Menendez, Booker announce $1.6 million in federal funding to support arts education in N.J.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker recently announced the awarding of a combined $1,610,900 in federal grants from the National Endowment of the Arts to support and enhance arts education throughout New Jersey. The NEA funds state and local arts initiatives through multiple grant categories including Arts Works, Our Town, State and Regional Partnerships and The Big Read program.

“Arts education helps develop a child’s love of learning, allowing them to explore their creativity and lead to innovation that moves our society forward,” Menendez said in a press release. “Education is the key to unlocking a child’s full potential. This important funding through the National Endowment of the Arts will help keep local arts programs thriving and enriching young minds throughout our state.

“New Jersey hosts a thriving art community that showcases our diverse culture and rich history, so it’s vital we remain committed to supporting it,” Booker said in the release. “Many times the first programs to be cut during tough budget times are in the arts, so this federal investment comes at a critical time in order to allow the Garden State’s vibrant art community to flourish while helping to strengthen local economies.”

As part of the NEA’s 50th anniversary, the following Essex County programs received grant awards in the flagship grant category Art Works to fund projects designed to achieve one of four outcomes; creation of art, pubic engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn received a $40,000 grant to support the Theater for Everyone Project. The project is a series of programs that serves the needs of children with autism and other social and cognitive disabilities. Project activities will include autism-friendly performances; a year-long creative drama class for children with disabilities; and the “Lend Your Voice” project, which provides non-verbal students with multiple disabilities the opportunity to perform in a school play. The playhouse also will present outreach performances and will integrate Theater for Everyone into the “Adopt-a-School” project, which is intended to serve underserved New Jersey schools. In addition, an autism advisory team will provide ongoing expertise for the theater.

The Newark Arts Council received a $100,000 grant to support cultivating a creative Newark through collective impact. The Newark Arts in Education Roundtable will collaborate to develop a common message on the importance of arts education and a strategic communications plan that addresses the needs of parents, youth, teachers and education administrators. A citywide summit will be convened to present the communications plan and share tools for assessment. The plan will be aligned with the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership’s statewide efforts focused on building stronger arts education communication practices. The NAER is a strategic alliance of arts education stakeholders, including district, charter and private schools, artists, arts and cultural organizations, youth and community development organizations, businesses, funders, and state and local agencies. They convene quarterly to provide peer exchange and professional learning opportunities and serve as an information hub that stimulates sharing and coordination of resources, and promote partnerships among arts and cultural communities and schools and out-of-school-time service providers.

The Newark Museum Association received a $25,000 grant to support exhibition and catalog “The Rockies and the Alps: Bierstadt, Calame and the Romance with the Mountains.” The exhibition will highlight America’s iconic 19th-century landscape artists and the dialog between American and European painters. More than 50 objects will be shown, including paintings, photographs, prints, stereoscope cards and other printed materials. “The Rockies and the Alps” will feature masterpieces by America’s most iconic landscape artists-including Albert Bierstadt, Worthington Whittredge, Thomas Cole, Samuel F.B. Morse and John Casilear, alongside the works of Swiss Alpine landscape painter Alexandre Calame and other European masters. A variety of public programming and a tour of the exhibition is planned.

The Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee received a $30,000 grant to support People Planning Newark: Designing New Jersey’s Metropolis. The project will consist of a Newark Future Neighborhoods exhibition and a widely distributed “How Does Newark Develop?” video. In addition, project activities will comprise a Newark Design & Planning Week of public events, workshops and discussions. As Newark approaches its 350th anniversary, residents and visitors will be introduced to the past, present and future of the city’s architecture and urban design, with an emphasis on the role of community-based planning and design.

Newark Public Radio Inc. received a $70,000 grant to support the production of a weekly jazz performance series hosted by jazz bassist Christian McBride. Launched in 2014, “Jazz Night in America” is a series of radio broadcasts and webcasts featuring live performances, historic recordings and interviews with jazz musicians. As the host, Grammy Award-winner McBride is positioned as both an insider and outsider, helping listeners understand the intricacies of jazz while at the same time learning about new music along with the audience.

Jazz House Kids Inc. in West Orange received a $45,000 grant to support the Montclair Jazz Festival. Hosted by actor S. Epatha Merkerson and led by bassist Christian McBride, the multi-stage event will feature national and international jazz artists, as well as more than 150 young, aspiring jazz musicians who study with Jazz House Kids. Activities during the free, one-day family-friendly festival are expected to include a Family Jazz Discovery Zone with musical demonstrations, storytelling sessions in English and Spanish, and visual arts activities. The festival will take place at Nishuane Park in Montclair and be livestreamed.

The NEA also announced that Essex County Library Directors Inc. will receive a $15,000 grant through the national The Big Read program to support organizations in developing communitywide programs that encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Additionally, the New Jersey State Council of the Arts received a $872,100 grant.