Predictions for the Future of New Jersey’s Nonprofit Arts Industry

November 9, 2015


annmarie1-150x150Halloween’s over, but my crystal ball is still in view so I thought it would be revealing to take a quick peek since the future of New Jersey’s nonprofit arts industry has been nagging at me over the past few weeks.

Here are some predictions the crystal ball yields (spoiler: some are so evident there’s no need for help from the supernatural).

  1. The future of significant public funding for the arts will remain local for the foreseeable future. Notice the operative word is “significant.” Based on the $16 million yield from the 2014 Middlesex County bond referendum (yes, that’s $16 mil in 1 year), expect other counties and municipalities to follow suit and find ways to provide local arts dollars. This hints at the surge of local arts advocates who are not waiting to benefit from the activism of others. Restrictions for capital expenses or free programming may apply, but this boost is nothing to sneeze at.
  2. Creative placemaking will move from trend status to respected movement after about five years carrying that label. It’s indisputable that the arts are changing downtowns not only in New Jersey but all over the country from rural small towns to bustling metropolitan areas (there’s that local reference again). This is where the arts get literal “street cred.” Yay for the arts and economic development and redevelopment! Which reminds me — ArtPride NJ and the NJ State Council on the Arts along with the NJ Historical Commission and the NJ Redevelopment Authority, are hosting a panel discussion on Nov. 17 at 3:45 pm at the NJ League of Municipalities Conference “Using Cultural Assets in Redevelopment.” Exciting current redevelopment projects in Trenton, Millville and Newark will be explored by a panel of experts. For more information visit the ArtPride NJ website.
  3. The demographic makeup of arts audiences will change drastically in the next five years. We have been hearing this from national and local experts for years now, and talking about it in board rooms and vision sessions. The nonprofit arts industry needs to address this shift sooner (like now) rather than later.  Many arts groups in New Jersey are actively tackling this need, but consistent programming will be a key factor in assuring engaged future audiences. Arts groups like Newark Print Shop and Gallery Aferro are examples of shifting business models that are not only setting the pace but emanating sheer excitement and visibly diverse audiences that seek fun ways to experience art. Here the operative words are “fun” and “create or make.”
  4. Parallel to No. 3, managers of arts groups will reflect the changing demographics and be mentored and trained by baby boomers that are reluctantly easing into retirement. There’s a lot to be learned from seasoned veterans who earned their advanced degrees in practice and whose careers are characterized by the sheer determination that marks their generation.
  5. We will no longer be talking about the “arts and.”  This is more of a hope than a prediction, but I’ll go out on a limb here. The arts and economic development were mentioned above, but the arts and healing, the arts and innovation, the arts and education are all areas where the arts will be viewed as critical elements, not fringe benefits. Our work now will set the stage for when the addition of the word “and” becomes obsolete.

Got any predictions from your own crystal ball?  Don’t put it away yet, and please share them in the comments!