Our Mission

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) improves community life through its work in education, public health, and civic engagement. Central to its success is fostering collaboration among local governments, school districts, businesses, non-profits, and citizen groups. Our partners are building stronger communities in Northern New Jersey by answering the question, “What can we accomplish together that we cannot alone?”
















CONNECT THE DOTS Networking Series

Connect the Dots is a Networking Mixer Series for artists, arts administrators, writers, municipal and/or community leaders, educators, business owners, and art supporters to meet and connect.

ArtsBergen’s work to build a unified local arts community and encourage collaborations was in action at our January 25th event, Connect, Collaborate & Create. Click here for photos.











































Learn more about the Main Gateway Mural Project.



Art and culture are powerful means of bridging diversity and bringing people together.  They create social environments that promote trust and communication, and build community assets that attract people, and foster relationships and interaction.  Of significant interest to municipalities is that these assets draw revenue from residents and visitors that energizes local economies.


The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) recognizes that the arts are a catalyst for community development and sees untapped opportunity for related endeavors in Bergen County. To this end, NNJCF is spearheading ArtsBergen, an independent arts council, to work with various stakeholders – artists, arts organizations, businesses, municipal leaders – to raise the value of the arts as vital to a community’s cohesiveness and prosperity.



The mission of ArtsBergen is to support, connect, and promote the creative sector, to foster engagement with the arts by the community, and to raise awareness of the transformative power of the arts in building communities, and to advance creative placemaking in Bergen County. Its primary purpose is to provide marketing, advocacy, networking, and programs/events for arts related organizations and municipalities, connecting them with the broader Bergen County community.


Creative Placemaking

NNJCF has the community connections and relationships to commission ArtsBergen with the vision and ability to infuse the arts into community development and redevelopment. This thinking has become a trend in many parts of the nation resulting in an arts and community development model called “Creative Placemaking”. Creative placemaking is a way of making communities more livable and prosperous through the arts, and making them better places for the arts to thrive. Successful creative placemaking projects use the arts to enhance the community, giving residents “pride of place”. This produces more engaged citizens who wish to support local initiatives like art shows, performances, and public art, which in turn increases the economic development of cafes, restaurants, and related business benefiting from those citizens and visitors.


Partnership with Creative Hackensack

In 2013 NNJCF began to notice certain synergies and activities in the City of Hackensack that created an ideal environment for the introduction of creative placemaking. With its Main Street Redevelopment Plan unfolding and the purchase and rehabilitation of a historic Masonic Temple into the new Hackensack Performing Arts Center, NNJCF approached the City of Hackensack with the question of how incorporating arts and culture could support redevelopment plans, build a stronger community, and drive economic goals. Subsequent meetings led to discussing a partnership and potentially applying for a National Endowment for the Arts grant for cultural district planning. However, it was realized that an infrastructure that would support such planning needed to be established before a competitive proposal could be drafted.


To build this foundation, the NNJCF introduced the City to Leo Vasquez of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking (NCCP), whom it contracted with to engage in community coaching to form a Creative Team charged with planning and implementing creative placemaking strategies in the City. The Creative Team has been meeting since January 2015 to build Creative Hackensack, and ArtsBergen has been an ongoing partner with the Upper Main Street Alliance (UMSA) in advancing this initiative.

The goals and mission of Creative Hackensack align with the missions of both ArtsBergen and the Foundation to utilize the arts as a catalyst and instrument that make for strong, engaged communities that prosper. ArtsBergen is invested in helping Hackensack’s downtown become a cultural and economic center – walkable, livable, and sustainable -, and envision Hackensack becoming a model of creative placemaking in Bergen County.


Video: Hackensack Creative Placemaking Process



Volunteers Wanted

Do You Value the Arts and Want to Put that Passion to Work?

Would You Like to See Arts and Culture Have More of a Presence in North Jersey?

Would You Like to be Part of an Organization Advocating for the Arts in the Area?


Task forces have been formed and are working toward designing a brand and identity, creating collateral materials that illustrate the case that “arts are good for business”, and planning networking events. We are seeking more volunteers excited about encouraging the arts in Bergen County to help us build this new organization. We welcome your participation in any capacity. If you have questions, want to join us in this effort, or would like updates on our progress, please contact us at artsbergen@nnjcf.org.


Join the Movement!

Participate in our Discussion Forum. Post your local arts and/or cultural event, gig, gathering, show, etc., or spark a conversation about the arts in general or a specific art form.  We want to promote arts and culture in Bergen County, draw together the arts community, and create a space where connections can be made, resources can be shared, and ideas are catalyzed. Isn’t that often how creativity starts?




ArtsBergen group brings message to forum in Paramus



March 12, 2015    Last updated: Thursday, March 12, 2015, 12:31 AM

PARAMUS – A newly formed regional arts council is hoping to spread the word on how integration of arts in redevelopment can make for successful downtowns.

Five local officials with ties to the arts discussed the importance of integrating arts and culture into town redevelopment during a “Revitalizing Local Economy & Enhancing Community through the Arts” event on March 4 at Bergen Community College in Paramus.

The talk was the first public event for ArtsBergen, a regional arts council organized by non-profit Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), said Michael Shannon, president of the NNJCF. Shannon said the group will eventually become its own individual entity.

One of the concepts that ArtsBergen wants to promote creative placemaking, or including the arts when planning town development. Shannon said the conversation need to focus on creating communities through the arts, a common human language that connects everyone.

“Creative placemaking is about raising the cultural bar and helping municipalities survive,” said Shannon. “There’s a marriage there that we’re hoping to promote.”

Jim Hickey, director of the MoCo (Monmouth County) Arts Corridor Partnership, in a similar vein to ArtsBergen, discussed how Monmouth County has used the economic power of the arts for the good of the community by creating jobs and improving infrastructure, neighborhoods and quality of life.

“We’re all doing the same thing; we’re trying to build this creative placemaking nirvana in New Jersey,” said Hickey. “Arts go hand and hand with tourism; people tend to stay longer and spend more.”

Bringing the arts to a downtown is good for local merchants, as people attending an arts function will spend at least $25 on ancillary costs, such as hotels, shopping, gas or souvenirs, said Hickey. In 2010, Hickey said Americans spent more than $74 billion enjoying art.

In Hackensack, creative placemaking is being discussed as part of the revitalization of its downtown, said Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, another speaker at the event. He spoke about six redevelopment projects that will come to the city in the future, including a mixed use development on Main Street that he said will bring thousands of people to the city.

To bring arts to the city’s new residents, the council bought a former Masonic Lodge and converted the property into the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center, which opened last year.

“We want the arts here when they come here,” said Labrosse. “We want something for them to do.”

Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle, one of the founders of Bergen Performing Arts Cen-ter (bergenPAC), stressed the importance of public and pri-vate partnerships when establishing new art initiatives. BergenPAC, which Huttle said was one of the city’s economic engines, was a result these types of sponsorships.

“We all believe in Englewood, that our city would have been in trouble if we didn’t have the anchor of a performing arts center,” said Huttle. “That ushered us through an economic disaster in our city.”

The arts don’t only benefit the local economy, but also influences everyone’s lives, including young children, said Assemblywoman Valerie Vanieri Huttle, D-37. Arts programs in public housing often increase neighborhood pride, decrease vandalism and act as save havens, said Vanieri Huttle.

Studies from the U.S. Department of Justice have also shown that arts can help youth-at-risk by increasing pro-social behaviors, said Vanieri Huttle.

“Students that participate in the arts in school and after school demonstrate improved academic performance and lower drop out rates,” said Vanieri Huttle.

Email: noda@northjersey.com



Hackensack alliance’s art consultant working to build city arts scene

November 19, 2014, 9:29 PM    Last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 9:34 PM

HACKENSACK — An arts consultant hired by an alliance of downtown business and property owners is set to build a team that would survey, build and grow a highly local city arts scene.

The Upper Main Alliance voted in its October meeting to spend $20,500 to hire Leo Vazquez, a creative place-making consultant, to advise a team of local arts-conscious residents and work with them through a nine-month program to install an ongoing focus on the arts in Hackensack.

The alliance budget is funded through an assessment on alliance property owners, not residential homeowners.

Alliance Chairman Jerome Lombardo said that the move would help in reaching the community and learning what residents want to see in local arts.

“We’re looking for people in the community who are interested in the arts to contact the Upper Main Alliance,” Lombardo said.

The alliance had heard a presentation from Vazquez in its September meeting and members said that assisting arts, especially in the downtown, would parallel efforts in redevelopment.

Vazquez will help build a team of a dozen to 20 arts-focused residents, conduct local research on arts needs and assist the team in applying for outside funding for new arts projects. He has led 14 similar projects in New Jersey and Louisiana since 2011.

The Alliance efforts have focused for the past decade on recruiting developers to build mixed residential and commercial properties that it hopes will draw new residents to live and shop in Hackensack to increase its tax base.

The hiring marked a major move for Bergen County arts supporters, said Danielle De Laurentis, associate director of the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation in Englewood.

“It’s great to see this formal project happen in our county seat,” De Laurentis said.

The foundation approached the city a year ago to see if there was interest in creative place making focused on the arts, she said.

As Bergen County’s most populous city with more than 44,000 residents, an arts focus could encourage other municipalities to look at their own local arts scene, De Laurentis said.

“It really is a joint effort of community groups, government, schools — every sector,” she said. “Here are the issues: where we need to grow and how do we do that incorporating the arts?”

For the next few months Vazquez will be learning about the existing arts in Hackensack and supportive groups such as the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center and others while reaching out to residents interested in joining the team. Early next year as the team is formed, Vazquez said, he’ll put out print and online surveys to residents to see the demand for different types of art, from dance to music to street performances, theater, painting or others.

De Laurentis pointed out that each community will have its own composition of arts. She’s excited to see what happens in Hackensack, she said — “We’re hoping it can become a model for other towns of what can be done.”

For more information contact the Upper Main Street Alliance at 201-498-1690 or visit the website www.uppermain.org

Email: south@northjersey.com



Meeting focuses on forming regional arts council in Bergen County

November 12, 2014    Last updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 4:09 PM
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37, a former member of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, speaks about the development and future potential of ArtsBergen during a conference at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center on Nov. 6.


Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37, a former member of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, speaks about the development and future potential of ArtsBergen during a conference at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center on Nov. 6.


ENGLEWOOD – Local arts organizations came together last week to learn more about the forming a regional arts council and how they can help support the arts in Bergen County.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37, who serves as an ex officio member of New Jersey State Council on the Arts, spoke at the event to show her support for ArtsBergen and discuss the state of the arts in New Jersey on Nov. 6.

About 20 representatives from local arts organizations from Englewood, Tenafly, Leonia attended the Thursday presentation, which was hosted by Englewood non-profit Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), to hear Huttle speak and learn more about ArtsBergen, the regional arts council the NNJCF plans to start to become a centralizing body that connects arts groups and artists.

The NNJCF wants to create ArtsBergen since there is no one place for artists to market their works and connect with one another in Bergen County, said Danielle De Laurentis, associate director of the NNJCF in September.

Huttle gave a perspective of what was happening with the arts on the state level, where she said there was a “lack of support on the governmental level.” She said an organization like ArtsBergen come together to promote the arts in the region to help get governmental support.

“If we come together to advocate for the arts, we all have different disciplines,” said Allison Davis, acting executive director of Englewood-based Arts Horizons. “I think what’s encouraging is to see the commitment to begin this fight. I’m encouraged by that.”

While Bergen County is the most populated county in the state and home of many artistic and cultural endeavors, the arts aren’t always something that springs to mind when people think of Bergen County, said Huttle.

“We have dozens of galleries, dance studios, and performing arts centers, including bergenPAC,” said Huttle. “Bergen County should be known as the arts hub, but unfortunately, we aren’t. I think that’s why we’re having this conversation tonight.”

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, which was created in 1966, receives $16 million each year from motel and hotel occupancy fees that is dedicated to thousands of public arts program, said Huttle. However, the $16 million in funding has remained flat since 2003.

Huttle said she has legislation pending, which if passed, would increase the amount dedicated to arts to $22 million each year.

“If we get that passed, and we get representation from Bergen County, I think we’re on our way to increase the arts in Bergen County,” said Huttle.

There are also no voting members current on the Bergen County of the Art from Bergen County, said Huttle. With the urging from her chief of staff, Huttle came up with idea to create legislation to expand the arts council to 21 members, with each member representing each county.

“I don’t think there should be opposition to expanding that council, since they are all volunteers,” said Huttle. “We are looking to be more inclusive.”

Huttle urged representatives from arts organization to contact their local officials, including freeholders and Bergen County Executive-elect James Tedesco, to support the arts. One way they could ask for support is asking for creation of a division of arts in the county, which does not currently exist.

“We have to put in on their radar screen,” said Huttle.

Email: noda@northjersey.com


Englewood-based non-profit looking to form regional arts council


“We basically want to support the creative sector in this area and to engage the community and the arts to encourage creative placemaking,” said Danielle De Laurentis, associate director of the foundation. The non-profit held approximately five meetings to create an executive committee and a preliminary business plan for funding and ways to move ArtsBergen forward, said De Laurentis. Three taskforces focusing on marketing, networking and fundraising were also established during the meetings. A networking event is being planned for fall. The arts council will mainly focus on connecting artists in municipalities surrounding Englewood, Hackensack and Teaneck, said De Laurentis.

The group hopes to branch out to other areas in Bergen County as the organization grows. “What we were saying all along is if another town is interested and wants to get involved, there’s not a rule saying they can’t join,” said De Laurentis. Bergen County is a very insular region with its 70 municipalities, said De Laurentis. As a result, De Laurentis said arts organizations’ members do not have a place to market their works and connect with each other. “We have all these different arts organizations doing good work, but no central place to market and make an identity here in Bergen county,” said De Laurentis “We want to be that place.”

Jacqueline Guttman, who serves on the ArtsBergen marketing committee, experienced firsthand a benefit from arts organizations collaborating. Guttman once planned to offer an acting class at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus as part of Arts for Life, her non-profit that offers arts programs for senior citizens. A week before the class, however, Guttman learned about the university’s construction project at the auditorium where the class was to be held. “I said ‘Oh God, what do we do now,'” said Guttman. “We had 30 people interested — we even needed to open a second class — and we had no venue.” Hackensack-based The Center for Modern Dance Education became aware of Guttman’s predicament and “generously” gave Arts for Life a space to host the class, said Guttman. “I was so struck by how this was an example of how we can be there for one another,” said Guttman. ArtsBergen hopes to “bring the energy” of thriving artist communities, said De Laurentis. West Orange, for example, is home to the Valley Arts District, a 15-square block live-and-work community for artists.

A thriving arts community can have a major impact on tourism in North Jersey, said Cynthia Forster, the director of the county’s Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs who is acting as an advisor for ArtsBergen. Having an arts location in downtowns would also support the local economy, said Foster. “If you’re going to bergenPAC [in Englewood], you don’t just go to a show,” said Forster. “You go out to eat, pick up a coffee and walk along the streets and look at the other stores. It’s all interconnected.”

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