Essex County arts organizations to receive NJACRF grants

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund is awarding $2.2 million in grants to 96 nonprofit organizations across the state. Since its founding in 2020, the fund has awarded a total of more than $6.7 million in grants to more than 180 nonprofit arts, culture and history organizations statewide.

The fund recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the fund’s grants to organizations that contribute to cultural equity and community well-being. The fund has also received significant support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

In Essex County, grants are being awarded to the following organizations: 

  • In Montclair, Jazz House Kids Inc., Montclair Film, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts Inc. and Vanguard Theater Company.
  • In Newark, Arts Ed Newark/Newark Arts, Barat Foundation, GlassRoots, Ivy Hill Vailsburg Center for Arts Culture and Community Activism, Newark Boys Chorus School, Newark Public Radio, Newark School of the Arts, Project for Empty Space, and Trilogy: An Opera Company.
  • In Orange, University of Orange.
  • In West Orange, Arts for Kids Inc. and Luna Stage.

The fund, hosted by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, is a collaboration between private and public donors. Established at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a lifesaving initiative for many of the state’s nonprofit organizations in the arts, culture and historical sectors. NJACRF has prioritized support to small and midsized organizations, led by and/or serving black, indigenous and people of color communities, which were found to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“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 resilience and future of the sector as its needs change and evolve,” said Jeremy Grunin, co-chairperson of the fund’s steering committee. “This sector is essential to our social and emotional well-being — 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 and 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.”

The pandemic brought to light the arts sector’s vulnerabilities and amplified the inequities facing those organizations serving marginalized communities that are still struggling to stay afloat.

“Smaller arts and culture organizations contribute greatly to community well-being in our society,” fund Executive Director Lynne Toye said. “They offer spaces for increased social cohesion by providing opportunities for people to meet, engage with culture and bridge cultural differences. 

“We have found that these organizations serve multiple functions which may include after school enrichment, arts and history education, entertainment, and community connection,” Toye continued.

Led by Toye and an 11-person steering committee of leaders representing arts, culture and philanthropy, the fund has provided support and impacted the sustainable recovery of the sector. 

In the most recent round of awards, grants ranged in size from $1,500 to $50,000, with an average grant size of $23,000. All grants are pending a final review.