Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno today visited the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences, as part of her “Arts Mean Business” tour across New Jersey, which highlights the importance of promoting economic development by supporting New Jersey’s cultural groups and organizations.
"It is important to recognize how important the arts are in New Jersey, as well as the important role the arts play in our economy, Guadagno said. "The arts are an important part of New Jersey’s tourism industry, which is the state’s fifth-largest private sector employer, and help make LBI a year-round destination.”
Guadagno recognized the fact that the Foundation was one of only two in New Jersey recently recognized with a grant from the federal government for its efforts to expand economic vitality on LBI through the arts.
The Foundation last month to create a framework for a cultural district on LBI. The planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “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.
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, according to Guadagno, which the NEA introduced last year to bring the arts into the mix of partners concerned with economic revitalization.
“In a tourist-based economy such as LBI’s, it is essential to ensure that the available arts programs and activities are accessible to both residents and tourists,” added Guadagno. “The Foundation will engage the diverse stakeholders of Long Beach Island – residents, businesspeople, artists, and local officials – so that the plan will benefit the entire island.”
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.
In an interview with Patch, Vazquez said it will be important for all of the arts communities to work together toward the project's final goals, which he said, are to "enhance the quality of life here on the island, and make a better environment for creation and innovation in a way that is sustainable."
Lori Pepenella, the Destination Marketing Director at the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce agreed, adding: “Identifying underutilized assets that could help support the arts – such as vacant buildings or areas that could be used for public art, performances or events – will increase tourism, provide jobs, and improve the quality of life on and around LBI.”