Will the future of Asbury Park include a place for the arts?
It certainly seems so, as the city is known as a hotbed of music and there is a growing visual arts scene. But a group of city artists wants to make sure that the arts in all of its forms have a place in the city and are include a the new city master plan.
The group, called the Asbury Park Creative Community, will present a petition to the city at the 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 master plan community input meeting at the Asbury Park Senior Center on Springwood Avenue.
So far, 357 have signed the petition on Change.org.
“We just want to start the dialogue now,” said Jenn Hampton, a group member and curator for the city’s Parlor Gallery. “People just assume that a recognition of the arts will be in the master plan. Of course, that is the way it is and that’s what we’re known for, so it should be included in the plan.”
Asbury Park is identified as one of Monmouth County’s Arts, Cultural and Entertainment (or ACE) hubs in the county master plan, but in the last city master plan, written in 2006, there is only a single line referring to the arts, “Promote the arts, especially the public arts,” in the document.
The concern is that artists and gallery owners will be priced out of spaces in the coming years as gentrification takes hold.
“When there was nobody downtown, rent was affordable,” Hampton said. “What’s going to happen as the rent goes up and the business model changes.”
“What made Asbury Park unique will be lost.”
Twenty-six-year old artist Carrie Ruddick moved to Asbury Park from Toms River to pursue her art.
“In Asbury Park, the cost of living is quite frightening to me,” said Ruddick, who wrote the petition. “I care about the arts and I feel it is something that can bring a community together and create opportunity and experiences for everyone.”
Yet, there are a multitude of economic forces at work, said Patrick Schiavino, a city landlord, developer and visual artist who owns the city’s Arts 629 gallery on Cookman Avenue.
“The city raises municipal taxes when the buildings go up in value,” Schiavino said. “You make improvements on a building and the taxes go up because it’s worth more money and you’re forced to pass the increases along to tenants.”
The future of the city arts scene may depend on Springwood Avenue on the West Side of Asbury Park, which has been undeveloped since the city riots of 1970. An influx of the arts on Springwood could generate an economic revival in much the way it has for Cookman Avenue, Schiavino said.
“The first few businesses to open on Cookman Avenue (in the 2000s) were arts related,” Schiavino said.
Eileen Chapman, a member of the city council, said that she and other council members are receptive to the concerns of the group.
“The arts is definitely an economic engine,” Chapman said. “The art and culture scene has set us apart from other nearby towns and it’s what makes us unique. It’s important that they voice their opinion now while the master plan is being written.”
“Ten years ago when no one came to Asbury Park, they came for the arts, culture and music.”