No matter how old I get, September always triggers a knot in my stomach. Actually, it’s more like wildly fluttering butterflies. I’ve come to embrace “the feeling” over the years because of something my husband said to our twin daughters whenever they described their version of the feeling: “It just means that something that matters to you is about to happen.”
This September, the fluttering is on hyperdrive since so much is happening that matters to me, both personally and professionally. After extremely rewarding careers in the Theater and Philanthropy, I have started a new chapter as the Executive Director of Arts Ed New Jersey. With a terrific team and board and myriad partners, Arts Ed NJ fights for a robust, sequential, and relevant arts education for every pre-K-12 grade student in New Jersey. This fight has long been a part of my work; now I have the opportunity to make it my full-time job!
Since our founding in 2007, Arts Ed NJ has tackled policy change, introduced landmark arts education data collection protocols, launched an ongoing Arts Ed Now advocacy campaign, created pertinent arts education professional learning opportunities, inaugurated a new Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning Center, and collaborated with the arts education sector to support the creation of NJ’s Visual and Performing Arts Standards and Safety Guidance for Changing Conditions, to name just a few key accomplishments.
We remain committed to continuing this legacy while also advancing a new chapter of growth and metamorphosis. We invite you to join us!
Arts Ed NJ’s work brings Edward Lorenz’s butterfly effect theory to mind. It talks about how the flap of a butterfly wing can cause a tornado, and forwards the idea that small things can have nonlinear impacts on a complex system. The metaphor/theory recognizes that small, seemingly insignificant events and acts can lead to significant results over time. Our work at Arts Ed NJ is made up of a lot of significant work but it also is about thousands of individual everyday acts.
I invite you to join me in beating your unique butterfly wings and help set in motion 4 things that matter and can make a difference in the lives of New Jersey’s children:
1. CHAMPION AND CONNECT FOR ARTS EDUCATION
As a reader of ArtPride’s Voices from the Field blog, I can assume that you care about the arts. You likely also understand that the future health of the arts in New Jersey is directly tied to the current health and quality of arts education in our schools. The caterpillars, I mean students, in school today will later fly out across the state and not only define our future creative sector but also decide what school arts programming will look like for the subsequent generation.
Test the theory. Ask a leader in your school or community what their childhood experiences with the arts were at school, and you will likely see a connection to their current commitment to the arts.
2. AMPLIFY WITH DATA
When you talk with potential arts education champions, you can share our new online census report: The Resilience of Arts Ed Now: Beyond the Pandemic: The 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Report.
The report tells the story of arts education in NJ including how our 8,280 certified arts educators worked hard throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic to provide instruction every day to 1.1 million students and employed flexible and innovative strategies allowing arts education programs to survive, thrive and grow. The sector’s resiliency is also beautifully captured in this video: Beyond the Boundaries: Arts Education Through a Pandemic.
The census report also illuminates that more work remains to be done. In spite of our gains and 99% ACCESS rates, only 76% of all students in New Jersey participate in arts education every year. Additionally, the report found that access rates, arts participation, arts spending and student-to-arts-teacher ratios tend to be more favorable in schools serving more affluent populations. No child should be denied the significant documented benefits provided through active participation in arts education and creative practices. This is an equity issue of great importance and together we must find ways to not only level the playing field but also examine and remove barriers to participation.
3. CELEBRATE AND SHARE YOUR ARTS ED STORIES!
Our passion is amplifying arts students’ and arts educators’ voices all year long. We want to celebrate your unique stories about the impact of arts education, the community it builds, and your triumphs and creations. Our year of celebrations kicks off with National Arts in Education Week Sept. 11 – 17, 2022, highlighting the amazing work that happens in our schools every day. We continue the celebration throughout October with National LGBT History Month and National Arts and Humanities Month.
Please share your #BecauseOfArtsEd story, sign up for our e-blasts, and follow us on social media @artsednj and @artsednow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
4. LET’S TAKE FLIGHT TOGETHER!
I suspect, because of all of the meaningful work above that the wildly flapping butterflies that I feel in my stomach are going to stay with me long beyond September. We hope you will join the movement to ensure that every child in NJ receives the arts education they need and deserve. Our tent is big and this year we plan to be doing some important strategic and planning work, and operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion internally and externally with our partners. So flutter your wings with us to advance things that matter long into the future. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.