Author Archive for ArtPride

Unexpected and Welcome Connections

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By Betsy Sobo,
Executive Director, 10 Hairy Legs

10 Hairy Legs, the New Jersey-based dance company for whom I am the founding Executive Director, is headed to The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts (KYGSA) in July 2019 as a guest artist for Musical Theatre and Dance and to perform for their student body.

“How did that happen?” you might ask.

Photo: Mike Esperanza

Unexpected and welcome connections!

In March 2017, I headed down to Washington, D.C. as a N.J. delegate with ArtPride to the National Arts Advocacy conference, my first. I was fired up, as once again the National Endowment for the Arts had become a political football and was on the federal budget chopping block. I had a hard time keeping up with the other more experienced and intrepid souls. I was very proud of the esteem in which our delegation was held, and we were well trained and organized. Our efforts were not in vain, as we met with our legislators and, yes, funding was restored. We could rest… for a little while.

I also attended several conference sessions at the Shoreham Hotel, thrilled at being in an energized space with fierce arts advocates from around the country. During a brief pit stop at the hotel, I noticed a young woman and could not stop myself from asking her, “You’re a dancer, aren’t you?” A dancer can always tell when someone else is a dancer – there’s something in the way a dancer holds him/herself, a carriage, a “look”– an inherent ability to gracefully navigate seemingly random walking patterns in crowds with ease.

She was indeed, and introduced herself as Erin Quinlan, Sr. Manager at KYGSA. Cards were exchanged, and she revealed that she had heard of the good work the company is doing in the field. Dance education is an extremely important part of our mission and vision – we cultivate the next generation of dance audience/artists/board members/patrons – and I was excited to learn of the program at KGSA and ponder the potential for partnering with them.

Back in N.J., I felt a great sense of accomplishment and of course, got right back to work. I dropped a note to Erin, telling her how great it was to meet her, added her to our contact list, invited her to our performances, and researched further about KYGSA. I also became more politically active in general.

Fast forward to January 2019, following extensive expansion of 10HL’s footprint on tour nationally. In my inbox was an email from KGSA Director Nick Covault inquiring if 10HL might be interested in working with their students this summer.

And off we go, to inspire 250 talented and motivated budding performing artists (and perhaps dance audience/artists/board members/patrons)!

15,000+ steps a day in D.C., eight hours of driving to and from the conference, reinvigorated respect for my colleagues, funding restored, and a great gig for 10 Hairy Legs!

Note: Even the restroom is fair ground! Follow your instincts and go! Connect, connect, connect! Vigilance!


Elizabeth Shaff Sobo is a fundraising and vision-planning professional with more than 30 years of experience working in the not-for-profit and public sectors. Betsy is a passionate believer that the arts are integral to our lives, and can be a transformative force for communities when managed organically as a response to need and opportunity. She served as Director of Development at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, NJ, and held positions in arts education, fundraising and marketing at The State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick (NJ), American Repertory Ballet, New Jersey Ballet, and Ballet Hispanico. She serves on the NJPAC Dance Advisory Committee, and was a board member of Nimbus Dance Works from 2011-2014 (serving as President from 2012-2014), Randy James Dance Works from 2005-2007, and Dance New Jersey from (2009-2016). Her professional dance career included Pennsylvania Ballet, Les Compagñons de la Danse (Montréal), and New Jersey Ballet. Betsy was awarded a Certificate in Arts Administration from New York University. | @10HairyLegs

An Arts Advocacy Journey

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By Zach Bates,
Thespian Advisor at Gloucester County Institute of Technology & Officer on N.J.Thespian State Board
Recipient of Distinguished Arts Advocate Award, 39th Annual Governors Awards in Arts Education

Arts Advocate is never a title I thought I would hear when someone described me.

Growing up, I always enjoyed being in plays and watching a few musicals, but never once did I think I would be getting on a train to D.C. one to two times a year and talk to members of the U.S. Congress about the importance of the arts.

Hello! My name is Zach Bates. I am an alumnus of the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (2013) in Sewell, New Jersey. I am a volunteer Thespian Advisor for the school. I serve on the New Jersey State Thespian Board and wear many hats – including Outreach Co-Chair, Fundraising Chair, Safety & Security Chair – but the one I am most proud of is the position we started before this school year, Arts Advocacy Chair. Holding this title, I was selected to a national committee through the Educational Theatre Association’s Advocacy Leadership Network as the New Jersey Representative. This year, I was named the Career & Technical Education Committee Co-Chair with the Georgia Representative.

In the summer of 2017, I attended the first EdTA (Educational Theatre Association) Advocacy Day. Having some knowledge of politics and being a history major in college, I planned the visits for myself and three other N.J. representatives who attended the event. We attended a full day of workshops before going to Capitol Hill.

And that’s when I knew that I was meant to be an advocate.

The first meeting with a member of Congress was nerve-wracking, but after that, it just came natural to me. In all, I attended five different meetings.

That very October, I applied (and was the first one, by far) for the Advocacy Leadership Network’s second class. I was accepted, and the first big event was National Arts Advocacy Day – again, another first for me. I was very nervous at first attending by myself, but then I met Ann Marie Miller from ArtPride New Jersey and we formed an instant friendship.

Meeting Senator Booker and getting a selfie with him was an instant win. Those meetings at Arts Advocacy Day helped me decide to convince Carolyn Little from N.J. Thespians to create an Arts Advocacy Chairperson for New Jersey Thespians. It was the best decision we’ve made.

This was the first year I invited elected officials to the N.J. Thespian Festival, and it was an amazing experience. Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (District 3) and Assemblyman Joe Howarth (District 8) attended and saw the work students were doing throughout the day. We had confirmation from State Senator Troy Singleton (District 7), but due to the snow and the time changes of festival, he was unable to attend. However, he is still one of the biggest supporters we have had, and his assistant hand- delivered the proclamation the Senator had planned to present in person. The working relationship we have with Senator Singleton is a strong partnership going forward.

After the festival, I was off to my second National Arts Advocacy Day, this time with an additional 11 people from my school. Another chaperone and I brought 10 eager students to Washington, and that experience was both rewarding and challenging. I don’t know if you have ever attempted to navigate 10 students through the glorious Metro system in D.C., but its one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I was super thankful to have Ann Marie and Christine Petrini from ArtPride as my guides.

I am also working on getting New Jersey Thespians recognized as an official Career and Technical Student Organization through the State of New Jersey. I am thankful to have ArtPride behind me and helping out along the way.

I am thankful and honored to be recognized at the N.J. Governor’s Awards in Arts Education. Yesterday’s ceremony was very special, and I am happy to have made so many friends along the way. This award isn’t about the accolades, though. It’s about helping the students and making their lives just a little bit better. I think it’s safe to say, I am now an Arts Advocate.


Zach Bates a 2013 graduate of GCIT from the Academy of Performing Arts and serves on the New Jersey Thespian State Board, as the Advocacy & Fundraising Chairperson and the Co-Chair for Outreach and Security. Zach is also involved with the Educational Theatre Association at the National Level, serving on the Advocacy Leadership Network as the co-chair of the CTE Committee. You can reach him on Twitter @zbates.

ArtPride New Jersey Offers Testimony at NJ Open Public Budget Hearings

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Each year, the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services offers the public an opportunity to bring budget concerns to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee. ArtPride trustee Jeremy Johnson testified before the Assembly Committee, and ArtPride staff member Ann Marie Miller testified before both committees.

This was an opportunity to remind elected officials that while a majority of state legislators have indicated support for arts and culture, funding has remained at the minimum levels allowed by law for 10 years.

Watch Ann Marie’s testimony:

Climbing Capitol Hill – The 2019 National Arts Action Summit

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New Jersey’s group of 28 delegates joined hundreds of art advocates to visit members of U.S. Congress on March 4 and 5 for the National Arts Action Summit hosted by Americans for the Arts.  A full day of training was capped off by the inspiring remarks of Rita Moreno, who delivered the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Early on March 5, the New Jersey team met in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Room with Senator Bob Menendez and staff from his office and Senator Cory Booker’s office. Several in the group had an opportunity to tell personal stories of how funding from the National Endowment for the Arts helps assist their organizations. For instance, coLAB Arts in New Brunswick works intensively with artists in communities, and programs like the Arts Access Program at Matheny enables severely disabled clients to express themselves creatively through visual and performing arts.

The rest of the day was spent visiting members of the U.S. House of Representatives in all 12 New Jersey districts. Small groups met with staffers to reinforce policy requests, including $167.5 million in federal funds for the National Endowment for the Arts, $40 million for arts education programs in the U.S. Dept. of Education, and support for a universal charitable deduction. Arts advocates also informed members and staff of concerns about protecting wireless technology for the arts through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Weather in our nation’s capital cooperated nicely for the repeated climb up the hill, and this year New Jersey’s team had the pleasure of welcoming nine students from the drama department at Gloucester Institute of Technology to the delegation. The students and their chaperones met with newly elected Congressman Jeff Van Drew (D-Dist. 2) to discuss arts policy issues and relay personal stories of how their theatrical studies impact their lives.

There is still time to contact your members of U.S. Congress to support federal funding and cultural policy issues. Visit the Arts Action Fund to send an email, and if you are interested in attending an in-district meeting with a member who represents you or your organization, please contact Ann Marie Miller at ArtPride.

A special shout out to our delegation members: Elise Brancheau and John Keller of coLAB Arts; Jade Cintron; Noreen Scott Garrity of Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts; Allison Hall of Student Advocates for the Arts at Teachers College, Columbia University; Connie Isbell of Monmouth Arts; Eileen Murray, Haeree Park, and Heather Williams of the Arts Access Program at Matheny; Grace Reff of Peters Valley School of Craft; Bianca Shulaker of the Trust for Public Land; Steve Steiner of Surflight Theatre; Sarah Walko of Visual Arts Center of NJ; Kayla Votapek of Crossroads Theatre Company; and Zach Bates, Theresa Kerney, Allyn Daniels, Kendall DeVecchis, Kristen Flatley, Mikalya Gilham, Bria Hart, Camron McCormick, Jordan Moore, Braden Snyder, and Oliva Tighe of the CGIT Drama Department; and Ann Marie Miller, Adam Perle, and Christine Petrini of ArtPride New Jersey.

Update on N.J. Arts Bills

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There’s been a lot of action (and inaction) on arts bills currently under consideration by the New Jersey state legislature.

On January 31:

Governor Murphy conditionally vetoed A1220, which would license drama therapists and dance/movement therapists. The veto was based on reluctance to add yet another regulatory body in the Division of Consumer Affairs, and requested a change that would add licensing for these professions under the title of “Creative Arts Therapies.” It is uncertain if those proposing licensure are willing to comply with the terms of the conditional veto. Stay tuned!

– A3832, which would allow local governments to create a dedicated tax levy for local artistic and cultural projects by voter approval, passed the N.J. Assembly and was referred to the N.J. Senate (S2459) for second reading. The bill permits a municipality to submit a proposition to voters to authorize an annual levy, in an amount or at a rate that the governing body deems appropriate, to be established for the purpose of supporting arts and culture, broadly defined, and deposited into an “arts and culture trust fund.”

This proposition may be voted upon in a general or special election, and the bill also authorizes a public question requiring a petition signed by the voters of the municipality equal in number to at least 15 percent of the votes cast at the last preceding general election.

This is an exciting proposal for new government support on a local level, but, when and if passed, the bill will require extensive grassroots support and will take at least two years to become a reality. S2459 is certainly worthy of support, and local arts councils and commissions should take note and consider planning now for potential future implementation.

The following bills were considered by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and Arts Committee on February 7:

– A4378 would require the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to establish an “Artist District” designation for municipalities, to establish criteria for the designation, and to work with the Division of Travel and Tourism to promote any Artist District as a destination for artists and visitors.

– A4500 directs the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to create, update, and disseminate a guide containing the “best practices” for arts programs for youth at risk of juvenile delinquency.

– A4501 requires the Juvenile Justice Commission to establish an arts education pilot program for juvenile offenders in New Jersey. According to the bill, the commission would oversee the development, operation, administration, and evaluation of the pilot program in consultation with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

– AJR159 designates the first full week of June as “Children’s Art Week” in New Jersey.

ArtPride New Jersey’s Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Ann Marie Miller, testified to the Assembly Committee, noting that without additional appropriations, instituting such worthy programs would either not be possible or would require to the N.J. State Council on the Arts staff to redirect efforts from its current grantmaking responsibilities. This provided an opportunity to mention that another bill, A3101, could provide such support and that sufficient funding currently exists through the Council’s dedicated funding source, the N.J. Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee.

While revenue from the Hotel/Motel tax has increased over the past nine years, the appropriations to the arts, history, and tourism has not. A3101 would increase the minimum amount annually appropriated, and requires NO NEW REVENUE for support.

A3101 currently has 18 N.J. Assembly sponsors. Check ArtPride’s PDF with talking points to see the sponsors, and if your Assembly representatives are not listed, ask them to co-sponsor this bill. The bill’s N.J. Senate version, S247, passed unanimously last February, yet the N.J. Assembly has not taken action since the bill was introduced more than a year ago.

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