Archive for 2018 – Page 2

Make Your Voice Heard: Support the Arts – VOTE!

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By Koren Rife,
Marketing & Communications Manager, ArtPride New Jersey

Elections are determined by those who make their voices heard, and with 13 seats up for election in New Jersey’s midterms, there’s a lot to be said.

Moreover, there’s a lot at stake in the November 6 election. For example, influential arts supporter and chair of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), is retiring. Rep. Frelinghuysen’s moderate conservative voice supported the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities budget increases, despite proposals to terminate both agencies. In addition, there are hotly contested elections in at least four N.J. congressional districts.

That’s why ArtPride launched Support the Arts – VOTE, a campaign to spread awareness of the importance of the state’s upcoming elections and make sure all eligible New Jerseyans are active and informed voters.

ArtPride sent a questionnaire to all candidates regarding their opinions on the arts in the state (responses are available here) and called on the leaders of local arts organizations to become citizen advocates. Organizations from all over the state answered ArtPride’s rally cry. Here are just a few examples of our members bringing their communities together in the name of civic responsibility:

  • Perkins Center for the Arts made sure that each participant at their Wiffle Ball Cup on Sept. 8 was registered and aware of upcoming voter deadlines.
  • Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus is providing voter registration and information and participating in the 50 State Initiative organized by For Freedoms, where an exhibit of lawn signs declare hundreds of definitions of freedom.
  • The Newark Museum also participated in a For Freedoms initiative, with an event on Oct. 6 that included an outdoor party, voter registration, and lawn-sign making with local artists.
  • Mayo Performing Arts Center had voter registration information available at its box office, lobby, and at its booth at the Morristown’s Festival on the Green on Sept. 30. Additionally, it includes the Support the Arts – VOTE message in a pre-concert slide show that runs in the theatre and in the lobby for all performances and is sending multiple emails to 90K individuals.
  • Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts is hosting an information table at their Big Read events, where students and community are coming together.
  • McCarter Theatre Center hosted a registration table in its lobby for the opening week of its show Detroit ’67, and was even able to help Executive Director Michael S. Rosenberg update his registration! When the theatre referenced the table during the first preview’s pre-show talk, there was an “instantaneous, huge round of applause” (Paula T. Alekson, Artistic Engagement Manager) from those in attendance.

N.J.’s Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, also visited McCarter’s registration table, and had the following to say:

“We are grateful to our state’s strong arts sector – and organizations like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, ArtPride New Jersey, and McCarter Theatre – for recognizing the role of the arts in bringing communities together and seeing the potential arts organizations have to increase and celebrate civic engagement.”


New Jersey’s arts industry and its patrons certainly are powerful. The nonprofit arts sector alone generates $41 million in local and state tax revenues. Also, 90 percent of those surveyed in 2017’s Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study said they voted in the 2016 election. That type of impact is hard to ignore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all do more!

Make your voice heard. Help ArtPride spread awareness of the importance of N.J.’s midterm elections. Your outreach will ensure that art supporters are well prepared to perform their civic duty in November. Visit to access a digital toolkit of graphics, social media language, and more to tell your audiences, friends, everyone: Support the Arts – VOTE!


Koren Rife is short, sassy and a terrible liar.  Despite having not yet met her life goal of becoming a Muppet, she counts herself incredibly lucky to spend most days surrounded by art, whether at the office (ArtPride New Jersey Foundation) or at one of the community theatre groups she calls her second (third or fourth) home. At her actual home in Riverside, NJ, she snuggles with three cats (George, Jacques and Byng), one dog (Winston) and sometimes her husband, Jeff.

New Jersey Celebrates National Arts in Education Week

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By Priscilla Hopkins-Smith,
Programs and Communications Manager, Arts Ed NJ

It’s back to school time and that means this week is National Arts in Education Week. It is such a critical time to show your support for arts education in New Jersey. Arts education creates not only artists but well-rounded humans that thrive in creative workplace environments.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with this national celebration, here is a little background provided by our friends at Americans for the Arts:

“Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the field of arts education joins together in communities across the country to tell the story of the impact of the transformative power of the arts in education.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 1 million students participated in an arts class, representing 80% of all students across the state. New Jersey’s arts education is thriving, now let’s do more!

This year, Arts Ed NJ  has taken the lead in New Jersey by collecting arts education celebrations across the state. Big or small, we encouraged teachers, students, organizations, and communities to submit their events for our Arts Ed September Event Calendar.

Hosts of the events will have the option to receive:

  • custom geofilter
  • Facebook profile frame
  • downloadable graphics
  • access to tools and resources for the classroom
  • promotion of their event on social media and on our website
  • opportunity to bring Arts Ed Now to your events all year long


In addition, we are co-hosting an event on September 12 called “NJ Celebrates Arts in Education Week.” All are welcome to attend this event, featuring the New Jersey State Teen Arts traveling exhibition and special performances by State Teen Artists. The reception is sponsored by N.J. Principals & Supervisors Association & Arts Ed NJ in collaboration with the Arts & Education Center. Learn more at

Not only will we be promoting events during National Arts in Education week, but the celebration will continue for the remainder of the month through the Arts Ed September promotion. With this spotlight on arts education events, we are encouraging engagement in and access to the arts, as well as highlighting information and tools that give you power to make change in your district. Celebrating arts education shouldn’t just happen on dedicated weeks or months but all year long, and can show you how.

Curious on how your school compares to others? Go to and enter your school name to see the latest data on arts education for your area.

Want to join in on the fun? Go to and download a “Today” or “Yesterday” sign. Fill it out, snap a photo, and share your story of the impact of arts education in your life on social media.

Don’t forget to use #ArtsEdNow and #BecauseofArtsEd and share in the celebration! Let’s get N.J. trending!



About Priscilla Hopkins-Smith

Priscilla Hopkins-Smith has 11 years of experience in communication and administration in the nonprofit sector. In her role as Programs and Communications Manager, she works closely with the Director and Program Development Manager to move arts education initiatives forward. Priscilla takes pride in managing the Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education and has provided administration and oversight continuing to cultivate the awards for over six years. Priscilla is proud to promote the Arts Ed Now campaign. Priscilla has previously worked with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, assisting the communication and arts education departments. Priscilla is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Theatre: Arts Administration program at Rowan University.

Rick Springfield Concert to Support ArtPride

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See singer, actor, and author Rick Springfield and support ArtPride!

Rick Springfield
Friday, September 14 at 8 PM
The Wellmont Theater, Montclair

Proceeds from this concert will support the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation.

Over the past four decades, Rick Springfield has worn many hats as an entertainer and performer. The creator of some of the finest power-pop of the ’80s, Springfield is a Grammy winning singer, songwriter, and musician who has sold 25 million albums and scored 17 U.S. Top 40 hits, including “Jessie’s Girl,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “An Affair of the Heart,” “I’ve Done Everything for You,” “Love Somebody,” and “Human Touch.” He’s an accomplished actor who has starred opposite Meryl Streep in the feature film Ricki and the Flash, gave a chameleonic performance as the creepy Dr. Pitlor in HBO’s prestige drama True Detective, earned great reviews for his portrayal of Lucifer this season on the CW hit Supernatural, and most recently played Pastor Charles on American Horror Story. In 2014, Springfield was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located around the corner from the first apartment he lived in when he first arrived in the U.S. from Australia in 1971.

Rick’s latest album The Snake King finds Rick travelling down a dusty dirt road to explore the blues side of his rock ‘n’ roll and marks a definite departure from the power pop he has been known for.

Buy your tickets now!

Never Stop Asking Questions

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By Dan Swern,
Producing Director and Co-Founder, coLAB Arts

Five years ago, I put a personal and institutional moratorium on making theatre. coLAB Arts had a massive question that had been hanging in the air for the five years since the organization first started: Why do we exist?

Why does there need to be another loosely held together group of emerging interdisciplinary artists in New Jersey making work for themselves? And why New Brunswick?

We had already seen consistent artist churn because there were better places to be making work. Places that are more affordable with greater resource access, with larger audiences and more diverse communities of artists and ideas.

I stopped making work because I couldn’t answer the question through my own project choices. I chose to support my coLAB Arts peers in dance, music, visual art and arts education, and wrap my head around the relationship between time, place and, of course, the work.

That self-imposed exile lasted for two years. Those two years were full of conversation and contemplation with my collaborators, board and community members. We produced work that was good, and work that wasn’t as good, but with the intention to audit our process. What was the secret sauce that I, and frankly our dwindling audience, couldn’t see?

As makers, we invest so much time and so much emotion into the perfection and execution of our studio practice that we actually know less about how the work reverberates within a community than those who consume it. We can be told that it’s successful or that it fails in intention, but largely we return to our studios and start the process all over again. We move on to the next project and our audiences return to their lives.

Why have we ritualized the parting of ways between artist and audience? For any place-based institution, whose stories should we be telling or challenging, if not those of our own community? How can we know those stories if we aren’t engaged in constant generative dialogue?

During those two years, the work that was most successful was that which directly connected back to the people and the physical space for whom and where we were creating work. It’s such a simple answer, but existentially elusive, and incredibly hard in practice.

After two years, we found our mission: to engage artists with social advocacy organizations and communities to create transformative new work.

coLAB Arts now practices Creative Engagement – a sustained commitment to storytelling of a specific community or advocacy organization with a transdisciplinary intention, where the ideas for the work or catalyst for any work’s creation responds to the needs of the relationship, not necessarily originating with the artist. It includes three spheres of practice: 1) studio practice – artist-led and artist-executed creative work, 2) social practice – artist-led and community-executed or engaged creative work, and 3) civic practice – artist-led and community-executed or engaged dialogue or equity intervention. A tremendous national resource I would recommend for anyone who wants to learn more about this delineation of work is the Center for Performance and Civic Practice.

I’m making theatre again. I’m making a lot of theatre with coLAB Arts. Through our Creative Engagement practice, we do an annual commission responding to homelessness advocacy and story sharing from our community with the City of New Brunswick and the Mens’ Rotating Shelter. We’re touring a new verbatim theatre piece based on interviews with individuals who committed murder as juveniles by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg called Life, Death, Life Again. I’m working on a hybrid journalism-theatre project documenting stories of working poor in New Jersey with FreePress and United Way of Northern New Jersey, and a massive state coalition called 37 Voices. And next up is a new play with Weill-Greenberg based on interviews with individuals added to the sex offender registry as juveniles.

We host choreographer residencies with Mason Gross School of the Arts – Department of Dance, embedding graduate students and professional choreographers in local organizations. Through the National Endowment for the Arts, we host artist residencies across artistic discipline in government agencies and nonprofits. My co-producer John Keller is now running our Summer Arts Institute, teaching students in middle school and high school how to create new work using our process, directly in collaboration with local nonprofit organizations, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey and New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (enrollment is still available for one more week, August 20-24 at

Oh, and that new mission statement? We’ve been wearing it now for three years. It’s like breaking in new shoes – it still feels right. We’ve been able to double our budget every year since, so it feels like something’s working. There’s one word in the statement we keep thinking about – “transformative.” We’ve got some ideas about that. Hopefully, I’ll be invited back to share what we come up with.


About Dan Swern

Dan Swern is the Producing Director and Co-Founder of coLAB Arts in New Brunswick, NJ, engaging artists with social advocates and communities to create transformative new work. Dan is also a freelance theater director and producer represented this fall off-Broadway with Shake & Bake’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and teaches graduate students for Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts – Department of Dance, and Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information.

What Is the Future of the Arts?

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By Steve Runk,
Director of Communications at Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University

Chair of Thrive Conference Planning Committee

Nearly 300 arts professionals from across New Jersey gathered at Princeton University’s Lewis Arts complex and McCarter Theatre Center on June 7 for the Thrive Arts Conference to explore that very question.

Thrive is presented every other year through a partnership among ArtPride New Jersey, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Lewis Center or the Arts at Princeton. The fourth edition of this growing biennial convening of executive, marketing, and development staff of arts organizations, large and small, was focused on the changing landscape of the arts sector from audience demographics to new technologies.

Keynote speaker Adam Huttler, founder of Fractured Atlas and recent founder and CEO of Exponential Creativity Ventures, drew upon his experience in business model innovation and revenue strategies for nonprofit organization to set the stage for the day’s learning. Outlining global trends, serious challenges, and significant changes occurring within the field, Adam presented a future for the arts that is far more optimistic and promising than many may think. He noted that our culture is shifting from an obsession with consumption to a human-centered paradigm of creation with more people making art today than ever before and with new modes for sharing that art. These trends offer great opportunities for arts organizations but will require them to adapt from the 20th century model of most institutions.

Through a series of six breakout sessions, conference attendees more deeply explored some of these changes that are taking place. These interactive sessions were led by a content expert and designed to encourage attendees to discuss the topics, how these issues impact their work, and share ideas and strategies.

New technologies are a significant area of rapid change. Matthew Fisher of Night Kitchen Interactive in Philadelphia led a discussion on navigating the technological landscape and strategies for implementing thoughtful digital solutions to foster meaningful audience engagement. In a session titled “Breaking through Digital: How to Make Noise with Your Content,” Katryn Geane of Situation Interactive, a New York-based digital agency, discussed content creation and distribution best practices that can help organizations cut through “digital noise.” Bruce Mishkin of Adventix, a marketing and advertising agency, presented a session on new tools offered through Google, including traffic-boosting and audience engagement tools, managing online reviews, and a dive into voice search, which is expected to account for 80% of all search queries by 2020.

Another important issue examined was the changing demographics of New Jersey and the nation. The arts industry is struggling to reflect these societal shifts. James Claiborne of the African American Museum in Philadelphia shared insights on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and led a lively discussion on the need for a more diverse workforce in order for arts programming, and its related messaging, to authentically reach a broader and more diverse audience.

Another session examined economic trends on the state and national levels. Eddie Torres of Grantmakers in the Arts and Chris Daggett of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation discussed issues ranging from the effect of tax reform on charitable giving, ongoing support for the National Endowments for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the struggling New Jersey economy as they relate to the financial future of the nonprofit arts sector.

Making sound, informed decisions about the future was the subject of a discussion led by Katie Ingersoll of DataArts. Attendees discussed the best types of data to collect and how that data connects to important questions regarding programming, marketing, fundraising, and finances, using a number of case studies to examine these questions.

For the first time, attendees had access to a mobile app for navigating their way through the day’s activities that included background information on the topics and speakers, materials presented throughout the sessions, and a way for attendees to further network during and after the conference.

Assuring the arts remain front and center at the conference, the day opened with a rousing performance by the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir. Consisting of 60 singer/dancers between the ages of 15 and 22, the choir has performed for over 350,000 people across the region. Before the closing plenary session, the Whitman Winds entertained attendees. This recently formed chamber ensemble features current or former members of Symphony in C in Camden, one of the nation’s premier training orchestras for young professional musicians.

The day concluded with a presentation of the 2018 Jersey Arts Marketers Leadership Award to Heather Yelle, Director of External Relations at Appel Farm Arts & Music Center in Elmer, and a rousing game of Thrive Jeopardy that served to sum up the learning throughout the day. In a highly interactive session based on the format of the television game show and led by Paula Alekson, Artistic Engagement Manager at McCarter Theatre Center, four teams competed for prizes by answering questions that challenged them to recall and share key takeaways from the plenary and breakout sessions.

The conference planning committee is grateful to the additional sponsors who helped to support this valuable learning experience for New Jersey’s cultural community, including New Jersey Council for the Humanities, Adventix, South Jersey Cultural Alliance, McCarter Theatre Center, Spark Creative Group, Borden Perlman, New Jersey Theatre Alliance, Mayo Performing Arts Center, The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, New Jersey Tourism Industry Association, and the Nassau Inn.

Throughout the day, colleagues had the equally valuable opportunity to network over coffee or lunch, and, post-conference, over discounted drinks at the nearby Dinky Bar & Kitchen, fortifying themselves for the challenges that lay ahead.

About Steve Runk

Steve Runk has been Director of Communications at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University since 2011 overseeing promotion of the Center’s academic programs and more than 100 public events presented annually. Prior to Princeton, Steve served for 20 years on the staff of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, three as Executive Director, and worked for five years as Marketing Communications Manager for a large architectural firm. He holds a B.A. in Communications and a B.F.A. in Visual Arts from Villanova University. He has chaired the Thrive Conference Planning Committee since 2012.

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