Press Release – Young Audiences Honored as a Leader in Arts Accessibility by the Cultural Access Network Project

PRINCETON, NJ; June 24, 2016 — On Thursday, June 23rd, Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania (YA), the area’s largest arts education non-profit, received a Leadership Award from the Cultural Access Network Project (CAN), a program of New Jersey Theatre Alliance and New Jersey State Council on the Arts at their 8th annual Excellence in Cultural Access Awards at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.

YA was honored for its ongoing commitment to removing barriers that prevent students with disabilities from fully participating in its programming. YA provides 700 area schools with arts performances and artist-in-residence programs each year. It has proven its commitment to accessibility by adding special-needs teacher workshops and artist training to its offerings, and has increased its programming in integrated classrooms, self-contained schools/classrooms, and schools in medical facilities. YA’s workshops, classes, and performances provide meaningful experiences for students on the autism spectrum, or who are living with cognitive or developmental conditions.


From left to right: Robert Carr, Nick Paleologos, Maureen Heffernan, Michele Russo, Jon McEwen, Liz Winter Kuwornu, Don Ehman, Marilyn Keating, Belinda Roll and Jacqueline Knox.

“Young Audiences is proud to be recognized for our work to make the arts more accessible to all students”, shared YA President & CEO Michele Russo. “This work is essential and we are grateful for the support and inspiration we receive from CAN and our fellow nominees as we continue to make strides to reach every child with transformative arts experiences.”

The awards attendees included leaders in the state’s arts and cultural community, and featured a keynote address by comedian, actress, and singer Shannon DeVido.

“For nearly a quarter of a century, the Cultural Access Network has been one of our longest and proudest partnerships,” said Nicholas Paleologos, Executive Director of New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “The Excellence in Cultural Access Awards ceremony—where we recognize colleagues who have found new and innovative ways to connect people with disabilities to arts and cultural programming—is for us, the year’s most gratifying event.”

The following organizations and individuals were also honored:

Arts Unbound of Orange, NJ, and Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s Arts Access Program of Peapack, NJ, received an Innovator Award for its Art Garden CSA (“Community Supported Art”) program, which is based on the model of Community Supported Agriculture that is popular nationwide.

Center for Modern Dance Education (CMDE) of Hackensack recdeived an Innovator Award. The mission of CMDE is to preserve and promote modern dance and related art forms, to make the art of dance available to everyone, and to serve as a resource for the professional dance community.

Cape May County Division of Culture and Heritage in Cape May, NJ, received the County Achievement in Cultural Access Award for its recent effort to work with the county arts and history organizations to ensure they are accessible.

Since its inception in 1992, CAN has facilitated accessibility among the state’s cultural community through training, workshops, a comprehensive online resource bank, an online theatre performance directory searchable by access services, and a tool that streamlines cultural organizations’ ADA planning and reporting. CAN’s innovative programs and services have earned national recognition and have framed New Jersey as a model state in the cultural access field.

In addition to support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s access initiatives are made possible by The Fund for New Jersey Blind, Johnson & Johnson, Kessler Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement.


Founded in 1973, Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania is the premier arts-in-education resource in the region, providing high-quality performances and artist-in-residence programs to nearly 700 schools each year. Young Audiences’ extensive professional artist roster represents all art forms—from dance and theater to music, language and visual arts. The organization annually reaches nearly 500,000 children pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

A not-for-profit organization, Young Audiences’ programs are accessible to all socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, and geographic communities, and are designed to strengthen the arts in schools, meet local and state curriculum standards, involve families in arts activities, and enrich cultural life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities.

Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania is the first arts education organization designated as a major service organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and, as part of the national network of Young Audiences, Inc., was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. Young Audiences programs are made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Additional funding comes from foundations, corporations and generous individuals. To learn more, visit To be “social” with us, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @YANJEPA and on Instagram @young_audiences_njepa.