The Voice of Arts Education in NJ: 
Keeping you up to date in our field

Letter From The Director

April is National Poetry Month, one of the largest literary celebrations of the year! Since National Poetry Month began in 1996, the month of April provides occasion to honor poets and the unique qualities of the art form. New Jersey has been home to many well-loved American poets, such as Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams, as well as the incomparable Dodge Poetry Festival. In fact, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program has been "giving voice to poetry since 1986". The program offers exciting opportunities designed to encourage educators to include poetry in their teaching practice, such as the memorable Spring & Fountain sessions!
If you need more evidence that poetry remains alive and well throughout New Jersey, just look to Poetry Out Loud.  With student competitions throughout the state, Poetry Out Loud is a tradition we truly love.  Check out the interview with the NJPOL state champion!  

It is  Autism Awareness Month, we have highlighted some awesome sensory-friendly performances happening throughout New Jersey in April.  
Monmouth University's Center for the Arts is taking the lead on programming to highlight Autism Awareness Month. Follow us on social media this month to find more events.

New Jersey Arts Education Partnership


Congratulations to our 2017 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud Champion, Amos Koffa, a senior from Burlington County Institute of Technology, Medford Campus! Twelve students competed for the title of State Champion at the NJPOL State Finals on March 9th. Visit the  NJPOL webpage to see video clips of our 2017 State Champion as well as all the students who participated! Amos will be representing New Jersey in the upcoming Poetry Out Loud National Finals, hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • How old are you? 18
  • What year in school? Senior, Class of 2017
  • Are you originally from NJ? I was born in Newark, NJ and stayed there until 10th grade. I've attended Arts High School and Science Park High School.
  • Tell me more about growing up - what were some of your favorite things to do? Drawing, writing poetry and watching television (Glee, The Fosters, and Degrassi) and listening to Beyoncé. I also enjoyed supporting my friends' performances. Since I went to a performing arts school the students were super-talented. I loved seeing kids do what they love.
  • Any hobbies? Writing poetry, performing spoken word pieces, and being an LGBTQ+ activist.
  • What led you to poetry? In eighth grade I was voted "most poetic" for my class superlative. I was severely bullied in middle school and used poetry as a way to express myself. Even though I was not one of the popular kids every time I read a poem out loud everyone would listen and clap for me. This made me realize that poetry is my most effective method for communicating with people.
  • Where do you see yourself in a year? I will be in college. Rutgers New Brunswick
  • What goals do you have for the future? I am going to school to become a social worker. I would like to be a spoken word artist. I would like to release spoken word albums and become a big star. I want to be like Beyoncé.
  • Is there someone who inspires you? All of the notable LGBT+ figures that are erased from our history books. They inspire me to speak up when I see injustice, and to never give up.
  • Is there a teacher who inspires you? I think of television as being one of my greatest teachers. From TV I've learned about topics that were not discussed in school or in my own home. It allowed me to know that my identity was valid. It gave me an opportunity to see my story and learn about myself.
What brought to the Poetry Out Loud contest?
I was introduced to this competition in eighth grade. I attended Science Park High School and the middle school and high school were together. I watched the students perform in this competition and I knew I wanted to be a part of it, unfortunately, I was too young at the time. I always knew that I wanted to be on stage in front of people, but I didn't know how. After watching the other students participate I knew that this would be my outlet.  

Continue Reading...

State Champion Amos Koffa performs Let the Light Enter by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper:
State Champion Amos Koffa performs Let the Light Enter by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper:

If you were to visit the schools of Neptune Township, you would find many examples of students actively participating in the arts. At any given point in the day students are making music, creating art, dancing, acting, and working with the media arts. This happens at all grade levels across the district, starting from Pre-Kindergarten, all the way to Seniors in High School. As a district we have decided to embrace the Arts Ed Now to spread the good news of the power of the arts in the life of a child.

In addition to teaching our students to create, perform, present, respond, and connect to the arts, we believe in the transformative power of the arts to change a life. We encourage students to use the arts to achieve and succeed. The arts provide an avenue of success for students, which then provides them with the encouragement to tackle all of life's challenges. It is with this philosophy can we then ask today's art students what they aspire to become tomorrow.

Arts Education in New Jersey 

New Jersey is a national leader in arts education.Over the past 30 years, the arts have come to play a central role in our public schools; and the results have been dramatic.

Discover arts education in New Jersey!

Into The Heart: Arts Education in New Jersey
Into The Heart: Arts Education in New Jersey

Produced by PCK Media
Opening credits by GCV Productions

Posted On April 5, 2017

This year's National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC had an undercurrent of energy that came from word that the President had proposed, just days earlier, elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts for FY2018. Over 700 people attended ...

New Jersey High School Dance Fest

On Saturday, March 11, 2017, Union City High School hosted the fifth annual New Jersey High School Dance Fest in Union City, NJ. Supported by Union City Board of Education, Mayor Brian P. Stack and Commissioners, as well as the Hudson County Alliance of Teen Artists. The festival was pioneered in the spring of 2013 by festival coordinator, Cristen Pennello, Union City High School's Dance Instructor. The festival was created for NJ high school dance programs, and this year we hosted 18 schools. The day was packed with events such as Adjudications, where the dancers had a chance to perform for their peers, and hear live feedback from Industry professionals. Two sessions of workshops followed adjudications, in styles of dance such as Hip Hop, Modern, Ballet, and Jazz Funk, as well as a Scholarship Audition which allowed students to compete for a spot as well as funding for summer dance intensives with local professional companies and universities. The day culminated with a Professional Gala performance by local companies: moe-tion dance theater, Solo Danza (directed by Cristen Pennello and Amanda Papa), Hillary Marie's Sole Music Collective, 10 Hairy Legs, Nimbus Danceworks, and Carolyn Dorfman Dance. 

The day also included representatives from Rowan University, Drew University, Rutgers Mason Gross, Dancers Responding to Aids, and Dance NJ. Dance NJ sponsored a Professional Learning Community during one of the workshop sessions, where they shared and collaborated on lessons and ideas. This PLC also provided Professional Development hours for the instructors who brought their students that day. The New Jersey High School Dance Fest continues to grow and evolve every year, and we hope to continue on this journey for many years! 

- Cristen Pennello MA, BFA
NJHSDF Founder and Coordinator 
Dance Educator, Union City High School

Are art classes a waste of resources... or the most important class a child can have?

In a test driven, results oriented public school system, the art department costs money. Supplies don't come cheap, nor do teacher's salaries. Is art just a class that allows core content teachers a bathroom break or preparation time?  Is it a moderated block of time for kids to express themselves, have fun, and blow off some steam?  The short sighted and ill-informed will say "AMEN!" They fail to understand something very important.

The solution to failing schools is right under our noses. It has been for a long time. Research, studies, and evidence prove it, but schools ignore it because they feel it's counter-intuitive. Worse yet, when schools do decline, they cut the one program they should be strengthening. ART!

Not "craft time," or follow-along busy work, but a rigorous, focused, inter-curricular program taught by a certified ART instructor. The facts show that schools that implement STEAM programs, outperform schools that promote STEM. The "A" (Art) is THE important key to student success!

 by EJ Gibbons
Educator & Author

#AutismAwarenessMonth + Arts Education 

Autism Awareness Events at Monmouth University: Center for the Arts

April 2- April 30 -  Light it up Blue
Each April 2nd, Autism Speaks celebrates the start of its signature campaign, Light It Up Blue, along with the international autism community in recognition of UN sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day and April, World Autism Month. Thousands of iconic landmarks and buildings join the hundreds of thousands of homes and communities around the world to "light blue" in support of people living with autism. Monmouth University will be joining the campaign dramatically lighting up the Monmouth Library and Wilson Hall for the entire month of April.
April 1 - May 31
Art + Autism Exhibit
Pollak Gallery
Opening Reception: April 2, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Free and open to the public
Presented in Partnership with Autism Speaks, this juried exhibition opens at the beginning of Autism Awareness month and will showcase the talents of 28 artists living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The exhibit will initiate a conversation about the unique power of art in the autism community. Select pieces will be for sale to benefit Autism Speaks. 
April 2 at 8:00 pm
Bravo Amici Concert to benefit Autism Speaks
Pollak Theatre
Tickets: $45; $65; $100 (Gold Circle)
Presented in partnership with Autism Speaks NJ this special concert presentation held on World
Autism Awareness Day will feature Geoff Sewell, founder of the classical crossover opera band Amici Forever and his cast of exceptionally talented Broadway performers singing favorite pieces from well-known musicals, operas and popular music. From classic opera favorites like La Traviata's Brindisi to Phantom's All I Ask of You and crowd pleasers like That's Amore, audiences will delight in the uplifting performance by the gifted vocalists of Bravo Amici. The concert will also feature a special video presentation of Sewell's song Heal Me co-written by his wife Simone and featuring daughters Olivia and Sienna (who has autism) highlighting the message that autism is treatable.
April 6 at 7:00 pm
Special Education Reconsidered
by Lori M. Gaines, Special Education Attorney Barger & Gaines
(part of the University Speaker Series)
Wilson Auditorium
Free and open to the public
Federal special education law requires that school districts provide students with a "free appropriate public education." But just what does that mean? In 1982 the Supreme Court considered this question in the landmark decision of Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Amy Rowley. Since then, however, the various federal court circuits across the country have adopted varying standards for determining whether a special education program is actually appropriate - some adopting the standard set out by the Supreme Court and others deciding to impose a greater standard. As a result, there is an inconsistency across our country and therefore an inconsistency in just how much educational benefit students with disabilities are entitled to receive based on where they live. This inconsistency led the Supreme Court to once again consider this question through the case of  Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Join Ms. Gaines for an interactive conversation about the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case, the arguments made for and against imposing a greater obligation on school districts to provide more than the minimum educational benefit to students with disabilities, and the potential impact of the Supreme Court's decision on the climate of special education across the United States.
April 8 & 15
Laughing With Me! - Improv workshops with Michael O'Keefe
April 8 at 10 AM | Ages 8-12 | Pollak Theatre
April 8 at 12 PM | Ages 13-17| Pollak Theatre
April 15 at 1 PM | Adults 18+| Pollak Theatre
Laughing With Me! is the ASD program that is filled with fast-paced, interactive fun!!   Students think of communication issues like a game!! They will become flexible within these experiences. The outcome being that now they won't break, but simply bend.
They also learn that it's OK to fail. It's simply a part of life that's ultimately not a big deal. Also, a common occurrence of the program is an understanding of a special kind of laughter that gives a boost to self-confidence and creates a feeling of camaraderie. This is called "earned laughter", because the students realize that they have done something funny on purpose, in a setting that promotes and encourages that behavior. Delve into the ASD workshop where we look at how we handle what comes our way - expected or not! Add in the great fun and team spirit built into our games. We'll be playing with both our strengths and our quirks. Your child is set for laughter and learning!
Mike O'Keeffe is a teaching artist with The Count Basie Theatre, and has been performing  and teaching improv comedy professionally for over 25 years. He received his MA in  Education from Monmouth University in 1996, and has been a public school teacher for 20  years. He has done regional improv touring shows with former troupe-mate Wayne Brady,
and has traveled across the country performing corporate comedy and team-building.   Recently, he presented a TED Talk on the concept of "Play" called "Using Improv to Become  a Better Human". He is an Adjunct Professor at Monmouth University, where he teaches  Critical Discourse. This spring, he was a keynote speaker at the National Youth Leadership
Council's, "More Powerful Together" conference in Washington DC, which brought together  educational leaders and future educators. He was a speaker at Princeton University this  summer, where he demonstrated how to integrate performing arts into their Common Core  Curricula.
Three improv workshops for different age groups (8-12), (13-18) & Adult. These classes, designed for students with autism spectrum disorder, provides interactive activities to encourage thinking on your feet. Held in a fun, relaxed, judgement-free and collaborative learning environment, participants will develop both listening and collaboration skills, while improving self-confidence and a sense of camaraderie and teamwork with their peers.
Karaoke For A Cause
April 18 at 8 PM
Pollak Theatre
Hosted by Alpha Xi Delta



Pushcart Players is the Non-Profit Arts Partner of "Readers Theater - AIM to Achieve Project" at Martin Luther King School No. 6 in Passaic New Jersey. "AIM..." is a pilot program in which Pushcart teaching artists are engaged throughout the 2016-17 academic year in this unique Title I school.
The "Reader's Theater - AIM (Arts Integration at MLK) to Achieve Project" is an afterschool program for first through fourth grade students.  From January through June, in one session out of five each week, Pushcart teaching artists provide the theatrical component of a program that delivers dynamic participation in multiple art forms. AIM to Achieve addresses NJ Student Language Arts Standards for comprehension, fluency, and writing, and NJ Standards for Theater, Music, and Visual Art. Consistent with the MLK No. 6 goal of becoming a leading urban school district in the State, their focus is to provide every student the opportunity to complete sixth grade reading at or above grade level.
Pushcart concentrates with the students on a number of stories throughout the year. Guided by dedicated teachers on the MLK faculty the children work on reading, comprehension, and presentation. Visiting teachers and teaching artists provide a visual arts component, wherein props are created and constructed by the students. Music teachers support the work by engaging the young learners in music and musical enhancement of each story.
Pushcart teachers and teaching artists direct the theatricality of the performance, giving instruction on theater technique and terminology; use of voice, body, and imagination in character creation; stage directions and choreography, and public performance skills.
"Pushcart is bringing The Learning Center (TLC) a story-telling theater program which we've titled 'From Page to Stage,'" said Paul Whelihan, Pushcart's producing artistic director. "During each week from October through June, teaching artist Gerry Fierst will conduct in-depth classes on the art of story telling. In three segments - one that explores folk tales, one that concentrates on family history, and one that uses poetry - students will have the opportunity to create and perform their own work, and reap all the educational and social benefits of doing so!"
The program will infuse the use of puppetry in select classes. Students will also attend Pushcart performances in their auditorium of "Stone Soup and Other Stories" (folk tales from around the world), and "Ellis Island: Gateway to America" (a loving look at a small group of immigrants and their families who came to the US in the early 1900's and contributed to American history through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's).  "Ellis Island..." will be presented on April30 at 2:00 pm. These performances are open to the community.
The Learning Center for Exceptional Children has two schools -- one dedicated to serving the needs of regular education students through eighth grade, and the other to students on the Autism spectrum and with other cognitive disabilities in preschool through high school. Their innovative academic program is designed to surpass NJ curriculum standards and to motivate students to achieve. The faculty of dedicated certified teachers takes a "whole child" approach to education, and is committed to the educational, social, and emotional well-being of the students. TLC is able to individualize their program to differentiate instruction based on the student's personal learning style.
Pushcart Players is the award-winning professional touring theater company specializing in arts education for children. Twice nominated for an Emmy©, Pushcart is the recipient of numerous state and private awards for excellence and innovation. A social-profit organization founded in 1974, Pushcart brings substantive musical theater, workshops, and residencies to young people and their families in schools and theaters nationwide. The company has traveled more than 6 million miles nationally and abroad, from the rural red schoolhouse to the nation's White House.
Pushcart Players addresses social studies, literature, history, the Autism spectrum, special educational needs, and values clarification for young people, their families, and their educators. All performances by professional artists (Actors' Equity Association) are supported by study guides, post-performance assessments and other supplemental materials, and adapt to any location with innovative scenery, lighting and sound systems.

Celebrate Native American Festival Day at the Newark Museum's Second Sunday program on April 9 from noon to 5 pm.. The program features lectures; performances; tours; art and science demonstrations, and workshops; music; and baked goods. All events are free with admission unless otherwise noted. Admission is free for Members and Newark residents. The Newark Museum is located at 49 Washington St., Newark.

Highlights include:

Noon: Short films by artist Jeffrey Gibson

Noon- 2 pm: NJPAC Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens Ensemble
Enjoy a special menu of delicious treats, as music fills Engelhard Court

12:30 pm: Teen Tour

2 pm : Docent-Led Tour, Creating Without Boundaries - Native Artists of North America

2:30 pm -- Cherokee pop artist Tony Enos
Hailed as the Native Trailblazers 2016 Music Awards Artist To Watch, Cherokee pop singer, songwriter, produce, and activist, Tony Enos is redefining what it means to be an indigenous artist. His 2012 album The Heat toured nationally and set a precedent for LGBTQ2S artists in indie music, and his 2015 single "Two Spirit" brought strength and heart to the Native/Indigenous Two-Spirit movement.

2:30 pm -- Newark Museum Through the Eyes of Gallery Aferro Artists: Michael Wolf
Michael Wolf is a New York City area artist working primarily in sculpture and installation. He received fellowship grants from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the NJ State Council of the Arts, and received the Power of Art award, presented to him by artist Robert Rauschenberg. Wolf's recent shows include a solo exhibition at the Sculptors Guild Gallery in DUMBO Brooklyn; Activating Market St. at Gallery Aferro in Newark; and Sanctuary, an exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art that was built around his architectural installation.

Time TBD -- Spoken-Word Theatre Performance by Ryan Victor "Little Eagle" Pierce
Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape playwright and actor Ryan Victor "Little Eagle" Pierce performs an excerpt from his original play, This Play is Native Made, in which a Lenape artist embarks on a personal and historical odyssey in which everything old is still new. Additional spoken-word pieces, discussion and Q&A to follow.

Time TBD -- Fancy Bustle and Grass Dance Performance by Sheldon Raymore
Sheldon Raymore is a Native American storyteller, visual artist, actor, choreographer and an award-winning grass dancer. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Sheldon currently resides in New York City. He recently finished touring with Heather Henson's Crane: On Earth, In Sky theatre production.

Time TBD -- Film Screening--K'ina Kil: The Slaver's Son
Directed by Hoopa filmmaker Jack Kohler and produced by On Native Ground, a Native-owned film and media company, this short film tells a little-known story of human trafficking in Gold Rush mining towns. Tintah, a young man whose mother was a slave, learns that his sweetheart has also been captured, and sets out to free her, facing and fighting the men that captured his own mother. Following the film, explore the relevance of its themes with a discussion led by Wincey Terry from the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Time TBD -- Storytelling: Trinity Norwood

Ongoing from Noon until 4 pm:
* Maker Drop-In
* Family Gallery Workshop
* Creative Play

 Transforming Children's Hearts and Minds through the Arts 

Registration is now open for CAMP LIBERTY 

Camp Liberty was founded in 1974 as a safe and tranquil space for urban youth to enjoy. Over the years, our day camp has evolved into what is now one of Jersey City's best-kept secrets - a enriching sanctuary where children ages 6 and older can learn, grow, and create.  


Salem County Teen Arts Festival
  • Friday, April 21, 2017
  • 8:30am 1:30pm
Appel Farm Arts & Music Center

Cape May County Teen Arts Festival 
Locations: Including Ocean City High School, Ocean City Music Pier, Ocean City Tabernacle/Moorlyn Theater, St. Peter's Methodist Church and the Ocean City Arts Center. 

ArtsEdFact:  Did You Know... 

#ArtsEd Tweet About it

Bob's Corner 

State Files ESSA Plan with Feds, School Performance 
 Reports Released
Two big announcements happened just this week!
1. ESSA State Plan: The New Jersey Department of Education submitted the final NJ ESSA State Plan with the US Department of Education. Included in this plan were several revisions suggested by the field including broader definitions to be used for school assessments (to include curriculum as a resource to be reviewed) as well as sharing arts based strategies with districts and schools to support implementation of the law. In addition, we are already looking to the future as we continue to press for expanded school performance reports and inclusion of arts education metrics in ESSA school accountability. For details about the state plan go to:
2. School Performance Reports Released : The NJ DOE released the 2015/2016 school performance reports on a new web-based platform.  Please be sure to look at your own school reports by going to:
NJAEP will be releasing our updated interactive school performance reports later this month!

Bob Morrison
New Jersey Arts Education Partnership 
#ArtsEdNow: Share Your Story

Add your voice! Share your Story!

March was The Arts in Our Schools Month 
#TIO17 #MIOSM #YouthArtMonth



Arts Ed Now Traveled Around the State in March Visiting the County Teen Arts Festivals

Mark Your Calendars 2017

  • The Census is Coming....
    The third census will be released in September 2017. We have conducted exhaustive research documenting arts education in every school, including 3 statewide school-by-school census reports (2007, 2012 and 2017), which led to the restoration of arts education programs for some 75,000 students. 
STEAM learning activates skills and knowledge students learn in traditional arts classes in tandem with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In New Jersey many districts are finding (or creating!) innovative ways to encourage STEAM learning.  In this issue of the Beat, you will see highlights on STEAM learning, along with unique opportunities for professional development. Many exciting partnerships continue to develop, to support additional STEAM initiatives throughout the state. Stay tuned!  

J oin us on April 29!
The New Jersey School Boards Association, in conjunction with the Perkins Center for the Arts and the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, are excited to present Green STEAM - STEM, the Arts, and Sustainability, an interactive workshop that places board members, administrators and teachers in the roles of designers, artists and engineers. This hands-on and highly interactive training opportunity will focus on implementing the arts and sustainability in STEM subject areas.

This training will blend STEAM content areas and bring participants from different roles within the school district together for a collaborative design experience in a studio art environment. Attendees will learn ways to increase student creativity, imagination and innovation in their districts.

  • Understand how Integrative STEAM can engage students, impact student achievement, and help students to develop workplace readiness skills.
  • Learn about ways to apply a team approach, including board members, school administrator, and teachers, to improve STEAM education in schools at any grade level.
  • Participate in hands-on activities that will explore themes related to water conservation, and learn about a local elementary school that constructed a rain garden to learn about water conservation.
  • Experience the collaborative nature of Integrative STEAM learning.
  • Explore the common obstacles to integrative STEAM learning and learn how to successfully
    overcome the challenges.
  • Create a mosaic mural, guided by professional artists.
    Registration Information Registration of school board members and other district staff that have been reported to NJSBA through the completion of the district census form may be completed online at , but only by the school business administrator who must attach a scanned copy of the purchase order with the registration.
    For questions regarding registration, please contact NJSBA at .
    Additional district staff members are welcome to register online on Eventbrite at using a credit card. (Please check with your business administrator as to policy regarding reimbursement.)
    Event Questions For questions about the event, email Jennifer Siehl, administrative assistant, NJSBA Member engagement and training and professional development departments. 

DATE: Saturday, April 29 
TIME: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (registration begins at 8:30 a.m.) LOCATION: Perkins Center for the Arts, 30 Irvin Ave., Collingswood, N.J. 08108 FEE: $99 per person 
ACADEMY CREDITS: 4 Pre-registration is required

An Introduction to the New NJ Student Learning Standards and National Art Standards
April 7, 2017; 9 am - 3 pm at FEA 
Presenters: Dr. Dale Schmid, NJDOE, and Content Area Writers 

Theater to Learn 
April 27, 2017; 9 am - 3 pm at FEA 
Presenters: Maureen He ernan, Program Designer and Master Teaching Artist; Genese Martin, Theater to Learn Teaching Artist from Young Audiences NJ and Eastern PA; and Fiara Jara, Theater to Learn Classroom Teacher, Sussex Avenue School, Newark, NJ

Building Creative Assessments Through the Arts for All Content Areas
May 4, 2017; 9 am - 3 pm at FEA
Presenter: Peggy Valenti, FEA Consultant 

For More Information 

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