Author Archives: Chris

Artists-in-Education Residency Grant Program Allows Students in 3 New Jersey Schools to Create 3-D Sculptures and Original Theatrical Productions

Originally posted by National Young Audiences.  See original post here. Re-posted with permission.

Montclair Cooperative Students working on their design projects

Montclair Cooperative Students working on their design projects

During the past three months, students at the Montclair Cooperative, a middle school in Montclair, NJ, have fastidiously worked on their 3-D digital designs that will soon be transformed into kinetic sculptures, some using a 3-D printer. 3-D printing technology has recently become available to the general public, but it is not often used in classrooms outside of a university setting. This digital design program, made possible by a New Jersey State Council on the Arts’ Artists-in-Education (AIE) Residency Grant, is available to 5th -8th grade students at Montclair Cooperative who worked with Teaching Artist Ben Pranger to create their own wind-powered kinetic sculptures. This STEM to STEAM residency program combines study in art, science and technology to create the connections between kinetic sculptures, wind and physics.

Students kicked off their residency with a field trip to New York to see kinetic sculptures by artist George Sherwood. They have been creating model kinetic sculptures using traditional sculpture materials, found objects and also tinkerbot 3D design software. The students are looking forward to the residency’s culminating event, a school-wide “Wind Day” festival, where full-scale sculptures, student made kites and other related activities will be shared with parents and community members.

Vineland Public Charter School Dance Residency

Students at the Vineland Public Charter School practicing their Latin Dance moves

The Artists-in-Education (AIE) Residency Grant Program has been bringing teaching artists and educators together to create powerful long-term residencies like the one at Montclair Cooperative for more than 43 years. AIE places practicing professional artists in long-term residencies (20+ days) in schools across New Jersey. This year, they funded residency programs in twelve schools. The programs are offered in all arts disciplines including the visual, literary and performing arts and at all grade levels. The AIE Program is a cosponsored project between Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania (YANJ/EP) and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

NJ Arts Council quote for AIE

Larry Capo, President & CEO of YANJ/EP says “Young Audiences is proud to partner with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to provide the residencies throughout New Jersey.  These Council funded residencies provide students with experiences led by an impressive group of NJSCA roster artists.  Each residency promotes children’s creativity and transforms the school and community’s appreciation for the value of arts in education.”

At the Vineland Public Charter School in Vineland, NJ, also one of the twelve AIE grantees, students in grades 3-5 are participating in a Latin Dance residency led by YANJ/EP Teaching Artist Marck “Flaco” Best. A continuation of their Hispanic Cultural Dance residency series, the residency is designed to help students discover and appreciate their own innate capacity for the communication of ideas, thoughts and feelings through the medium of Dance.

Riverside Elementary School art program

Students at Riverside Elementary School creating props for their performance

Another AIE residency program focusing on early education, literacy and the visual arts at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton, NJ, has Kindergarten and First Grade students working with Teaching Artist Pat Flynn to develop a live theatrical production from start to finish. Students from each class wrote their own plays about the seasons of the year, created their own costumes and props and will perform their original productions to fellow students and parents. This AIE grant also allowed for the school to incorporate visiting YANJ/EP artists Zachary Green and Eloise Bruce to collaborate with the students and the residency artist.

Learn more about the AIE grants.

A Parent’s Perspective: Woodrow Wilson Elementary School’s Dance Residency

Updated with video from Wilson School rehearsals and performance at Dazzle Mad Hot Ballroom III: Strictly Swing on July 8, 2015.

Originally posted by Momma Lew on April 9, 2015 after attending a dance residency program at YA Adopt-A-School, Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Trenton, NJ.  See original post here. Re-posted with permission.

As a mother, I feel it is my job to make this world a better place for my children to live. Everyday we hear in the news about Common Core, Standardized Testing, the benefits of STEM, but where do the arts fall into this category? Growing up, I myself was heavily involved in music (chorus) and the arts. Now, my own children at age 4 and 6 love getting enjoying musical programs that get them up dancing and singing. Seeing these educational programs being discontinued in schools scares me and upsets me as a mother and lover of the arts.

Music and the arts help facilitate learning in all subjects and helps to enhance the skills that a child needs to learn subjects like math or science. Learning music and dance helps a child use different skills like listening, using different muscle groups and being vocal all simultaneously. For a child in the 4th and 5th grade, the arts present a huge opportunity to foster language development and verbal skills. Music and Arts programs in schools offer the opportunity for students to find new ways to be motivated and gain confidence.

I recently had the chance to enjoy an afternoon at the Woodrow Wilson School located in Trenton, NJ. Like many schools throughout the country, the Woodrow Wilson School lacks the funding needed to continue their arts programs. Sadly, in 2006 the Trenton School District drastically cut the arts. Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania’s Adopt-a-School program saved the arts for these wonderful and deserving children.

The thought of my children one day not being able to have these types of programs in their education scares me. Besides the educational value of music and the arts, they offer an intrinsic, community-building and emotional value as well. School and life for many children can be hard, it doesn’t always come easy, especially in under-funded school districts. Being able to take a break, enjoy themselves and be social with their peers can be life changing for these young students. As a spectator at the Woodrow Wilson School, it is obvious that the whole school benefited from the Young Audiences Adopt-a-School program.


There was an energy and overall feeling of positivity that pervaded me instantly. As an adult, it left me feeling inspired, motivated and excited, not only to continue to advocate music and arts programming in schools, but also to continue my own personal work. Seeing these young people, our future, enjoying themselves and learning without even realizing it outside of the classroom was a true testament to why programs like the Young Audiences Adopt-a-School program needs to continue!

About the Young Audiences Adopt-a-School program:

In 2011 YA achieved it’s goal to attain year-long programming n elementary and middle schools throughout Trenton, as well as in one Ewing school and one Lawrence school. The program provides arts experiences to elementary and middle school students and their teachers, as well as professional development to school staff.

How you can help:

The Young Audiences Adopt-a-School program is funded by corporations, foundations, local businesses and individuals like you and I. Young Audiences’ Annual gala Dazzle: Mad Hot Ballroom takes place at the Princeton Hyatt on April 11th at 6pm to help support more YA programs in schools in need throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

21st Century Skills for a Globalized World

21st Century Skills in a  Globalized World

Today’s global economy is more markedly different from that of any other in history to date. With the advent of innovations such as high speed internet, video chat, and social media, and the stressed importance of the customer experience, businesses have had to adapt their business strategies in order to compete in a more thorough and effective way. In order to support that change at an organizational level, there has been an increased focus on developing and cultivating “21st century skills” that prepare students for success in the modern workplace.

So what exactly are 21st century skills? The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a coalition of some of the top business, education and policy leaders in the U.S., has developed a “framework” to define what they believe to be the core skills necessary to be competitive in the evolving, globalized workplace.

The framework includes four basic skill sets: “Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes”, “Learning and Innovation Skills”, “Information, Media and Technology Skills”, and “Life and Career Skills”. These categories are then broken down into specific skills, such as “Global Awareness”, “Financial Literacy”, “Critical Thinking and Problem Solving”, “Information Literacy”, “Flexibility and Adaptability”, and “Creativity and Innovation”. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ Framework for 21st Century Learning)

21st century skills infographic

It is clear that, though included as part of the broader 21st century skill set, it is simply not enough to rely solely on proficiencies in the traditional trifecta of reading, writing, and arithmetic. To be successful, students do need to have a solid base in these traditional core subjects, but are also expected to translate this learning beyond the classroom into “real world” experiences. In order to encourage this type of growth, students need to de-emphasize the mindset of “knowing all of the answers”, and instead focus more on nurturing problem solving skills and translating those experiences into successful and creative solutions to problems they don’t readily have the solution to.

One way to foster many of these desired characteristics and skills is by actively engaging students in the arts. It is generally accepted that a high level of participation in the arts tends to lead to increased creativity, but the arts can also be used to incorporate many other 21st century skills as well. One great example of an art form that incorporates many skills that are vital to success in any 21st century workplace is that of video game design. Video game design is a highly flexible artistic discipline which can feature many different skills ranging from the more obvious technological literacy, to the somewhat less apparent, such as environmental literacy, cross-cultural skills, and even economic skills.

In 2012, through the support of an NEA Artworks Grant, Young Audiences was able to partner with the Laguna College of Art and Design, Arts for Learning Indiana, Arts Partners Wichita, and the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, to launch a national “Immersive Game Design” Initiative which combines the arts, science, and technology to allow students to design and create fully functional, interactive digital games that address real life problems. Young Audiences’s National Director of Education, Research, and Professional Development, Jan Norman, cites the benefits of video game design as “identifying the intention, defining what resources you have, gathering information,…[and exploring] different possibilities through this reflective process and authentic assessment…. It’s essentially the exact same process that every designer goes through and that every artist goes through and that applies to any kind of learning in life.” (Quote taken from NEA Magazine, Paulette Beete)

Children participating in Young Audiences' Family Arts Festival

Additionally, in an effort to increase students’ access to learning that emphasizes the development of more complete skillsets for the 21st Century, Young Audiences created the Arts for Learning Online Curriculum, an innovative, research-based literacy program that blends the creativity and discipline of the arts with non-arts curricular objectives. Delivered by a classroom teacher who has received training from YA program staff, A4L workshops focus on a particular art form (theater, visual arts, music, or dance), and are built around one or more central texts, augmented by extended residencies led by artists of various disciplines. One of the most valuable benefits of arts integration is that it naturally encourages students to make interdisciplinary connections, and allows for a more enjoyable and ultimately, more efficient learning environment.

The competitive nature of business means that it is never standing still, and YA believes that in order for our students to remain on the forefront of a competitive global market, the way we educate these students must evolve to keep pace.

For more information about the topics discussed in 21st Century Skills for a Globalized World, click on the links below.

Originally posted by National Young Audiences

Art Does Make you Smarter – Newly Published Research

Young Audiences Jew Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania Artist Showcase

The New York Times and Education Week have both recently published articles presenting comprehensive new research which suggests that the interaction with art such as classes, residency programs and Museum visits does make kids smarter. This may not be breaking news, but these thorough investigations into the positive effects of the arts on students are exciting for the arts in education community.

Art Makes You Smart published in The New York Times describes how students who visit Museums have higher test scores, a greater sense of social responsibility and an increased appreciation of the arts. The article describes a two-year long study conducted at The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on how its student visitors (nearly 11,000 students) demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills than their peers.

Education Week published, Music Training Sharpens Brain Pathways, an article presenting new research that suggests the correlation between practicing an art form and greater cognitive development in students. The article focuses on how music training increases the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decision making, and complex memory.

– See more at:

If You’re in the Room, You’re in the Show: Teaching Artist Showcase in New Jersey

October 2, 2013, by Emily Lattal, Marketing Intern at Young Audiences Arts for Learning.

Original post from Young Audiences’ national website

Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania (YA) is kicking off the fall season with three Assembly Artist Showcases across the region.  These free preview performances give PTA/PTO constituents the opportunity to see YA teaching artists in action.  Students from the host school also attend the performances to show just how engaging the performances are for young learners.  I had the pleasure of attending the YA kickoff Showcase in Northern Jersey on Tuesday at St. Rose of Lima Academy in Short Hills.  I was thrilled to see such a range of lively artist performances, and even more so to witness the enthusiastic and engaged reaction from the students in attendance.

The Showcase featured nine preview performances, ranging from a theatrical skit focused on the history of New Jersey, to a Brazilian dance group, and a one-man show.  But four relatively new acts really stood out to me because of their unique premises and emphasis on interaction:

Operation Superpower
Opera is not an art one intuitively links with early elementary school students, but the first and second graders lucky enough to see this performance were transfixed by the Julliard-trained-trio turned operatic super heroes.   John Brancy and Tobias Greenhalgh perform the music of composer Armand Ranjbaran, bringing the audience into the kid-familiar world of superheroes to introduce operatic singing, and to inspire students to take a stance against bullying.  The performance encouraged participation from the children as they recited and practiced the “5 elements of discovering your superpower”: courage, hope, honesty, imagination and friendship.

Hip Hop Fundamentals
Hailing from Philadelphia, the four members of Hip Hop Fundamentals presented an interactive performance emphasizing the origins of the art form, rooting in “peace, love, and unity.”  After performing several breakdance combinations, and giving a brief history of Hip Hop, the dancers invited eager student volunteers to come up onstage to try out some basic moves.   The presentation pointed out many misconceptions in the mainstream perspective of Hip Hop, and underlined the central principles of the art form including self-expression, hard work, and fitness.  Check out some of their performance in this clip.

Field Station: Dinosaurs
This performance used singing, acting, and puppetry to teach students about prehistoric science and the fossil history of New Jersey.  Audience members were asked to match descriptions of different dinosaurs with corresponding fossils, and then had the opportunity to touch and handle fossilized skulls.  The highlight of the program was when students received an up-close and personal visit with realistic baby dinosaur puppets.

Experiential Theater Company
Combining puppets, live actors, digital sound effects, and audience participation, the Experiential Theater Company’s telling of the classic myth of Perseus was full of surprises.   Throughout the performance, students were eager to converse and connect with the characters, including the giant Zeus puppet that towered above the set, and a trio of oracle marionettes.  The company, whose mantra is “if you’re in the room, you’re in the show,” demonstrated how to tell a classic story in a new and engaging way.  Our only disappointment was that the preview ended before Medusa, an elaborate puppet touted to be 20 feet long, made an appearance.  But this absolutely made me want to see more from ETC!

Experiential Theater Company

Overall, it was wonderful to see that such engaging performances are available for NJ and Eastern PA area students to experience.  I would like to thank the staff members of Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania, and St. Rose of Lima Academy for the opportunity to visit and observe this dynamic showcase.

Learn more about Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania and their exciting performance and workshop options.

Artist Residency Grants Available to all New Jersey Schools

Date: September 13, 2013

Grant application workshops throughout the state 

Trenton, NJ:  The Artists-in-Education Consortium announces the 41st annual Artists-in-Education (AIE) Residency Grant Program. Any New Jersey public, private, charter or parochial school serving grades Pre K-12 is eligible to apply for funding to bring an artist-in-residence to their school. Grants range from $6,000 to $10,000 and support residencies for 20 days or more.

The mission of the Artists-in-Education Program is to make the arts a basic part of a sound, quality education for all students in grades Pre-K through 12, and to provide quality professional development for teachers through long-term residencies with professional teaching artists. The AIE Program is a cosponsored project of Arts Horizons, Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, with additional funding provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

AIE residencies focus on direct learning about the arts and the processes of creating art, including the skills, techniques and concepts of the art form. Residencies are offered in all disciplines including the visual, literary and performing arts and at all grade levels through the AIE Residency Grant Program.

The deadline for applications is Monday, March 3, 2014. Technical assistance workshops are offered throughout the state in December 2013 and January 2014 to assist schools in preparing their application. For more information, and to access program guidelines and application, visit

Contact: Danielle Bursk
Artists-in-Education Administrator
Phone  609-633-1184
Fax 609-989-1440


A TIME TO REFLECT – Helping students find their unique voice through pictures and words

August 8, 2013, By Will Ortega, Lead Teaching Artist and Professional Photographer for the Ennis Beley Photography Project

Two years have passed since the last time the Ennis Beley Photography Project served the children of Newark.  The program returned to the Marion P. Thomas Charter School this summer, where I once again had the privilege to lead the group.

This year’s group consisted of 7 girls, Anyae, Brianna, Efe, Gorgina, Lakita, Cho-Dayah and Vicky and two boys, Elijah and Yassir.  Of the nine, only one had ever photographed with a film camera. Most only used phones or point and shoot digital cameras and fewer have ever printed out their photos. Yet all distinctly recalled family members with photo albums and each understood the value of the old albums their parents or grandparents possess as family heirlooms but interestingly didn’t understand the value of their own images or the need to make prints.


As one of my first assignments I wanted to address this paradox and allow for these children to value their pictures and to understand the reason images need to be printed and not just remain stored or shared on a computer screen or cell phone. First we introduced everyone to the early history and science of photography, requiring chemicals to create light sensitive materials, painted emulsion and glass negatives.  They then photographed one another and from these images created digital negatives (negative images printed on inkjet acetate film from their digital files).  Next each participant individually painted watercolor paper with cyanotype emulsion and used their digital negative portrait and exposed them to UV light.  The result was a unique portrait made from a combination of an early photography process with digital images.  Lastly they were then instructed to sign the image they made and exchange prints with the person that they photographed.  All received a photograph of themselves while also keeping one they made. The step by step process helped illustrate how creating a work of art can be a long procedure yet allowed for each person to understand and appreciate the time to create a print.  During our reflection period everyone valued each other’s work.

We continued the program with projects that focused on technical aspects of taking pictures, like composition and perspective but also had the group work with photographing details of their surroundings.  They were instructed to pay attention to all things, large and small, when creating images, using the camera’s “macro” option while using the donated Manfrotto tripods. They were also asked to photograph landscapes from which we created digital transfers, altering the feeling of the image. Another project required them to find an image of someone they wish they had been able to meet from their immediate family and photograph it. They would use this photograph to layer an image of themself with the relative they wished to meet and write what they would have talked about had they had the opportunity to have a conversation.

The highlight for many was the field trip to Fort Lee, NJ where we visited the Palisades Historic Park.  Here the children were able to see a unique view of the George Washington Bridge as well as the natural setting of the Palisade Cliffs and see how this area played an instrumental part during the Revolutionary War.  They photographed the bits of nature they came across, including cicada shells and a hawk that observed us from a branch above as we ate lunch outdoors.

Some children were more engaged than others throughout this entire experience, but one had a difficult time making a connection with others and couldn’t see the point of the projects. It wasn’t until the second week, when the class was taught to layer images that one student began to play and really understand the power of communication through images.  This particular student chose to layer images of a basketball, a football and cheering pom-poms.  I asked her about what motivated her to layer these together and she initially shrugged her shoulders.  I pressed on ever so slightly, and she revealed how important athletics are to her family and how that made it important to her.  Somehow her ability to talk of this personal connection validated her combination of images and allowed for her to let her guard down.  She allowed herself to try to understand her classmate’s motivations behind their projects and began to participate in our group discussions.

This program’s best asset is its writing component. In addition to making images, we stressed the significance of being able to talk about what they see in their own work as well as what others see. With poet Eloise Bruce visiting every Tuesday, the children wrote about different topics that related to their images or possible new ideas for future projects.  Though writing was initially perceived as something they don’t do in the summer, most warmed up to the idea and were disappointed when Ms. Eloise said her final good-bye.  Each student’s portfolio had a great collection of personal images balanced with their writings.


This summer the children had great energy everyday and a willingness to trust me despite our brief encounter together. They allowed for their imaginations to find new ways of perceiving their world and they found strength and pride when sharing their work with their peers and family. On the last day they excitedly shared their completed portfolio with the group. They read their artist statements and poetry and each applauded and gave supportive feedback. Ultimately, each student found a different voice this summer, a voice that can express a personal view through pictures and words, while also finding solace with one another.  I couldn’t have been more proud and I was pleased with the results from every project we completed.

Princeton and Pennington residents join Young Audience’s board

By: Mercerspace on July 31, 2013

Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania named three new trustees from Princeton, Pennington and Mount Laurel.

Luz Cárdenas Virilli, Robert Keck and Sharon White were welcomed to the Board of Trustees during its annual June meeting.

Robert Keck, who lives in Pennington, served on the Board of Trustees at the McCarter Theatre for the last nine years and most recently served as Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee.

Read entire article on

NJ State Council on the Arts Awards More Than 200 Grants

By Madeline Orton, NJ Today, on July 29 2013

It may be the middle of summer, but it’s an important week for non-profit arts organizations. Leaders from the state’s theaters, dance companies, orchestras, museums and more, gathered in Trenton for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) Annual Meeting to await distribution of grant award letters.

“The general operating support helps us pay the rent and keep the lights on,” said Larry Capo, president and CEO of Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

Read entire article (PDF – 464kb)

Young photographers show work at D&R Greenway gallery

By the Trenton Times on July 26, 2013

The D&R Greenway Land Trust is hosting the Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania’s 2013 Ennis Beley Photography exhibition, “The Cartography of Self,” through Aug, 8 in its Olivia Rainbow Student Gallery.

Each year, Trenton-area students create works through this Young Audiences project, the Lawrenceville School and HomeFront, a nonprofit organization serving Mercer County families.The students study with fine art photogra­pher William Vandever, who shares his skills in a multi­-week intensive workshop.

Featured photographers in this year’s exhibit include Akeeta Harris, Tammara Harris, Angel Conde, Iyandra Wright, Nicholas Hazell, Mikel Sharp, Danielle Rhodes, Francheska Cruz-Millette and Jorge Conde,

Read entire article (PDF – 369kb)