NJ Arts District Plan Includes Artists in Revitalization of Neighborhoods
You know an area is up-and-coming when artists move there. And you know it’s arrived when they can’t afford to stay. Valley Arts District, a 15-block stretch spanning Orange and West Orange, New Jersey, is revitalizing the neighborhood through artists—- but is planning to keep them there.
“Over 600 people participated in a vision for the Valley neighborhood back starting late in 2001, and what happened was we really came up with eight clear goals,” said Patrick Morrissy, founder and executive director of the nonprofit HANDS—Housing and Neighborhood Development Services. “Those eight things included: enhancing educational achievement, beautifying the neighborhood, rehabilitating abandoned properties and increasing jobs and the tax base. We realized at some point in time,” he explained, “that the arts could be a driver for all of those eight goals.”
Morrissy’s efforts have helped grow the district to include galleries, a theater, artist housing, and programming like the Hat City Streets Festival. “We made a commitment that we would create one hundred affordable arts spaces to anchor this arts district,” he said. “Those spaces remain affordable permanently, so that those folks who move in, they’re not going to get priced out.”
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