New Jersey’s leading arts organizations have united to support New Jersey Arts and Culture Administrators of Color (NJACAC), a network of professional arts administrators of color dedicated to advancing efforts related to equity, diversity and inclusion within the state’s arts community. Founded in 2019 as a partnership between New Jersey Theatre Alliance (NJTA), the state’s service organization for professional producing theatre companies, ArtPride New Jersey, the state’s largest arts service and advocacy organization, and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the program has grown to include more than 120 individual members and has recently added a fourth partner, the historic Newark Symphony Hall (NSH).
NSH President and CEO, Taneshia Nash Laird, explains that her organization joined the partnership as part of a larger commitment to creating opportunity and growth for her own staff.
“Newark Symphony Hall is committed to diversity, inclusion and equity at every operational level of our organization. Our administrative staff is composed entirely of people of color, with a range of ethnic, geographical and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Nash Laird said. “We are Black, we are LatinX, and we are Asian, reflecting the demographics that collectively will be in the majority in New Jersey by the end of this decade. I believe it’s important for us to invest in ensuring that the future leadership in New Jersey arts administration reflects the people it will serve.”
NJACAC’s objective is to connect, empower and cultivate professional arts and cultural leaders throughout the Garden State. The network is designed to provide self-identified people of color working in the state’s arts organizations a safe space to connect, professional development opportunities, and a platform to share their expertise, experiences and creativity. The program aims to build a community that affords members the opportunity to develop personal and professional connections, share resources and foster emerging leaders.
“We have been thrilled to see so much interest in the Network since it launched in 2019,” said John McEwen, executive director of NJTA. “It is clear that there is a need in New Jersey for arts and culture administrators of color to connect with one another and we have already seen wonderful new working relationships and collaborations grow out of the group. With new funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and Newark Symphony Hall added to the existing financial commitment of New Jersey Theatre Alliance and ArtPride New Jersey, we are excited to see the opportunities for network members to grow and flourish.”
“ArtPride is proud to collaborate with our statewide partners on this important initiative,” said Adam Perle, president and CEO of ArtPride New Jersey. “NJACAC provides a great opportunity for arts administrators of color to come together and discuss issues of equity and justice within New Jersey’s creative community, as well as ways in which we can improve the field. ArtPride is committed to the long-term growth of NJACAC and will continue to lift up this work by dedicating staff capacity, fiscal sponsorship, promotional support and other resources.”
Several members of the network serve on its advisory committee. Michael “Miko” Castillo (Montclair State University), Andrea Cuevas-Ugrinovic (McCarter Theatre Center) Chase Jackson (Bayshore Center at Bivalve), Kayla Kim Votapek (Rutgers University), Dontae Muse (Above Art Studios), and Anita Thomas (Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company) make up the committee bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent to the table. Porché Hardy (State Arts Council), Vincent Hall (ArtPride NJ), Taneshia Nash Laird (NSH), and Deonté Griffin-Quick (NJTA) join the group to represent the four partner organizations of this program. Griffin-Quick also serves as the lead coordinator for the network. He was recently honored by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies for his work designing and growing the program.
With funds contributed by the four partner organizations this year, the advisory committee will offer a number of professional development opportunities. A recent workshop on financial management led by arts leader C. Lorenzo Evans was attended virtually by more than 40 network members from across the state.
The next virtual opportunity for the network is a workshop on Entrepreneurship in the Arts on May 20 at 7 p.m. The panel will feature Jade Cintron Baez, founder and artistic director, ¡Looking Bilingüe!; Aaron Dworkin, social entrepreneur, professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan; Nicole Theodore, Esq., entertainment and entrepreneur attorney at The Theodore Firm, LLC.; Dontae Muse, founder/co-owner of Above Art Studios; and Tara “Trinity” Melelani Villanueva, executive director of Public Art Reston. (More information and registration can be found at https://njtheatrealliance.org/events.)
NJACAC will also support arts and culture administrators of color in the state through mini-grants to underwrite attendance at the National Arts Administrators of Color Conference, as well as developing an online portal to showcase members and connect them with each other and arts organizations across the state.
“The New Jersey State Council on the Arts is committed to achieving greater equity in arts leadership in New Jersey,” said Porché Hardy, council program officer. “Highlighting the skills and abilities of arts leaders who identify as people of color in our state is key to systematic change.”
Self-identified people of color working in the arts and cultural sector in New Jersey, are based in New Jersey, or studying at a university in the state can sign-up to become a member of the NJACAC at: https://njtheatrealliance.org/new-jersey-arts-and-culture-administrators-color. Interested individuals can also request to join the NJACAC Facebook group and LinkedIn Grou