New fund aims to help pandemic-hammered arts institutions

A new fund that aims to help arts and cultural institutions in New Jersey that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic is off to a solid start, raising $1.6 million — fueled by a $1 million matching gift from the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund hopes to quickly get support to groups around the state that have been devastated by the health crisis that has forced countless show cancelations and venue closures.

“New Jersey has a celebrated and vibrant arts and cultural sector that has suffered tremendously as a result of the pandemic,” NJPRF CEO Josh Weinreich said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to support NJACRF so they can give much-needed aid to this community.”

NJACRF will provide grants to help members of the cultural community offset expenses incurred due to cancelations, adaptations needed for reopening, and support for artists and other professionals.

“Investing in arts and culture today will increase the chances of long-term, sustainable success, with broad-reaching results that impact employment, real estate values, crime and safety, tourism, health and wellness, education and overall quality of life in New Jersey,” first lady Tammy Murphy, the NJPRF’s founding chair, said in a statement.

Half of the NJPRF gift was made possible through a matching grant from Joan Rechnitz, a philanthropist who co-founded the Two River Theater in Red Bank.

“I am delighted to help kick off this incredibly important fund,” Rechnitz said in a statement. “The arts and culture are the heart and soul of our communities, and vital to the work we do to rebuild from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.”

The Grunin Foundation, based in Toms River, provided the initial gift of $250,000 to establish the fund.

“We are proud to support the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund,” Jeremy Grunin, president of the foundation and co-chair of the NJACRF, said in a statement. “The impact of the global pandemic on this sector has been felt by everyone. Arts and culture are important to our emotional and social well-being, while also serving as an important gear in our economic engine. This fund will help ensure the sector’s survival in the short term and growth in the longer term.”

NJPRF will match the first $1 million in donations dollar-for-dollar.

The fund said nonprofit arts organizations employ nearly 22,000 people and engage more than 8.3 million, generating more than $660 million in economic activity annually.

The NJACRF is hosted by the Princeton Area Community Foundation. The steering committee includes representatives from the Grunin Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, Stone Foundation of New Jersey and the E.J. Grassmann Trust — all contributors — plus the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and New Jersey Historical Commission.

“As the sector at large braces for worst-case scenarios, including permanent closure, New Jersey and its residents risk losing a necessary component of a complete recovery,” Sharnita C. Johnson, arts program director at the Dodge Foundation and co-chair of the NJACRF, said in a statement. “With help, the sector will continue to support healing, resilience and relief, and move forward on a path for safe reopening.”

Grants and application information will be announced in the coming weeks, the NJACRF said. Click here for more information.