. However, the pandemic also brought to light the sector’s immense vulnerability and amplified the inequities facing those organizations servicing marginalized communities that are still struggling to stay afloat.
“Smaller arts and culture organizations contribute greatly to community wellbeing in our society,” said Lynne Toye, Executive Director of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund. “They offer spaces for increased social cohesion by providing opportunities for people to meet, engage with culture, and bridge cultural differences.” This is especially important in areas of the state without a large “anchor institution”. “We have found that these organizations serve multiple functions which may include afterschool enrichment, arts and history education, entertainment, and community connection,” Toye continued.
Three organizations that were part of the early rounds of funding highlight the critical role the fund has played, enabling each to continue delivering important life changing programs and services.
Vanguard Theater Company, a Black-led performing arts organization in Montclair, New Jersey, was able to complete theater renovations and resume its educational programming for children and teens early in the pandemic thanks to support from the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund. “Children have suffered in so many ways over the past two and-a-half years. We were able to provide a safe space for them to reconnect and return to a sense of normalcy”, said Janeece Freeman Clark, Founding Artistic Director of Vanguard Theater Company. “Theater provides an outlet for self-expression unlike any other”, she continued. Since the pandemic, their program content has expanded to address the socio-emotional and mental health needs of the young people it serves.
“We are so grateful to have the continued support of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund, which allows us to offer affordable artists’ studio space and free workshops”, said Asiyah Kurtz, Executive Director of Camden FireWorks. Camden FireWorks is a Black-led community-based arts organization in the Waterfront South district of Camden. Their mission is to use art to create social change. “Attendance at our workshops and events has steadily increased over the past two years, and we are seeing more inter-generational participation,” she added. A recent art exhibition opening drew over 200 people, its largest crowd ever.
Atlantic City’s MudGirls Studios, a pottery making initiative created in a women’s shelter by designer Dorrie Papademetriou, a merger of her passion for design and social change – has been able to continue making a difference in the lives of countless disadvantaged women. The women who make up MudGirls’ growing workforce have found purpose, opportunity, education, and empowerment. Using the skills they have been taught, many of the women involved have gained financial stability through sales of their highly valued wares. The training they receive and the community they enjoy at the studio builds self esteem and has helped them manage and overcome a wide range of health and life challenges.
Led by Lynne Toye, Executive Director, and an 11-person steering committee of leaders representing arts, culture, and philanthropy, The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund has provided meaningful support and has impacted the sustainable recovery of the sector. Through equitable distribution of funds, it has brought into focus the important work that smaller, more localized organizations do and the value they provide to those living in underserved communities.
About the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund
The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund was created by a coalition of New Jersey funders aligned to ensure a coordinated approach to sector support with a commitment to equity in grantmaking. The New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund provides financial support to catalyze an equitable statewide recovery and build cultural sector resilience. The Fund is hosted by the Princeton Area Community Foundation. Learn more about the New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund here.