Local weekly paper covering regional news and events covers the Arts & Culture Plan presented to the AP City Council

A Potential to Multiply the Cultural Power of Our City

Independent Asbury Park Arts Council Leads The Initiative - TriCity News March 16, 2023

ASBURY PARK — A group of some of the most effective arts and cultural leaders in the city are moving forward with the creation of an Arts and Culture plan for Asbury Park.

This plan has the potential to multiply the cultural power of our city. Funded by a recent county grant, the Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC) — an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization — put together the draft plan and presented it to the City Council just before our deadline.

The next step is referral to the Planning Board, who’d then adopt the Arts and Culture Plan as an amendment to the city’s master plan. That would give it legal authority. Before that, however, APAC will provide a public presentation of the draft plan at the Asbury Park Public Library on March 30 at 6 pm. The Planning Board would have their own public hearings on the plan.

This newspaper understands the value of this project. A detailed Arts and Cul-ture Plan can lead to more grant awards. It becomes a guide for policy deci-sions, including zoning decisions. The plan identifies various underutilized as-sets and determines how the city can maximize their effectiveness for the arts. And the plan makes recommendations for arts and culture activities in various parts of the city, which may have different needs to serve.
“The Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC) works to support, advocate and pro-mote arts-centric initiatives, businesses and development,” states the group’s mission statement. “Our primary goal is to ensure the arts are considered in municipal policy-making via the creation and implementation of an Arts and Culture plan within the Asbury Park Master Plan.”
The Arts Council compiled a ton of data to develop the draft plan. A survey it developed was answered by 153 people. Twenty-three interviews were conduct-ed with leading policymakers and arts stakeholders. Five focus groups were conducted, along with one public open house.

The information gathering led to some important results. For example, 48 per-cent of survey respondents indicated that the cost of arts events and programs limit their participation. Another finding was that 71 percent of survey respon-dents indicated they don’t learn about arts activities in time. (Sounds like the city government should start advertising all the offerings in the triCityNews!)

The Arts Council also did an inventory of what our 1.75 square mile city offers. The group counted 180 creators and contributors; 80 venues, places and facilities for arts and culture; and 60 regular events and programs. That’s pretty wild.

Those figures also confirm what we’ve always said about our tiny city — based on its size and population, we are indeed a powerful center for arts and culture. (And the data of the Arts Council doesn’t even measure Asbury Park’s impact on the areas around it in terms of building the arts and culture. That makes the city even more powerful.)

For example, compare the Asbury Park Arts Council’s data for Asbury Park to Austin, Texas. Austin has 965,000 people compared to 15,000 for Asbury Park. That’s 65 times as many people. Multiplying what Asbury offers by 65 to com-pare to Austin gives these result: 11,700 creators and contributors; 480 ven-ues, places and facilities for arts and culture; and 3,900 regular events and programs.

How impressive is that? The data shows how remarkable Asbury Park remains in terms of its cultural power and influence.

Implementing an Arts and Culture plan as a matter of law by including it in the master plan will multiply and preserve all this. For example, the draft plan lists several action items, two of which are particularly noteworthy: establishing a funding stream for arts and culture, and a community culture center.

The funding stream can be a modest dedicated art tax that taxpayers probably wouldn’t even notice, but could generate a low six figure revenue for art. Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn is for that, and we predict one day relatively soon it will be on the ballot for voter approval. The community culture center may indeed come about once it’s recognized as a city-wide priority as per the Arts and Culture plan.

Also noteworthy is who’s doing all this. It’s a great representation of several of our city’s arts leaders.

Here’s the Asbury Park Arts Council board: Parlor Gallery owner Jenn Hampton, former ShowRoom owner Mike Sodano, Paul McEvily from Interfaith Neighbors, Paranormal Books owner Kathy Kelly, attorney and arts activist Bob Ellis, and Carrie Turner, formerly the General Manager of Madison Marquette’s boardwalk project. Turner also serves as acting Executive Director and coordinated the development of the APAC’s plan. Another recognized talent local to Asbury Park — planner Eric Galipo, who grew up in the city — served as the planning professional working with Turner to lead the development of the plan.