The New Jersey State Council On the Arts is one of the major grantors of funds to state and local programs. Each December the council holds a series of meetings for organization applying for grants, as well as for school and individual artists interested in residency programs.

The meetings are designed to help applicants learn more about various programs funded by the state, as well as how to fill out the forms needed to apply says Steven Runk, executive director of the council. Three types of free workshops are scheduled Tuesday through Thursday, December 9 through 11.

Organizational grant workshops: These help to better familiarize prospective applicants with the various programs of the council. They frequently include “business hours,” an opportunity for one-on-one consultation with a member of council staff. OGAWs are scheduled in this area on December 9 at 2 p.m. at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, and on Wednesday, December 10, at 11 a.m. at the council office in Trenton. Register at carmen@arts.sos.state.nj.us.

AIE and roster workshops: The council also sponsors an artists-in-education residency program and artist roster workshops. Special workshops for artists and schools interested in participating in these programs are also planned. These familiarize artists with the application and roster review process in order to become eligible to conduct either AIE or New Jersey Writer’s Project residencies. The AIE Residency School Grant Workshops provide a step-by-step walk-through of the guidelines, and a Q&A period for school representatives. The workshops are conducted in partnership with county cultural and heritage commissions, says Runk.

Workshops for artists are scheduled on December 9 at 6 p.m. at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown (to register call 609-633-1184); and on December 10 at 6 p.m. at the Hopkins House in Haddon Township. To register here, call 609-633-1184.

The final December workshop for school representatives is scheduled for December 11 at 10 a.m. at the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in Long Branch. To register, call 609-633-1184. Additional workshops for schools will be offered in January, according to Runk.

Runk was named executive director of the state Council On the Arts in January and has been with the council since 1991. He has been director of programs and services, grants and programs coordinator, and assistant director of information services.

Runk received a BFA in visual arts and a BA in communications from Villanova and has earned credits in the Rutgers Graduate Creative Writing program. Before joining the arts council he worked as arts development coordinator and assistant director of the summer session at Rutgers and as manager of corporate communications for a large architectural, planning, and interior design firm. He is also a founding member of the Cultural Access Network of NJ and has served on grant review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, and on Pennsylvania and Ohio state arts agencies.

Eligibility. To qualify for the organizational grants a group must be a non-profit, a government agency, or a college or university. It must also have tax exempt status and have been in existence for at least two years. Programs that serve two or more counties may apply directly for state grants, while programs that serve only one county need to apply for grants through their county arts council.

An organization does not have to be an “arts organization” to be eligible for funds, according to Runk. Community organizations that have arts projects or programs as one part of their overall program are also eligible.

A few of the well-known organizations in the area that receive funding from the council include McCarter Theater, the Grounds for Sculpture, Princeton Pro Musica, the American Repertory Ballet, and the Trenton Symphony Orchestra. The Mercer County Cultural Heritage Commission administers arts grants for the state council.

Decision process. Grants are evaluated by a panel of peers. For instance, a panel evaluating a jazz program would include artists familiar with the style. “We have a wide pool of people who help us to evaluate the program,” Runk says.

There are several criteria upon which the council bases its decisions. These include artistic quality, organizational management, financial management, arts education and advocacy, and public benefit, he added. The panel is also interested in seeing critical reviews, awards granted to the program, and is interested in learning about the artistic process of the program.

What grantors look for. Arts education is very important to the council. “We are interested in education for adults and youth, either through in-school or after-school programs,” Runk says. “We want to understand the artistic process and how the artist works with students to develop important skills.”

Runk also sees advocacy for the arts as an important ingredient for any program funded by the council. “Effective advocacy is essential to ensuring the continuing support for the arts, which we believe are important to our quality of life,” he says. “Effective arts advocacy is more than securing public dollars. It is regular and ongoing communication with all of the many persons, organizations and industries that influence, authorize, and support the arts. And it is doing so in ways that reveal the importance of investing in them and inspire action on their behalf.”

The arts benefit a community in a variety of ways, including programs for the elderly, as well as youth at risk. Arts programs have economic benefit for a community and can often be a factor in promoting tourism and downtown revitalization, he added.

“Only when the arts are adequately resourced can they provide all of us with the full range of their benefits that we know are important to the quality of our lives.”

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