Monthly Archives: June 2016

BLOG: “Seasons of Love” an Art and Music Mural Project by Alison Wallace

A few years ago, I found myself in a new situation as an art educator. After seven years of teaching high school art, I was embarking upon a new adventure: middle school. Here I was, several years into my career, learning the nuances of both a new school district as well as a new age group… not to mention new courses to teach. In addition to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade general art classes, my predecessor had begun a Mural Arts class at Marlboro Middle School.

That first year, I quite literally fell into teaching this course. The students and the mural themes had been chosen prior to my employment. Rough drafts of designs had been sketched. The murals were designed around inspirational words, and that year’s words were Imagine and Reach. Throughout the year, we learned painting techniques, designed our murals, and painted our hearts out. Serendipitously, the choir teacher that year had chosen John Lennon’s Imagine to sing at our school’s 8th grade graduation. My principal came to me with a fabulous idea. Because the murals were on canvas, they could be easily transported. What if the Imagine mural was displayed at graduation? Would I be okay with that? Of course, I loved the idea.

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Imagine, Acrylic on Canvas, 12’ x 4’, 2013

Having the mural correspond to the song our choir teacher chose was, in all honesty, a happy accident. It was great to have our students recognized at graduation as well as visually support the 8th grade graduation choir. The graduation performance gained new meaning for both our choir and art students. This experience got me thinking … what if we had actually planned this? How could we have merged both our music and art programs to create a cohesive artistic display at our 8th grade graduation? How might this impact the students’ perceptions of both the mural as well as their graduation performance?

This year proved the perfect time for us to try this out. I had a supportive administration and a music department open to brainstorming possible collaborations with me. We began with a discussion of possible songs. I gave the possible song choices to my mural arts students and we chose Seasons of Love from the Broadway musical Rent by Jonathan Larson.

We are a 1:1 Chromebook district, so students from both the Mural Arts Class and 8th Grade Choir Classes used their Chromebooks to aid in the creative process. First, students searched images and saved those they felt related to the song. Next, they shared these images with me through Google Docs.   The live documents enabled student and teacher collaboration in many ways. Most importantly, choir students who I did not see in class were still able to contribute and discuss ideas with me. After many ideas were compiled, Mural students were asked to complete the task of finalizing a design. I wanted them to contemplate the following questions, all inspired by the song and this cooperative task: What is friendship? What does it mean to celebrate your friends and focus on the good things in your life? What are some images that the song invokes? How can you “measure your life in love?” How can you celebrate your friendships, from simple experiences together to meaningful ones? And lastly, how can we successfully merge all of these ideas to create one cohesive and unified piece of art?

It was decided that each panel would visually represent one of the four seasons. The technical work of creating the mural was done by mural art students.


The mural in progress.

Groups met two days per week for approximately 50 minute classes. This entire process took about three months to complete. This was the culminating project of the Mural Arts class, who had all been working on the technical skills needed for large scale painting since the beginning of the school year.


The completed mural. Acrylic on Canvas, 12’ x 4’, 2016.

Although transporting and hanging the completed mural at graduation took a little skill and planning on the part of our administration and custodial staff, it was hung prior to the ceremony directly next to the graduation chorus.


The mural on display at graduation and next to our 8th Grade Graduation Chorus.

This collaboration proved meaningful to all students. Choir students, even those not directly involved in the design, were more motivated to perform knowing that the mural students were creating a painting inspired by their performance. Mural art students were inspired knowing that their painting would proudly hang next to the choir as they sang the words of its inspiration. All students involved exhibited higher order thinking skills as they found deeper meaning and imagery in a song’s lyrics.

Through the creation of the mural as well as our choir’s performance, we quite literally brought art and music together. Students raised their voices and their paintbrushes, making connections both in and out of the classroom.

Alison Wallace is an art educator with experience teaching K-12 art in several districts and private settings. Currently she is an art teacher at Marlboro Middle School where she teaches General Art and an admissions-based Mural Art class to select 8th grade students. In addition, she works with the school’s special needs population and integrates art education with social skills instruction. During the summer, she is both the assistant director and creative arts specialist at HI-STEP, a therapeutic summer program for children with special needs.

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – June 2016

The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education and the Statewide Teen Arts Festival – all in the course of two weeks. Busy but extremely exciting. Aside from all of the happy faces at the Governor’s Awards from the awardees, their families, teachers and mentors the performances were extraordinary. To name two: Kimberly Lee from Summit High School performed a timely monologue about Hiroshima entitled Radiance of a Thousand Suns by Dwight Okita and five dancers: Amanda Edore, Julia Foti, Joy Guiffre, Lianna Shimoun and Candace Eason presented a piece they all rehearsed separately and performed together for the first time at the ceremony.

Congratulations to the Recipients of the 36th Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education

TRENTON— 6/8/16 – On May 26, 2016 the Patriot’s Theatre at the War Memorial in Trenton was the place to be for inspirational speeches and remarkable performances. The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) along with the New Jersey Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts hosted the 36th Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education. This event is recognized nationwide as the states highest honor in arts education. Honoring excellence, promoting awareness of and appreciation for the arts, and by recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of the award winners.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick was recognized with the Lifetime Contribution Award and in accepting the award spoke about his admiration for artists and the driving force behind his arts education policies. A self-proclaimed “born again Artist” Bramnick spoke of his wife and children and informed the crowd, if you want a life that’s not boring “marry an artist”. With his speech the event was off to a fabulous start, and the excitement continued with performances by some of the best in the state.

James Morris, Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy started us off with a spellbinding performance on the piano.  Brandon Lyons from Hoboken High School gave a passionate monologue from A Raisin in the Sun. Ricky Persaud, Jr., Shepard High School and Ryan Hernandez, Governor Livingston High School took us on a journey to a jazz club with their toe tapping renditions of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Girl from Ipanema”.

Rounding out the evening of amazing performances was a solo modern dance performance by Danielle D’Abundo, Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts and a timely monologue about a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima that brought tears to our eyes by Kimberly Lee of Summit High School. Maressa Park, of Mary Help of Christians Academy recited her own poem “Butterfly Cage” reminding us that all our lives are intertwined and to set ourselves free.

Concluding this year’s event was a surprising collaborative dance performance by Amanda Edore, Morris County Vocational School District, Candance Eason, The Wardlaw- Hartridge School, Julia Foti and Joy Giuffre, Passaic County Technical Institute, and Lianna Shimoun, Ridge High School who put their individual performances together only moments before the show began and captivated the crowd.

Mark Biedron, President of the State Board of Education, Chair of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Elizabeth Mattson and Kristin Wenger, Director of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership had the honor of presenting the awards to over 115 student and leaders in arts education from across the state.

Past recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, Wendy Liscow of the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation stated, “So to all the past, present and FUTURE Arts Education awardees — revel in the limelight.  You represent the creative potential and sustainability of our state. Enjoy this recognition and spread the word about the power of the arts to transform individuals, schools, and communities.”

The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education success comes from the collaboration of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, the New Jersey Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by: Art Educators of New Jersey, New Jersey Music Educators Association, Dance NJ, ACT-SO Program New Jersey, Arts Administrators of New Jersey, New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, New Jersey Speech and Debate League, New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC); Writers Theatre of New Jersey; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; VSA New Jersey and Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania. The cooperating organizations, award sponsors and individual members of the planning council dedicate their time to make sure that excellence in the arts is rewarded, and work tirelessly throughout the year to plan this special event. The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education ceremony are a major collaborative effort of the arts, education and state government.

Find The Awards Online: www.artsednj.org

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Twitter: @ArtsEDNJ

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#ArtsEdNow Join the Campaign @ www.artsednow.org

State of the Arts: One Million Public School Students Participate in Arts Education

96% of Elementary School, 89% Middle School and 50% of High School Students are actively participating in the arts.

Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education

Released on www.artsednj.org

More than one million students participated in public school arts education programs during the most recent school year according to data released by the New Jersey Department of Education and analyzed by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. There is an increase in high school arts participation for the third straight year with significant increases in dance and theater enrollment. For the first time, middle school data reveals 89% of all students participating in one or more art form while 94% of elementary students engage in arts learning.

These findings are based on the arts educator assignment data for all schools and the high school arts participation data from the New Jersey School Performance Reports just released by the New Jersey State Department of Education. The findings for the 2014/2015 school year are accessible through the Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education created by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership found at http://www.artsednj.org/reports-and-data/interactive-school-performance-dashboard/

According to the new state data, 96% of schools in New Jersey reported offering arts education programs that provide access to more than 1.3 million students (98% of all students) with more than 1 million students participating in one or more arts areas during the school day representing 81% of all students in New Jersey schools. Student participation in high school arts programs increased to just under 50% of all students.

“New Jersey continues to provide innovative policies and pioneering initiatives for arts education by offering detailed information about the status and condition of arts education in every school across our state, commented Robert Morrison, Chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. “While these numbers are very encouraging there is still more work to be done to bring the arts to every student in our state. We appreciate the New Jersey Department of Education’s support for including the arts in the School Performance Reports, recognizing the important role they play in the educational development of all our students.”

According to Morrison, the findings also reveal that Music and Visual Art are nearly universally available (90% of schools reaching 92% of students for Music and 90% of schools reaching 91% of students for Visual Art). While dance and theater have shown enrollment gains, the lack of access to these art forms at the elementary level creates a significant barrier to participation for students during middle school and high school

Among the other key findings for all schools:

The percentage of schools providing Dance and Theater continues to lag (2.6% and 4.5% respectively) although enrollment gains were seen in both.

83% of schools reported the presence of both Music and Visual Art providing access to 89% of all students (both increases).

Key Findings for High Schools:

A total of 49.9% of high school students were enrolled in one or more arts disciplines during the 2014/2015 school year (representing 204,974 unique students). This represents an 11% growth in arts enrollment since 2013.

Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 31.1% (128,293 students) followed by music at 17.9% (72,823 students), theater at 3.9% (16,995 students) and dance at 2.3% (8,369 students).

The increases in enrollment were across the board with Theater increasing by 11.3%, Visual Art by 9%, Music by 6.7% and Dance by 3.4%.

There are 7,033 professional arts educators providing arts instruction in New Jersey high schools (including 3,562 in music, 3,086 in Visual Arts, 63 in Theater and 112 in Dance with 162 in Vocational Education. 85% of all arts teachers are assigned to one school.

Two out of every three high schools (66%) reported an increase in arts enrollment.

Key Findings for Middle Schools:

While 99% of middle school students had access to one or more arts offering during the school day – a total of 89.9% of middle school students actually participated in arts courses during the 2014/2015 school year (representing 339,425 unique students).

Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 71.1% (281,465 students) followed by music at 66% (255,372 students), theater at 3.9% (13,749 students) and dance at 1.6% (7,202 students). Among middle schools, 93% of students had access to both music and visual art.

Key Findings for Elementary Schools:

96% of elementary students had access to one or more arts offering during the school day or more than 520,000 students. Based on the structure of elementary schools the presence of an arts teacher indicates students in the school participate in the arts specialty area of the teacher. Music is accessible to 91% of elementary students in 86% of elementary schools. Visual art is accessible to 88% of elementary students in 85% of elementary schools. Both music and visual art are accessible by 83% of elementary students in 78% of schools.

The picture for dance and theater is very different. Only 1.7% of elementary students have access to dance while less than 1% have access to theater during the school day.

The information does not address the quality of the programs, elementary school participation or the impact of scheduling changes created by recent educational reform initiatives or new statewide assessments. All of these areas require further research.

The Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education allow citizens to interact with the information, explore student enrollment and levels of participation for each of the four arts disciplines (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) for all middle and high schools as well as the presence of arts programs for every school. The data may be viewed by school, district, county or state totals. Schools and communities will also be able to compare their results to the averages for the entire state.

The call for including arts education as part of annual school reporting dates back to 2007 when the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership released the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Arts Education Census Report, Within Our Power. Among the report’s many recommendations was that schools should “publicly report on an annual basis information regarding access to, level of participation in visual and performing arts education, and that this information be included as part of a state accountability system.”

New Jersey has long had some of the strongest requirements for arts education in the nation. Since 1996, the visual and performing arts (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) have been a part of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and are part of the state’s graduation requirements. Additionally, New Jersey was the first state to conduct a mandated study to document access, participation and quality of arts education.

In support of these requirements, research regarding the educational benefits of the arts for all New Jersey students (not just the gifted and talented) is compelling. Various studies have identified links between involvement in the visual and performing arts and improved attendance, school engagement, increased academic performance, decreased drop out and discipline rates and higher levels of college attendance — areas of improvement vital to student success. Just as important, the arts develop important life skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.

A recent study found New Jersey high schools with more arts education have a greater percentage of students who were highly proficient in language arts on the High School Proficiency Assessment test. High schools with more arts education have a higher percentage of students planning to enroll in a four-year college.

For more information about the School Performance Reports and information regarding arts education visit http://www.artsednj.org



Arts Based Professional Learning at NJPSA/FEA

This year, the Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) at NJ Principals and Supervisors Association and the NJ Arts Education Partnership hosted a series of workshops entitled – Bring Learning to Life Through the Arts. According to Mary Reece, Director of Special Projects, “educators were intrigued by the concept.”

These workshops served as a follow up to sessions presented at FEA’s summer conference held at Princeton University. Reece said that teachers at the summer institute asked for several of the presenters to be invited back along with some new additions.

Two recent workshops presented by the Folger Shakespeare Library and George Street Playhouse received rave reviews.

The session by the Folger Shakespeare Library focused on engaging students

at all levels in the works of Shakespeare. As a result teachers and students could connect with Shakespeare’s language. Working creatively and collaboratively, participants developed strategies for designing and assessing learning that meets the Common Core, but also gets student on their feet and into complex texts — Shakespeare and others. Peggy O’Brien of the Folger Library was able to make the subject matter accessible and entice educators to engage students with the work.

Two participants offered comments – “By far the best workshop I have been to! Often we go to great workshops and want to use much of the information immediately, but it is overwhelming and not feasible. I can confidently say I could revamp my entire curriculum around what I gained from Peggy O’Brien.”

“The workshop was very interactive and offered a lot of bodily-kinesthetic activities… It was fun and the information offered was invaluable! Please offer more of these “special interest” types where the strategies shared can be immediately implemented into our classrooms the next day! These types of workshops are practical and incredibly beneficial to helping us grow professionally (which only further helps our students! :)”

In addition, this session was timely as it came at the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

In May, FEA brought in Jim Jack, Director of Education and Outreach at George Street Playhouse to present a session entitled, Theatre Arts Integration in the Language Arts Classroom.

Jack along with other staff members explored active strategies to strengthen Language Arts Literacy and cultivate a dynamic, collaborative learning environment in the classroom. Participants used simple theater arts approaches to expand students’ expressive language development, sequencing skills, and content knowledge aligned to the Common Core.

According to Mary Reece, “Jim Jack was able to impart the understanding that theatre skills can apply to a variety of elementary and middle school settings.” She continued, “he opened the door for a lot of enthusiasm to bring theatre into the lower grades.”

Participants shared their feedback, “I liked the hands on activities and how the presenters modeled everything for the group. They made everyone feel comfortable and everyone was willing to think outside the box. I am excited about bringing these activities to my teachers and students.” And “I just appreciate what an awesome day I had at this workshop. One of the best ones that I’ve been to.”

The result, presenters brought the subject matter to life and teachers left the session excited and ready to get started in their own classrooms.

Stay tuned as there will be more sessions coming in the next school year. And if you have suggestions for sessions you would like to see, please send them to us.





Blog: 2016 Teen Arts Festivals: A Look Back

After numerous county festivals in March, April and May, the final New Jersey Teen Arts Festival of 2016 was held at Ocean County College on June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The three-day, statewide festival brought students to campus from throughout the Garden State. The state festival was described as “the exciting union of art, education and possibility” by Dr. Jon Larson, President, Ocean County College, a description that is fitting of all the festivals. Even though no two festivals were alike, each did embody this common theme.

Festival locations ranged from densely populated urban or suburban locations to sparsely populated rural venues with sprawling green space. And yet, regardless of location, the overarching spirit of possibility was distinctly felt. With countless adjudicated performances and exhibits at each of the festivals, students learned a great deal from feedback that was offered by the professionals. Whether feedback was offered in the form of high praise or constructive criticism, the critiques serve an invaluable role in the students’ development. Feedback is vital, because it provides objective input, and helps to shape students’ vision of what might be possible for them in the arts discipline of their choosing.

Excitement and enthusiasm from the students was another constant! Participants, some in Middle School, but most in High School, were eager to show their passion for the arts. Photos were taken at each of the festivals and added to the Arts Ed Now Instagram campaign. The sheer variety of answers demonstrates that students themselves are thinking about all the possibilities their arts learning has prepared them for in the future. During the festivals, with an abundance of shared enthusiasm, it’s easy to believe that the list of possibilities is endless!

New Jersey supports the tradition of Teen Arts Festivals precisely because they are incubators of possibility. Bringing students together, from across the county or the state, fosters the beginning of new possibilities both in and outside the arts. Students, inspired by the work or performance of others, have the opportunity to leave with a new perspective. The power of the festivals lies in the legacy of creativity, excellence, and above all, possibility they promote. This year, through the collaboration of many, the legacy continued and the results were truly inspiring.  And now, with the last festival complete, NJAEP is already looking forward to planning and taking part in the festivals next year!

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