In a journey that started in 1995, Ann Marie Miller, Former Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, has been a longtime advocate for New Jersey’s arts and culture community. She’s accomplished a multitude of milestones, big and small, throughout her career. We asked her to share some of her most memorable moments with ArtPride New Jersey, as she looks forward to retirement.

Retirement…rewirement…freedom…new adventures. It has only been a week and there are many loose ends to tie up, but this is an opportunity to think back and remember highlights over 28 years at ArtPride New Jersey. Let’s do this in David Letterman style…but only a top five! 

  1. Of course, the biggest and best recent memory (recent being from the past four years), was the passage of A3101 that increased state arts funding from $16 million to $31.9 million through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The NJ Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee legislation, passed in 2003, was finally honored by this bill, benefiting the NJ Historical Commission and the NJ Division of Travel & Tourism as well. Who knew that a quick three months after passage, the COVID pandemic would hit, and this funding would become key to survival along with federal support? The passage of this bill was the result of teams of advocates in all 40 New Jersey legislative districts who reminded our elected officials of how important state arts funding is to New Jersey’s quality of life through emails, phone calls, and personal visits.Passage of A3101

  2. Advocacy Days in Washington, DC – It was always a joy to corral a group of New Jersey arts advocates and visit members of the US Congress each year. Advocates discussed the benefits of federal cultural support through the National Endowment for the Arts in very personal and specific ways. Some of our best advocates were high school and university students whose enthusiasm and fervor were contagious. Dinners with our delegation in DC, selfies with Senator Booker, and the annual Nancy Hanks Lecture sponsored by Americans for the Arts (speakers like Yo-Yo Ma, Wendy Wasserstein and Rita Moreno) were all memorable.Arts Advocacy Day

  3. Moving the ArtPride office to Burlington, NJ – The ArtPride office started in my home in 1996, with a PO Box at the post office down the street. It had a brief relocation to Trenton on West State Street, directly across from the State House, then to Bordentown in a tiny office that was converted from a stable to its current location on High Street. The move to Burlington, facilitated by NJSCA member and local arts supporter Larry Carlbon, brought the Discover Jersey Arts staff together with me and allowed for growth and professionalization.   

  4. The Save the Arts rally in Trenton – In 2003 Governor McGreevey eliminated all funding for arts, history and tourism due to state budget constraints. He basically gave us permission to scream out loud which led to amazing grassroots advocacy. Students sent Valentines to the Governor proclaiming “the arts are my heart,” and curtain speeches and postcards eventually culminated in a rally on the State House steps with speakers including Tony Randall, Eric Bogosian, Dan Lauria, Kiki Smith, Clement Price, Steve Fredericks (from Growing Stage Theatre), IATSE Union leaders, and representatives of the history and tourism communities. The result was the passage of the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee that dedicated funding for arts, history, and tourism, a vanguard piece of legislation at the time.Save the Arts rally in Trenton

  5. ArtPride staff, trustees, and the incredible New Jersey arts community – Over 28 years I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with a great team of arts professionals and arts advocates. The early days included our stalwart Jim Atkinson with Cynthia Wasco and Kelly Barratt anchoring DJA, and evolved into the current dedicated staff that carries on the mission of advocating for and promoting a dynamic arts community. I made thousands of friends who are generous with a spirit that characterizes New Jersey’s unique collaborative nature. You can count on them to be responsive and do whatever it takes to preserve Jersey Arts and make sure that everyone knows the best art is in their own neighborhood. I am grateful for their tenacity, care, friendship, and professionalism.  

The next steps are open, but you will likely see me in the audience at a theatrical performance, concert, or in one of our museum’s fabulous galleries. My tenure at ArtPride is the capstone of a long career that ventured far from teaching drawing, painting, and weaving, but not far from an enduring love of all types of art everywhere (but mainly in New Jersey!)