New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Can The Arts Save Atlantic City?

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/20/2015

Can The Arts  Save Atlantic City?

The cliché has always been that low rents attract artists to downtrodden areas that nobody else wants and the artists wind up playing a major role in the area’s revival.  Their reward is generally to be priced out of those communities just when things get going.  It’s a story that plays out year after year in towns and cities across the country.  Each time it does, artists are left to wonder why art can play such an important role in the local economy yet artists are rarely, if ever, part of actual community planning.

One organization is hoping to change that.  With a mission to champion creativity, innovation, and sustainability through community engagement, Creative New Jersey not only listens to the role of the art community but actively seeks their participation.  Led by part-time director, Elizabeth Murphy, Creative New Jersey has tackled community issues in areas across the state including Elizabeth, Highlands, Monmouth County, Morristown, Orange, Rahway, Trenton, and Atlantic City through support by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

At the end of February, New Jersey Stage took part in Creative Atlantic City’s Call to Collaboration, a two-day event held at The Noyes Arts Garage at Stockton University.  Over 135 people attended the meetings which brought participants from different backgrounds together with one goal in mind — to come up with ways to help rejuvenate Atlantic City.

In addition to those involved with the Noyes Museum and the Arts Garage, the arts community was represented by members of the Atlantic City Ballet, the Garden State Film Festival, NJTV, Bay Atlantic Symphony, ArtC, Atlantic City Arts Commission, and several individual artists and filmmakers.

“I think when we put arts leaders and artists in the same room with municipal, education, and environmental leaders and folks who are working in health care and social services, arts people can help to expand the vision of the conversation because they’re used to living and working in that world,” explained Murphy.  “Many artists and arts leaders are trained to keep asking themselves different questions so they can either find the truth or come up with something original.  I think arts professionals bring that kind of wonderful creative thinking to the table that some of us believe gets bred out of us as we mature and grow into adulthood.”

The article continues after this ad


Participants choose their breakout sessions with the idea that they will not be bystanders — they will truly participate and help foster new ideas and viewpoints.  Topics for Atlantic City included sessions on diversity issues, crime, how to encourage new businesses to come to the city, improving the quality of life, politics, tourism-related, and how to ensure the younger generation is able to help play a role in the city’s future.

Alongside these sessions were several that were more arts-related, including breakouts on how to close the cultural void, supporting arts in education, utilizing and engaging local talent, how to create and sustain arts in the local neighborhoods, and how communities can help support local artists.

“We’re asking participants to show up for two whole days,” continued Murphy.  “It’s an investment of time.  In order for people to be able to make that investment we have learned that there needs to be a great need in the community.  When the stakes are high, we have found that the community rises to the occasion and they understand they have to think about doing something differently.”

The stakes for Atlantic City could hardly be higher than they are right now.  With several high profile casinos closing or on the verge of closing, it is the perfect time to consider options other than gambling for the city’s future.  Despite its troubles, the city is still well-suited for tourism and capable of being the entertainment capital of the state.  For these reasons alone, it is vital that the arts community be part of any conversation.

One of the most important aspects of Creative New Jersey is the way the meetings bring together members of the community who rarely get the opportunity to hear from viewpoints other than their own.  People tend to have friends with similar viewpoints and tend to socialize with those in similar fields or positions.  CEOs often talk to other CEOs but may not hear the viewpoints of parents at home raising children; artists talk to artists, but may not have the opportunity to talk with municipal leaders; and so on.

“There’s something quite powerful that happens when we bring people together in that way,” added Murphy.  “We like to say we bring the grass tops together with the grass roots and everybody in-between.”

Municipal leaders are beginning to recognize the value of Creative New Jersey as well.  

“They are realizing that this way of bringing the community together is not against anything that they are doing,” said Murphy.  “It’s not about shaking things up in a way that is antagonistic because, coming from the position of creativity, we’re not against anything.   We don’t say come together and figure out how to solve the problems in your community because your mayor isn’t doing something.  That is absolutely not the position we take and we don’t have any tolerance for an anti-movement.  We’re all about creativity and collaboration and partnerships and people working together.  We have no time for finger pointing and I think municipal administrations around the state are realizing that that’s the case.  This is not a grassroots movement where we are going up against the establishment. This is about how we can encourage each person in a community to take responsibility for being part of the solution.

“We believe that all of the talent exists in our communities around the state,” she added.  “Creative thinking is something we all have, we just have to nurture it and embrace it.  Every single person in communities can step up to be proactive in being part of the solution in their town.”

Up next will be Creative Skylands: Call to Collaboration on June 1-2.  Hosted by The Growing Stage in Netcong, the meeting sets out to answer the question of “How can we be more innovative in strengthening the connectivity of our people and places to promote our unique assets, drive sustainable economic development, and invigorate The Skylands Region?”

Photo of Atlantic City by Larry Sieg

For more by this author, click here

Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series Presents "The Erotic as Power: Sexuality and the Black Experience"
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The erotic is often seen as a realm of oppression and danger. But, as Audre Lorde argued 40 years ago, it also contains the potential for empowerment and struggle. This tension will be explored as the 39th annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series brings together eminent scholars and performers to examine the poltical and social lives of the erotic in the African American experience.
West Windsor Arts Council presents Faculty Student Show
(PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ) -- Every day students of all ages come to the West Windsor Arts Center to expand their knowledge and experiment with art and creativity. Whether they are adults or children, they take classes in order to try something new or hone their skills by learning from some of the best teaching artists in the region. Classes are offered in many artistic media including painting, drawing, and sculpting as well as fashion design, photography and the literary and performing arts. The annual Faculty Student Show aims to provide the experience of submitting and preparing their work for a professional exhibition as well.
Monmouth University Hosts Artist Talk with Sherrill Roland about "The Jumpsuit Project"
(WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University will host artist Sherrill Roland  on Tuesday, January 29 at 4:30pm in Wilson Hall Auditorium, to discuss his socially engaged artwork The Jumpsuit Project — that he uses to ignite conversations around issues related to mass incarceration.
Art House Productions Presents 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Join Art House Productions and presenting sponsor SILVERMAN for their 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala on Saturday, January 26th, 2018 from 7:00pm- 12:00am with VIP beginning at 6:00pm (Snow date: Saturday, February 2nd) at Art House’s location at the Cast Iron Lofts, 262 17th St, Jersey City, NJ.  This year’s Snow Ball features live music from Cook Thugless ("Cook Thugless are one of the coolest bands in New Jersey." -Bob Makin, My Central Jersey), live and silent auctions from Grandstand Sports, including sports memorabilia, local art pieces, and exclusive weekend getaways.
Palette ArtSpace Presents "Cold Pop!" with Robert Piersanti and Faustine Badrichani
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Palette ArtSpace presents "Cold Pop!" by Robert Piersanti, now through January 27. The exhibit brings a touch of summer to a cold January with paintings of mermaids, surfers and more. Piersant's work features 1950s and 1960s pop culture with locals as subjects. He's shown work from the local area to Miami and Milan.  The exhibit also features new paintings of women by Faustine Badrichani, a French artist in New York who has shown at Palette previously. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public.

Inside New Jersey Stage Magazine Issue 54
(BELMAR, NJ) -- The latest issue of New Jersey Stage magazine contains something for every arts fan.  Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Oates, is the cover story in an issue packed with music, film, theatre, and art coverage.  The issue is available for free at 
Nick Kiefer In Iceland
Nick Kiefer is an award winning graphic designer and photographer based out of Asbury Park, NJ. He is currently the Art Director at Netwave Interactive - a branding and advertising agency in Point Pleasant. NJ. Nick has also been designing and photographing in the NJ music scene for more than half his life. He has designed dozens of record covers and gig posters for local musicians in the Asbury Park area. After a heavy year packed with work, he and his fiancé Kristina, decided to roam around Iceland for a few weeks back in October of 2018. Here are some photos from the trip.
Peter Max Remembers Frank Sinatra
(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- As fans of Frank Sinatra across the world remember the legendary entertainer on what would have been his 103th birthday (December 12th), pop artist Peter Max provides a series of portraits of 'Ol' Blue Eyes' at different points throughout his career. Max, with a 5 decades-long career of his own, created these signature, vibrantly colored portraits, working with the Sinatra family to celebrate the Sinatra Centennial in 2015. They remain a fan favorite at gallery shows across the country.
Jerry Gant 1961-2018
Jerry, There is no bio that will seem complete for you. Where would it be listed, amongst your numerous and diverse accomplishments, that you talked to people, always seemed to find time for the younger artists, to talk to them and look at their sketchbooks? Your use of language as a material, testing limits, associations, and possibilities.
PODCAST: An Artist Asks "The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions Of The 21st Century"
In this podcast, we speak with them about art, activism and how women invented Postmodernism. “The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions of the 21st Century” runs through December 14th at Douglass Library.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.