The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s (NNJCF) ArtsBergen initiative announces the New Jersey Council for the Humanities awarded a COVID-19 Response Grant of $11,625 for the project ‘Stories on Main Street: Hackensack Immigrant Business Owners as Placemakers’. The NNJCF is also one of 36 organizations in the state to receive the grant.
“We are all still trying to manage the ongoing health crisis and at the same time figure out how to recover from COVID and move forward,” said the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Executive Director Carin Berkowitz. “The New Jersey nonprofits that serve their communities through work in the public humanities continue to be adversely affected. We are so pleased to offer this vital funding to the historical and cultural infrastructure of our state.”
Immigrant Owned Businesses Celebrated
The project celebrates immigrant owned small businesses by capturing their unique, varied oral histories through documentary story telling. The created documentaries will then be shared on an interactive digital story telling map on the Small Business Administration’s website. In addition, the project aims to help preserve existing businesses, their owners, and patrons. A goal is also to highlight these businesses, as community spaces helping to form and sustain culture in the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, and connect them with incoming new residents. Furthermore, the partners plan to use ArcGis technology to create the design of the online story map of ‘Stories on Main Street’. The map allows the community to identify sites and upload their own stories about Main Street. In addition, this creates a dynamic public repository of identity in the city.
A partnership comprised of several community organizations plans to implement the project. The partners include the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation; The Sack Business Alliance; Kathryn Rizzi, Assistant Director at The State University of Rutgers Oral History Archives; and Dana Glazer of Dane-Gramp Productions.
‘Stories on Main Street’ launches this October, beginning with the determination of a process for selecting the participating immigrant business owners. By the end of the year, the partners announce the selected merchants. Afterward, interviews and filming with the business owners takes place from January through March of 2022. The project culminates with four five-minute documentary films created and presented at free events throughout Hackensack, such the Hackensack Citywide Block Party.
Immigrant Businesses’ Influence on the Community
‘Stories on Main Street’ captures immigrant businesses’ influence on the people and culture of Main Street, Hackensack. “The project showcases various ways the range of small business owners build a community and sustain their own cultures. Our ultimate goal is to raise awareness of their contributions as cultural bearers in the Hackensack community. The city is in flux and now is also a good time to highlight, document and preserve their owners’ stories,” explained Danielle De Laurentis, Associate Director, Northern New Jersey Community Foundation.
Creative Placemaking in Hackensack
For over six years, the NNJCF partnered with The Sack Business Alliance and the City of Hackensack. The partners implemented creative placemaking in the Main Street district. ‘Stories on Main’ grew from the NNJCF’s community engagement work interviewing residents and transit users at the bus transfer station on Demarest Place in the district. People surveyed also provided insights about what they valued in their neighborhood and wanted to see in its redevelopment. In addition, many responded the ethnic diversity of neighborhood restaurants and businesses make the city unique in Bergen County.
The project is supported by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s ArtsBergen initiative, a regional arts alliance, works with various stakeholders. These stakeholders encompass artists, arts organizations, businesses and municipal leaders. They also use the arts to shape the social, physical, cultural, and economic identity of communities. Creative placemaking, a community-led, arts-driven approach, increases vibrancy and spurs economic development. This process also builds capacity among residents to take ownership of their communities.
NNJCF’s ArtsBergen is the only initiative in Bergen County, New Jersey offering a range of services in creative placemaking. In addition, the initiative partners with multiple municipalities facilitating creative teams and developing public art and creative placemaking plans. ArtsBergen also directs and manages public art projects to preserve and express community culture. Find additional information about the ArtsBergen initiative on the Foundation’s website.