Impact Stories

In Nov. 2021 after ten years of our evolving mission and impact, we changed our name to Gathering Ground. You may still find reference to our old name Creative New Jersey in posts created prior to Nov. 2021.

Newark Creates and Newark Collaborates – the Vetting of a City Cultural Plan

Blog by Jeremy Johnson, Executive Director of Newark Arts.

Jeremy is a long-time friend and colleague of Creative New Jersey (CNJ) and serves on CNJ’s Newark Call to Collaboration (C2C) Host Team. Jeremy has been at the helm of Newark Arts’ multi-year effort to craft a unifying Community Cultural Plan for NJ’s largest city, which has uncovered key priorities for Newark’s community by putting the people of Newark at the center of the design process, including those who attended our Newark Call to Collaboration. Below are a summary of those priorities — and you can learn more about Newark Creates: A Community Cultural Plan in the video of Jeremy’s presentation at our Statewide Summit earlier this year.


“Newark is lit!” That’s what you’ll hear from young Newarkers extolling the exciting arts and cultural scene of Brick City.

Newark and its environs were recently ranked America’s 7th most arts-vibrant community by Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research. The City took the world by storm as host of the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, which paid tribute to the Garden State’s biggest hip-hop acts, including Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Fetty Wap and Wyclef Jean.

“The arts serve as a key economic driver for the city, generating $178M annually to the economy and supporting 5,000 full-time employees.”

Earlier this year, Newark earned bragging rights as home to the state’s favorite large performing arts center (NJPAC), favorite symphony orchestra (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra), favorite visual arts festival (Newark Arts Festival), according to polls at JerseyArts.com.

The arts serve as a key economic driver for the city, generating $178M annually to the economy and supporting 5,000 full-time employees—and that’s just the nonprofit arts sector alone, according to the latest research from Americans for the Arts.

But how does all this arts activity relate to Newark residents, artists and creatives, and how can the city’s arts ecosystem be sustained and supported for the future? Is there a plan? What are the priorities of the plan and how will it be implemented?

Enter “Newark Creates, A Community Cultural Plan,” whose development was led by Newark Arts, a local nonprofit whose mission is to power the arts to transform lives. Made possible with support from Prudential and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the plan was the result of a recommendation by the office of Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka.

Learn more about Newark’s Cultural Plan from Johnson’s presentation at CNJ’s 2019 Statewide Summit in June.

At Creative New Jersey’s Newark Call to Collaboration in June, Newark Arts vetted the plan in three breakout sessions. The overall message to attendees and all stakeholders was clear about the plan’s findings. Newark arts community needs three things to keep going strong: Funding, space and coordination.

  • Funding: Create an investment fund or cultural trust to secure a minimum of $5 million per year for arts & cultural activities as well as the sustainability of arts organizations, particularly small- and mid-size groups and galleries, artists, and creative entrepreneurs.
  • Space: Create more sustainable, affordable living and work spaces for artists and arts organizations to strengthen Newark as a City of the Arts.
  • Coordination: Create policies, partnerships, investments and development that are equitable and connected through shared services as well as collaborative marketing.

Newark’s extraordinarily rich arts and cultural history has always made it unique. The arts enhance the lives of our citizens and the region at-large. That includes music, spoken word, literature, visual arts, theatre, film and fashion and more.

The intent of the plan and ensuing investment is to retain and attract new creatives as we support and build upon the community and arts organizations that speak life to our neighborhoods and fire the imagination of our children. For more information about Newark Creates, visit www.newarkarts.org/newark-creates.


Jeremy Johnson was named Executive Director of Newark Arts in March 2016 to help champion the city’s burgeoning arts scene, support arts education, and integrate arts and culture fully into Newark’s economic resurgence. Jeremy previously served as Newark’s philanthropic liaison under Mayors Cory A. Booker and Ras J. Baraka. He worked on the founding fundraising team at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which opened in downtown Newark in 1997. He serves on the boards of Newark Public Library and ArtPride New Jersey. He chairs the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, an initiative to promote higher education. Jeremy hails from Cleveland, OH and resides in Newark’s Central Ward.

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“Before Hammonton’s Call to Collaboration, I did not know that I was surrounded by people who, despite our differences, care about the same issues: the safety of our town, the well-being of our families, the opportunity to contribute to our community, etc. Knowing that there were other like-minded people in my community gave me the courage to act.”

– Ivette Guillermo-McGahee – Executive Director, Allies in Caring (Hammonton)

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