Local weekly paper covering regional news and events covers Arts & Culture Plan Adopted into City's Master Plan

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 — The battle against conformity brought on by the pres-sures of an economic boom is one that our beloved little city will always have to fight.

Asbury Park’s destiny was always to come back, with arts and culture leading the way. That happened. The challenge is to make sure that’s preserved.

So far, Asbury Park has stayed ahead of that curve. New people contin-ue to get involved with arts and culture. Even more importantly, strong leadership has develop in Asbury Park to defend and promote the arts.

A great example is the non-profit Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC). The group just achieved success with its first major project: Passage of the Asbury Park Arts and Culture Plan by the Planning Board last month, which means it becomes part of the city’s master plan.

That’s not just some geeky government thing. Being a part of the city’s master plan — the legal document that guides zoning decisions and other planning priorities — gives the Arts and Culture Plan credibility, both inside and outside Asbury Park. And that can multiply the city’s cultural power.

The Arts and Culture Plan can lead to more grant awards. It will become a guide for policy decisions, including zoning decisions. The plan identifies various underutilized assets and determines how the city can maximize their effectiveness for the arts. And the plan makes recom-mendations for arts and culture activities in various parts of the city, which may have different needs to serve.

The Arts and Culture plan lists several action items, two of which we find 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 reve-nue for art. Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn has been for that, and the adop-tion of the arts plan will hopefully now hasten the art tax placement on the ballot for voter approval. Meanwhile, the community culture center may indeed come about once it’s recognized as a city-wide priority as per the Arts and Culture plan. (We’d love to see the city grab the beauti-ful old bank building, now vacant, across from City Hall for this purpose.)

Also noteworthy is who put the plan together. Here’s the Asbury Park Arts Council board: Parlor Gallery owner Jenn Hampton (also the curator for the popular Wooden Walls mural project on the boardwalk), 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 coordi-nated the development of the Arts and Culture 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. Funding to develop the Arts and Culture Plan came initially from a seed grant from Monmouth Arts and then a grant awarded by the county government.

“It’s a powerful tool. It’s a roadmap,” said Turner about the plan.

“It focuses thinking about the city’s cultural assets and it identifies ways to im-prove and safeguard them,” she said. “It lays out recommendation and it shows the city how it could achieve the goals it set up for itself.”

(You can read the Arts and Culture Plan, and find out more about the Asbury Park Arts Council, by visiting the group’s website at
Because the Arts and Culture Plan is now part of the city’s master plan, “it has some heft,” Turner said. “It may not be binding, but it has significance. The city has now acknowledged the information collected, the synthesis of that collec-tion and the recommendations from the information and feedback. A lot of people got involved.”

Asbury Park is already recognized as an arts and culture center in New Jersey. Those outside in the arts field — particularly funders large and small who back the arts, like government entities and non-profit foundations — will understand the significance of a professionally well-developed Arts and Culture Plan ad-opted into the city’s master plan. Especially as objectives of the plan are met.

Turner said the Arts and Culture Plan is an example of “how the public and private sectors can work together to achieve the city’s goals.” The Arts Council wants to continue that momentum to help implement the plan itself, she said.

The Arts Council compiled a ton of data to develop the Arts and Culture Plan. A survey it developed was answered by 153 people. Twenty-three interviews were conducted 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.

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 fa-cilities for arts and culture; and 60 regular events and programs. That’s pretty wild.

How impressive is that? The data shows how remarkable Asbury Park remains in terms of its cultural power and influence, despite its small size. Leaders like those at the Asbury Park Arts Council — developing such projects as the Arts and Culture Plan — is how we keep it that way.