As ballots begin to get mailed in Hudson County, Mayor Steven Fulop reaffirmed his support for a “YES” vote on Municipal Question #1 which would support Jersey City’s arts community.
If approved by the voters on Nov. 3, Jersey City would be the first municipality in New Jersey to establish an Arts and Culture Trust Fund, according to the city.
The Arts Trust would be funded by taxpayers through a tax of $0.02 per $100 of assessed property value meaning that a property assessed at $100,000 would pay no more than $20 per year to benefit local artists and arts organizations.
“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,” said Fulop. “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 spent two years working closely with the Jersey City Arts Council to lobby state legislators to implement mechanisms that would allow long-term arts funding. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a state bill allowing municipalities to implement an Arts and Culture Trust Fund in December 2019.
But, when the pandemic struck. Fulop explored delaying the referendum this year in order to address the pandemic’s financial burden on taxpayers.
After a series of conversations with Jersey City’s arts leaders, city council members, and open public forums, the mayor and council decided to move forward on the referendum despite budget challenges.
“A burgeoning arts culture helps fuel the city’s economic engine by attracting business, 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,” said Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey. “Securing this funding for the arts is securing a vital resource for our overall community.”
The possibility of future funding
Hudson County is one of the most poorly funded areas for the arts in New Jersey. Yet Jersey City’s dynamic art scene has been increasing at an exponential rate in recent years, requiring a more secure funding source to continue to expand with cultural programming and events.
According to the Arts and Culture Trust referendum, the tax revenue will be used to support creative and cultural activities, including but not limited to, performing, 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.
“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 and 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,” said Heather Warfel Sandler, chair of the Jersey City Arts Council. “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.”
Support during the pandemic
The arts community has been among the most financially strained during the pandemic.
With no stable funding in place, Fulop announced arts relief funding in July. One hundred and nineteen artists and arts organization, 11 art program organizations, 12 summer youth nonprofits, and 12 community-based organizations received grants administered from the $2 million in private donations raised through the Mayor’s COVID-19 Community Relief Distribution.
According to the city, the financial boost has provided temporary relief to artists and arts organizations to address pandemic-related losses and funding 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 commercial areas to reopen.
“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.