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Monthly Archives: January 2018

38th Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education

Guest Blog by Alyssa Sileo of The Laramie Project Project

Thanks to my arts education, I can say that, as an 18-year-old, I feel entirely equipped to address all that life can throw at meーwith excitement and curiosity.

It’s not only the “special skills” section of my résumé that is augmented by my theatre experience. Interpersonal communication and public speaking skills will never go without use, but something often unidentified that arts ed has helped me and every other student to develop is a strong set of values.

My internal inclinations toward choosing generosity and standing up for others is due to the multiple perspectives that theatre challenges me to consider, along with the historical accounts and cultural experiences that are celebrated within the arts. And since theatre and the arts take the concept of “hands-on” education to the next level, I recognize a specific, ongoing segment of my life that required me to:

1) become a breathing-encyclopedia of a docu-play,

2) build an international community from a Google account,

3) and get really good at writing email pitches.

It’s thanks to a theatre teacher and the compassion of other theatre teachers from around the world that I’ve discovered my own life purpose, and that I am working to help others find their own.

In the summer of 2016, it was announced that our Junior Class Production would be The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project. This play uses found texts and interviews to chronicle the response of the 1998 hate crime against Matthew Shepard, a young advocate and gay University of Wyoming student. While this wasn’t the first hate crime ever, it was one of the first anti-gay acts of violence that caught worldwide attention and started a wave of fighting for hate crime legislation.

I was immediately struck by the incredible script and powerful story. As a theatre artist and an out LGBTQ+ teen, I know my performance of Laramie would be the ultimate synthesis of my earnest passion for equality. In the middle of a conversation with my drama teacher and director of the play, Ms. Kirstin Lynch-Walsh, at a Thespian troupe meeting, I expressed my want to create some kind of project in tandem with Laramie so I could maximize its impact on our school and greater community.

Her: “Well, I want to connect 49 Laramies to honor the 49 Pulse victims.”
Me: “…Okay. Wow. That’s it, I’m taking that.”

Since then, our The Laramie Project Project (or LPP) has grown into a theatre advocacy and education initiative that unites and catalyzes worldwide productions and readings of the play to honor victims of current hate crimes.

In the early days of the project: In between (and sometimes during) biology classes, amidst college research, and throughout intermission conversations, along with the support of upperclassmen and my drama teachers, I reached out to hundreds of high schools, theatres, and advocacy groups and encouraged them to set up events and spaces to bring Laramie to their communities. I scoured Facebook event pages for Laramies in the rehearsal process so I could ask them to add the LPP element of dedicating their production to someone we had lost to the horrific hate crime that was, at the time, the worst mass-shooting on American soil.

I watched the LPP go from a state project, to a regional project, to a national project, and, thanks to the power of social media, an international project. Production managers, directors, teachers, and passionate student leaders embraced our initiative and expanded our reach.

To date, we connect with 66 LPP events in 23 states and three other countries. High school Thespian Troupes and Gay-Straight Alliances, colleges, pro and amateur theatres, and community and religious groups have shared the story of Laramie with their hometowns, creating a loving tribute while making a statement that hate crimes can never be normalized, ignored, or tolerated. We began by honoring the Pulse victims, and since every name has since been honored in towns across miles and the seas, we have expanded to a larger list of people to memorialize, which makes for partnerships with the organizations Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Dru Project.

The LPP Family advocates for arts education by providing the opportunity for theatre programs to put up a unique event that challenges their students to act as artist-advocates. By bringing communities together and educating audiences, it becomes clear that arts spaces are essential to cultivating compassion and acceptance. Being a Production-Companion Project, we also encourage students to construct their own PCPs for their school’s season. It’s my belief that every piece of the theatre catalogue has an advocacy-initiative inside of it, and that students are the ultimate vessels of these.

We are actively working to make mounting an LPP event as accessible and cost-free as possible for programs that may lack funding. The play already serves as a low-maintenance and all-the-while effective theatre piece. The casting size is super flexible, and as for the technical elements, it requires a minimal set, since locations switch frequentlyー from moment-to-moment. (However, we are never ones to quickly leave out our student tech-artists, so it must be noted that a Laramie with extensive tech elements is remarkably compellingーlots of use of video and pictures and other media is commonly found.)

Being a member of International Thespian Society (sponsored by the Educational Theatre Association) has been an extreme source of guidance and assistance in broadening this project’s geography. Since I can identify myself along with 2,300,000 students and alumni and who share similar and different Thespian traditions, we have a wonderful and immediate common ground to build upon. Leaders of ITS and EdTA have also been committed to sharing our mission on their social media accounts.

There is a subset of the LPP Family that, time and time again, exude the care and kindness that keeps this project alive. It’s the theatre teachers, who, despite their busy schedules and theatrical seasons, commit to our initiative. Through their advocating of our LPP, I learn how to make it better. While attending Thespian Festivals and LPP events, I am constantly inspired by these figures. They are the anchors of these students, gifting them with an outlet for expression and chances to name their goals. I also enjoy those looking-glass moments when I meet the students who bring LPP to their schools, and promote us on social media better than I ever can. They’re the future theatre educators.

I have been granted unthinkable gifts thanks to the LPP, namely establishing and maintaining connections with the aforementioned organizationsーincluding contact with the actual Tectonic Theater Project, who have been such strong supporters of us! I’ve additionally been granted times of being surrounded, whether digitally or physically, by luminaries of every age and background. I think about how my definition of artist has been wildly revolutionized throughout every phase of this process, and happily await for the forthcoming moments of surprise. Theatre-makers must serve as the caretakers of equality; that’s something I know for sure.

The LPP is a joyful responsibility I will carry from high school to college and beyond, because my love for and trust in this play drives me to adding to its legacy.

Arts Ed NJ is the champion of the unreplaceable aspect of a student’s academic and personal development. Research, personal stories, and our own experiences persist to be proof that the arts in schools reap immeasurable benefits, all the while doing so in brilliant, lovely, unifying ways. I am a lifelong supporter of Arts Ed NJ because I know if not for a Thespian troupe to have a meeting for, and if not for a drama teacher to sponsor our troupe and and put on a production of Laramie, I am unsure if we would have reached the thousands of people that have (and will continue to) reach. I am unsure if we would have been able to honor the lives brutally stolen from the world. I am unsure if we would have been able to assure another LGBTQ+ student in an LPP event that they have a right to a safe and happy life.

Being a project without an identifiable financial process at the homebase, it’s every single platform that has ever shared our initiative with their audience or offered the smallest, kindest word, contribute to the fuel that keeps it running. So, all of my thanks to Arts Ed NJ, for not only what you have done to spread the message of our project, but also for what you do for students and the NJ community every day.

If you want to read more about the LPP, please check out our website, along with our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. We are always accepting registration from any group (theatre or otherwise) along with any and all inquiries at this link and thelaramieprojectproject@gmail.com.

New Jersey Thespians are proud to be joining the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education this year!

NJ Thespians is the state chapter of the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), which sponsors the International Thespian Society (ITS), a theatre honor society.  It is our mission to promote, strengthen, and advocate for theatre arts education in New Jersey’s schools.

EdTA is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 90,000 student and professional members. EdTA’s mission is shaping lives through theatre education by: honoring student achievement in theatre and enriching their theatre education experience; supporting teachers by providing professional development, networking opportunities, resources, and recognition; and influencing public opinion that theatre education is essential and builds life skills.

The International Thespian Society is the Educational Theatre Association’s student honorary organization. ITS recognizes the achievements of high school and middle school theatre students. Since 1929, EdTA has inducted more than 2.3 million Thespians into ITS. They currently offer more than 4,700 programs across 50 states and 13 countries.

NJ Thespians offers both a high school and middle school Thespian festival every year. Our high school festival boasts more than 1,000 students. At this event we host technical and performance awards, scholarships, workshops, college auditions, and more. Our middle school festival boasts more than 100 students. At this event we offer performance awards, workshops, and a school showcase. We have a student and an adult board for each of these festivals. We are currently working with Rodgers and Hammerstein on producing our first All State Musical Be More Chill.

We are so excited to be a part of the committees this year. Serving on the Steering Committee will be Jason Wylie who serves as our Student Thespian Officer (STO) Coordinator and our Alumni Coordinator. He will also be the Stage Manager for Be More Chill. Jason is currently a student at Rowan University who is focusing on getting his BA in Theatre with a concentration on Tech/ Design and Theatre Education. Jason costumes both main stage shows at Northern Burlington County Regional High School. He is also the co-coach for their Forensics Team. Serving on the Planning Committee will be Scott Cooney who serves as our Score Room Coordinator, Awards Coordinator, and our Webmaster. He will also be directing Be More Chill. Scott is the CTE Acting/ Theatre instructor at BCIT Medford’s Academy of Performing Arts. He created the curriculum based on collegiate acting programs and is responsible for training the students majoring in acting at the academy as well as directing the plays and musicals.

This year we are happy to offer the following Governor’s Awards:

  1. Musical Solo
  2. Musical Duet
  3. Musical Group
  4. Contrasting Monologues
  5. Best Overall Chapter Select Play
  6. Short Film

 

Arts Ed NJ’s THE BEAT. January 2018

ARTS ED NJ RELEASES  TITLE I SUPPORT WEBSITE FOR SCHOOL LEADERS and so much more…

Committee Member Spotlight with Lora Marie Durr AENJ

AENJ has been busy planning events for NJ’s art educators!

January 20, 2018, is our annual Breakfast and Workshop at Middletown Arts Center, showcasing 2017 division award winners lessons.

Alicia Bynoe, Liberty Corner Elementary School will share a lesson on Brianna McCarthy inspired portraits.

Larissa Danowitz, Overbrook High School will share a lesson on Adinkra symbols.

Morgan Devlin, Ocean Township High School will share a lesson utilizing the art elements and principles of design to create paper sculptures.

On January 20, AENJ will host their first “Emerging Leaders Summit” at Middletown Arts Center to provide information on AENJ leadership opportunities. If you are interested in joining us, contact AENJ President, Dr. Jane Graziano at jgraziano@aenj.org.

In February, AENJ will sponsor an event at the Montclair Art Museum featuring the work of Kay Walkingstick. For this and all upcoming professional development opportunities visit our website: www.aenj.org/event/.

New to our website, is the Members’ Spotlight! Our first member to receive recognition is Maria Francisco of PS23 in Jersey City. To learn more about Maria or to nominate an AENJ member who deserves recognition, visit http://aenj.org/advocacy-learning/members-spotlight/.

AENJ proudly announces 2018’s Youth Art Month Design Contest winners:

  • Shubhika Sethi, Grade 8, Washington Middle School, Harrison School District, Hudson County 

  • Ying Chow, Grade 5, Sherman Elementary School, Roselle Park School District, Union County 

  • Irving Adame, Grade 12, Haddon Township High School, Haddon Township School District, Camden County 

  • Emily Mah, Grade 12, Lawrence High School, Lawrence Township School District, Mercer County

  • Kirsten Ehrenberg, Grade 5, Long Pond School, Andover School District, Sussex County 

  • Nathalie Whitehead-Nudd, Grade 8, Union Township Middle School, North Hunterdon School District, Hunterdon County 

  • Daniel Hill, Grade 7, Glenfield Middle School, Montclair School District, Essex County 

This year, Sargent Art provided generous prizes for these students and their art teachers! Join us March 9 for a reception honoring YAM artists at the NJ Statehouse, Trenton. To get involved with YAM visit http://aenj.org/yam/ or contact yam@aenj.org.

Lora Marie Durr
AENJ Advisory Council Chair
AENJ Interim Communications Chair
2016 AENJ Middle Division Art Educator Award
2018 NAEA Eastern Region Middle Level Art Educator Award

Guest Blog with Miss Atlantic Shores 2018

For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in the arts. A comprehensive arts education was at the center of my young life. I grew up at the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, and every day was a new adventure. I took private lessons in dance and music, and eventually went to the OCVTS Performing Arts Academy, which is an arts high school made available to high school students in Ocean County. Throughout my academic career, I maintained a 4.0 average, was able to take all advanced classes in middle and high school, and get involved in various extracurricular activities. I graduated high school with 160 credits, when the New Jersey standard is 120 credits. Currently, I have the privilege of serving New Jersey as Miss Atlantic Shores, which is a title in the Miss America Organization.

Throughout my year of service, I have been promoting the importance of arts education, and how it can shape a child into a well-rounded member of the world. I have spoken at schools and public events, empowering children and young adults with their personal power, and how they can grow that power through the arts. I aim to be a role model for children who want to get involved in the arts, but may be afraid of trying something new. Access to the arts can supplement a traditional academic curriculum, and studies have shown that children who participate in an artistic class or club have scored higher on standardized testing. More than that, though, the arts encourage children to express themselves. Young people yearn to have a voice, and an artistic outlet can help them discover that voice. The world we are creating is creative and forward-thinking, and we need strong, impassioned individuals who will make a change. That confidence and drive is garnered at a young age, and I have seen firsthand how the arts can help foster that confidence.

 

 

I strive to be the example that an arts education can help you leaps and bounds, regardless of whether or not you continue into an arts related occupation. My goal is to show young people that armed with an arts education, they will realize how powerful they really are. I truly believe that once involved in the arts, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. The world is at your fingertips, you have to decide when you’re ready to take it.

 

Guest Blog by Christa Steiner is, first and foremost, a Jersey girl! Born and raised in Beach Haven, she is a member of the inaugural Musical Theatre Program at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City. She has performed with Kristin Chenoweth, Norm Lewis, and most recently, with Megan Hilty at Carnegie Hall. She is the Manager of the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour in Beach Haven, as well as the Social Media Director of Surflight Theatre. She currently holds the title of Miss Atlantic Shores 2018, and uses her title to promote the importance of arts education with her platform, ART for smART. She will be competing for the title of Miss New Jersey 2018 in June.

 

ARTS ED NJ RELEASES TITLE I SUPPORT WEBSITE FOR SCHOOL LEADERS

New Resource Demonstrates the Use of Arts Education to Achieve Title I Goals

This month Arts Ed NJ, in cooperation with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the New Jersey Department of Education, and New Jersey’s Foundation for Educational Administration, launched an interactive website devoted to demonstrating how arts education has been embraced as an effective strategy for achieving the goals of Title I. By featuring successful models and examples, the website, NewJerseyTitle1arts.org, is designed to be a statewide resource for districts in New Jersey seeking to learn more about how to harness the power arts education.

The launch of the website makes it easier for district leaders to identify how the benefits of arts education are compatible with Title I programs and explore the ways that arts programming can be designed to improve educational outcomes. Arts strategies have been utilized to address the four pillars of Title I: Student Learning and Mastery; School Climate and Culture; Student Engagement; and Family and Community Engagement. Making connections between Title I goals and arts learning clear, and more accessible to all via the website increases the likelihood of statewide impact. Every page identifies resources to assist administrators and teachers with critical steps throughout the stages of planning, implementation, and assessment that lead to student success.

“This innovative website will provide New Jersey educators with the research, resources and best practices to demonstrate the strength of arts in supporting Title I goals, remarked Dr. Mary Reece, Director of Special Projects at New Jersey’s Foundation for Educational Administration.

With growing research and case studies demonstrating how arts integration has been instrumental in achieving Title I goals, New Jersey has reached an inflection point. This is consistent with states such as California and Arizona, who have also pioneered the use of arts education as a strategy for achieving Title I goals. New Jersey now joins with these states as the development of successful models continues across the United States.

NewJerseyTitle1arts.org is a project of Arts Ed NJ—the unifying organization and central resource for arts education information, policy and advocacy in New Jersey and was funded by a grant from the Hyde and Watson Foundation.

The site was developed in collaboration with the California Alliance for Arts Education, now in its fifth decade of working to build a brighter future for the state by making the arts a core part of every child’s education.

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