Support and Survival of the Arts in Jersey City

Posted by MartinM on 2017/5/16 6:53:44
I attended New Jersey City University's Arts and Culture Breakfast Symposium on last Thursday morning with a wide array of artists and arts leaders representing arts groups from all over Jersey City and representing all different media in the arts. It is encouraging that NJCU is playing the role of a facilitator of communication.

Unfortunately, I was dismayed and frustrated by the lack of awareness, inability to articulate, and tone deaf comments by the government officials in attendance. No personal offense intended - but the arts are a highly sophisticated and educated field that requires individuals who possess knowledge, contacts, and education in the areas of arts and non-profit management. Beyond the individuals on the panel with specific experience in arts management, I heard nothing but more platitudes about Jersey City's "great arts scene". One official, at a loss for describing his familiarity with Jersey City arts, spoke about his passion for karaoke. Another seemed to be swimming in gibberish, incomprehensible to anyone in the room. A third trotted out the same tried and true excuse: we are fixing everything the prior administration did wrong. (Isn't there a statute of limitation on that one?) None appeared to have a grasp of the challenges facing arts and arts groups in Jersey City nor ideas for remedying the crisis that arts in Jersey City are facing. Are these officials aware that there is not one arts organization in Jersey City with even marginally adequate funding for operations in spite of our location in the most economically active region in the state?

Last week's meeting conveyed no confidence that the city possesses the will, awareness, or expertise to address the underlying issues of: negligible arts funding, lack of professional arts performance/exhibition space, inclusion of arts in city planning decisions, enforcement of arts provisions in zoning and other ordinances. At today's panel discussion the tension in the room between the official "party line" about support for the arts - and the reality that Jersey City arts groups face in Jersey City - was so thick you could have cut it with a knife.

I hope local government will prove me wrong about their commitment to the arts. Or perhaps these pols, in their campaign year calculations, will decide that providing real policy and leadership in the arts is not as cheap and easy as highly publicized window dressing: murals, public arts events barely discernible from poltical rallies paid for by the tax payers but with the mayor's face front and center.

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