Monthly Archives: April 2017

2017 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education – May 24, 2017


The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of the award winners. Each year, awards are presented to approximately 20 educators and 80 students. National and statewide organizations select the students for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theatre and visual arts and the leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education. The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates, whose leadership has helped nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.


The Governor’s Awards event is a partnership of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, the 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: the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Forensic League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Writer’s Theatre of New Jersey; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; and Young Audiences of New Jersey and 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.

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – April 2017

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

Meet Our NJPOL State Champion – Amos Koffa

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.

What are your thoughts about being involved in Poetry Out Loud for the past three years?

I love it. I love being able to interact with new people. I don’t really fit in at my school and through Poetry Out Loud I was given the opportunity to make new friends. Also, I have a strong passion for performing poetry but the people around me do not. I am able to meet people that I share common interests with. This year I was very grateful to win the State Competition. I can’t afford to go on my senior trip and I am not attending prom, so Poetry Out Loud is my prom and senior trip. It’s basically the biggest memory I will take away after graduation. I also love the ability to go back and watch my past videos and see how much I have grown.

What are your favorite poems, and why?

Knock, Knock- Daniel Beaty: It is a spoken word piece that is not a part of the anthology, but it is a story I can relate to. I was lucky enough to be able to perform this poem at Yale University and it was the first time that I performed something that made people cry.

Ecology- Jack Collom: I’ve been performing it since I started with Poetry Out Loud. I believe it is one of the best poems in the anthology and one of the most fun. The language offers a lot of freedom with the interpretation. I am able to use my body and not just the words.

I Sit and Sew – Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson: This poem is very dramatic. Also the message is something I can relate to. It talks about wanting to do something important but constantly being told to stay in your place.

What are your thoughts on the potential defunding of Poetry Out Loud (and the National Endowment as a whole)?

I am very disappointed. Poetry Out Loud was something I looked forward to being a part of every year.  It was one of the only ways I could express myself and be recognized for my talent. As I said before, Poetry Out Loud is my senior trip. It is also my sporting event, my extra-curricular activity, it is my prom, and it is my yearbook. I save all of the pictures from each year because I have participated in it so much. I share the videos with my friends and family. It is basically one of my only positive high school experiences.

If you could speak to save programs like this one, what would you say?

I would say that the arts are important. I think it’s our society’s responsibility to provide a diverse education. I am a strong advocate for an inclusive curriculum. I think that it’s important for students to see themselves reflected in lesson plans. Not everyone is the same, and arts education teaches us that it’s okay to be different. It allows students to excel. Not everyone is a mathematician or a writer. It provides more opportunities for students to see what their options are. It breaks the rule that everyone has to be normal. The arts provide inspiration, and without inspiration nothing that we have today would exist.

Poetry Out Loud Nationals begin on Tuesday, April 25th with a series of three Semifinal rounds.  New Jersey’s State Champion, Amos Koffa, will be competing against 17 other State Champions from the greater Eastern seaboard region in the first Semifinal of the day, scheduled to begin at 9 AM on April 25th, 2017.  After all three Semifinal rounds conclude, a total of nine students, three finalists from each Semifinal, will compete for the title of 2017 National Poetry Out Loud Champion at 7 PM on Wednesday, April 26th.  All events will be webcast live on the Poetry Out Loud website

NJPOL 2017

NJPOL 2017


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!
A study by PlosOne (https://goo.gl/6XZ5KZ ) shows that exploring art and making art both help the brain make more neural connections, but that making art showed significantly greater cognitive gains.

Evidence from The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the AEPsupport (https://goo.gl/op4zGo ) the fact that art students are more successful than their non-art involved peers by a significant margin.
72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they hire for. Art is one of the few places children develop these kinds of problem solving skills. Students who participate in art are 4X more likely to participate in a math or science fair. Art students are more likely to be recognized for student achievement. Art reduces truancy in schools and in poor districts student dropout rates go from an average 22% in schools without art to 4% within the SAME population in schools with art. Art students are 17% more likely to volunteer, and 20% more likely to vote. Art students outscore their peers on the SAT exam by an average of 100 points. https://goo.gl/wik68T and https://goo.gl/CBMB3R
Art does even more, like lowering stress so students can cope with the challenges of school. (https://goo.gl/pguZ2l ) A Missouri study (https://goo.gl/t796S2 ) of public schools in 2010 found that greater arts education led to fewer disciplinary infractions, higher attendance, graduation rates, and confirmed data that student test scores were higher. Conversely a New York City high schools study showed that schools that had a graduation rate under 50% offered the least access to art education with fewer certified arts teachers. (https://goo.gl/a9AOHY)
With such huge, verifiable benefits, it’s amazing that only 7% of schools require art education. State arts agencies receive 0.037%-less than one half of one tenth of one percent-of state general fund expenditures. https://goo.gl/E1VXAO
​The solution to failing schools is right under our noses. (https://goo.gl/Ps1YWN) More statistical evidence can be found on the Arts Ed Now organization publication located here: (https://goo.gl/a9AOHY)

by EJ Gibbons
Educator & Author




Spreading the Good News with Neptune Schools

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.  

Active engagement in arts education activities give students a safe and positive environment to learn skills beyond those in the specific art form.  Students learn skills such as teamwork, time management, resiliency, and learning to utilize creativity.  With the help of the Arts Ed Now Campaign, we have used our Social Media presence to spread the good news of our student’s success with the arts, as well as their hopes and dreams.  

As you walk through our hallways and see the MANY “Today and Arts Student, Tomorrow…” prompts that students have completed, it shows the hopes and dreams of our students.  It shows the power of the arts goes beyond the artistic relevance, and moves into a more human and personal relevance.  To our district, it provides a connection for ALL of our students: participate in the arts and it will inspire you and change your life!

The goal of Arts education is to develop a student into a well-balanced young person who is educated, cultured, has a healthy appreciation for the arts, and will make positive contributions to society.  The Arts Ed Now Campaign provides students the opportunity to show their life and career goals.  What do they aspire to be? What have the arts taught the student, beyond artistic skills?  What positive experiences from their art participation will students remember as they move into adulthood?  

The Arts Ed Now Campaign has empowered our district to spread the good news of arts education, so as successful adults, they realize the positive influence had, and hopefully still has, on their lives.


PVA Website: https://www.neptuneschools.org/domain/417

Link to Superintendent’s Notes: https://www.neptuneschools.org/Page/1621

PVA Dept. Twitter Feed: @NeptuneNJArts


2017 National Arts Advocacy Day

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 National Arts Advocacy Day sponsored by Americans for the Arts, and New Jersey’s delegation of 40, coordinated by ArtPride NJ, was the largest in NJ history. There were veterans who had attended previous years with of training and visiting the offices of NJ congressional representatives, and many who were first timers, learning facts and figures and understanding how best to make the case for federal support of the arts and humanities. We learned about how NEA funding affects the arts in New Jersey, and from each other we learned not to fear the short time allotted for advocating, but how to make the best use of that time with fresh approaches to storytelling.

In advance of the convening, ArtPride held a webinar for attendees to answer questions and explain the two-day event that included intensive advocacy training along with the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, this year presented by Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. Mr. Walker’s powerful remarks were compelling and portrayed how he became familiar with the arts as a child, perusing art magazines that his mother brought home from her job as a domestic in a wealthy household where attending cultural performances was a part of life, far removed from his own experience. He emphasized what we all felt deeply as arts advocates–that the arts are not a special interest, but a national interest that strengthens who we are.

Besides saving and increasing funding for the national cultural agencies, policy issues included arts education and support of all arts disciplines as part of a “well-rounded education” stipulated in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives who are not currently part of the Congressional STEAM Caucus were invited to show their support for the arts in STEM by joining over 75 other members. The fact that arts programs are now eligible for through ESSA for Title 1 funds and other federal resources, was also stressed to elected officials.

If you were not able to attend National Arts Advocacy Day, there is still action you can take to help #SavetheNEA. The federal budget process is a long one that extends throughout the summer months to come. Visit ArtPride NJ’s online NEA toolkit for data on NEA grants in New Jersey, and information that will inform your personal communication with members of US Congress. From email to postcards to phone calls to social media, there are plenty of ways to keep this message alive and assure that federal funding remains in the budget and will help New Jersey arts programs continue to grow and thrive.


Ann Marie Miller

Director of Advocacy & Public Policy

ArtPride New Jersey Foundation

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