The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, in partnership with local government and others, has been awarded a $25,000 federal grant to create a framework for a cultural district on LBI, according to a Foundation spokesperson.
The planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” program will fund focus groups and meetings of the key partners to map out the activities, programs and venues that would be included in the cultural district, said LBI Foundation development director Marianne Gellman.
“We are looking at creating a roadmap for an island wide arts experience,” she added
Long Beach Township is one of many partners in the grant, along with Rutgers University’s Arts Build Community program, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, LBI Business Alliance and Surflight Theatre, Gellman said.
According to the NEA website, the project’s eventual activities will include “community engagement with artists and residents, inventorying arts assets, assessing barriers to building a strong presence for the arts, and identifying underutilized assets that could support future arts development.”
LBI’s interaction of government, business and nonprofit partners are the model for the program, which the NEA introduced last year to bring the arts into the mix of partners concerned with economic revitalization.
"Cities and towns are transformed when you bring the arts — both literally and figuratively — into the center of them," NEA chairman Rocco Landesman said in a statement that accompanied the grants
Gellman added the terminology “cultural district” should not imply there is an actual geographical area on the island in mind. “We don’t want to box ourselves in with that concept,” she said.
The island is 16 miles long and divided in the middle by the Causeway entrance. In some cases, the north end doesn’t know what the south end is doing in terms of the arts, she said. “What we are looking for is ways to integrate and interact between north and south,” said Gellman.
“For example, we have the Foundation on the north end and the Surflight on the south with very little marriage between the two,” said Gellman, who added she hopes the other LBI communities will join them during the planning process.
A consultant team from Arts Build Community at Rutgers University, led by Professor Leonardo Vasquez, will deliver a final plan to guide implementation of a cultural district.
“This is the first little step in a very big thing,” said Gellman.