VACNJ to receive $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

SUMMIT, NJ — The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey has announced it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts for a Grants for Arts Projects award of $20,000. This grant will support an interdisciplinary project on art and mass incarceration through exhibitions and public programs across New Jersey in partnership with local artists, organizations and stakeholders. In total, the NEA will award 958 Grants for Arts Projects awards totaling more than $27.1 million that were announced as part of its first round of fiscal year 2024 grants.

“The NEA is delighted to announce this grant to the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, which is helping contribute to the strength and well-being of the arts sector and local community,” said National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Maria Rosario Jackson. “We are pleased to be able to support this community and help create an environment where all people have the opportunity to live artful lives.”

This grant will enable VACNJ to present four exhibitions featuring artwork created by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals who share a commitment to criminal legal reform in fall 2024. In collaboration with the Erik James Montgomery Foundation, the Marité & Joe Robinson Strolling Gallery I will feature an exhibition of photography by incarcerated youth. The overall project also encompasses interdisciplinary public programs including a storytelling event featuring individuals who have been affected by mass incarceration; an art-making workshop for teens for social justice; and a panel discussion on mass incarceration composed of artists and scholars.

“We express our heartfelt gratitude to the NEA for their generous support. This funding is a vital step towards our commitment to exploring the critical issue of mass incarceration and the ongoing pursuit of reform within our criminal legal system,” said Melanie Cohn, VACNJ executive director. “The exhibitions and programs enabled by this grant will not only allow us to share impactful work with communities across New Jersey but also serve as a platform to recognize and affirm the humanity of those who are incarcerated. Through these initiatives, we aim to foster a deeper understanding, raising awareness around this complex societal challenge.”

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit