Gusciora, Caputo, Muoio & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Help Artist Communities Become Economic Drivers for NJ Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Ralph Caputo, Elizabeth Muoio and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to provide free-interest loans to artist communities to help them flourish was released Monday by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee.

“The arts are a major economic force, but that impact depends on the support we give the artists leading the charge,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Here in the city of Trenton for example, we have a prolific arts community that routinely puts the city on the map, but lacks the financial resources to make a greater impact. This bill would help artists who are contributing to their communities, but don’t have the means to really get organized and make a greater difference.”

The bill (A-2071) would establish the Artist Bank as a program to provide interest-free loans to artist colonies in development in municipalities, communities or other areas with an emerging art presence. The program would be administered by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and would be funded by appropriations to the fund by the Legislature, as well as private donations.

“Artists help revitalize communities, but they cannot do it alone,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Most local artists are not earning the type of money that allows them to consistently invest in themselves and their work. Making these loans available can help these artists grow, which would help rebrand communities as arts and cultural destinations and help boost local economies.”

“If we want to help communities struggling to restart their economic engines, we have to consider all possibilities. Using the arts as a tool for economic development has helped many cities rebound. It would be wise to invest in the artists who are living and working in New Jersey, and have the potential to transform local economies for the better,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).

“This would give artists an opportunity to have the resources to help transform neighborhoods that have been neglected and underserved,” said Vainieri Huttle. “The arts have proven to be an economic driver in many communities. Therefore, the economic advantages of having a thriving arts community are worth the investment.”

To qualify for a loan under this bill, the artist colony in development would be required to: (1) include at least five practicing artists with a demonstrable body of work or portfolio, as determined by the council; (2) designate a proposed location for the artist colony; (3) demonstrate that the proposed landlord or landowner is cooperative and supportive of the goals of the artist colony, as determined by the council; and (4) demonstrate the cooperation and application for the designation of artist colony from the municipality in which the artist colony is proposed.

The use of a loan provided from the Artist Bank would be limited in use to start-up expenses of the artist colony in development, including, but not limited to: acquiring a location and necessary supplies for creating art; and ongoing operating expenses of the colony, including but not limited to: utilities, maintaining supplies and inventory, and marketing.

Repayment of the loan would not begin until the artists have started demonstrating the financial success of their craft or until ten years have passed since the initial disbursement of the loan, whichever occurs first.