Soon after its December 2019 launch, a group originally billed as the New Jersey Arts Administrators of Color found itself navigating one of the toughest years ever for arts organizations, hampered by shutdowns and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet through it all, the network continued to grow, and now with full-capacity performances and open exhibits soon to be a reality once again, work continues to emphasize creativity and inclusion within the Garden State's arts community.

Now called the New Jersey Arts and Culture Administrators of Color, its three original partners, New Jersey Theatre Alliance, ArtPride New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, have welcomed a fourth, Newark Symphony Hall.

Not only is that historic house the first dedicated venue to join the network, it also expands NJACAC's individual membership to about 135 professional arts administrators of color.

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Each of the partners has maintained contact with audiences through email, social media, and even personal appeals, keeping funding and resources coming in, according to Deonté Griffin-Quick, a NJACAC member and the manager of programs and services for New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

But Griffin-Quick said the past year-plus has turned many artists into self-advocates, sometimes out of necessity, given how many nonprofits around the state have been unable to retain staff.

"Either being furloughed or laid off, actually what's been exciting is that they're creating their own entrepreneurial endeavors," Griffin-Quick said. "They're starting their own organizations, starting their own consulting firms, starting their own businesses."

A NJACAC virtual workshop on entrepreneurship Thursday night, which Griffin-Quick said was set up at the urging of members, will attempt to answer the question of how arts administrators can leverage and showcase their skills.

"I think it's going to be so important as we look to the future, as we work to become a more equitable and diverse community and sector as well, in arts and culture," he said.

Griffin-Quick believes there is a future for the coexistence of fully attended events and virtual viewing options that became the norm during quarantine.

"Organizations from across the state and across the country have already committed to being able to offer live, in-person art opportunities, but also having the ability to offer some things virtually," he said. "They've been able to expand their reach, and reach new audiences, and connect with people that they traditionally may have not been able to do so with previously."

More information on the New Jersey Arts and Culture Administrators of Color network can be found on the NJTA website. Administrators of color who would like to join the organization as members can request admission to the group's Facebook page.

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