As we enter the month of May and our gardens display their pride, humans celebrate spring’s awakening with celebrations galore, from gala events to recognitions of achievement. On May 2 the 33rd Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education capped off Arts Day honoring students and adult leaders who have made exceptional contributions to the arts in schools throughout New Jersey.
As one of the recipients of the John Pappas Recognition Awards given by the Art Educators of NJ, I had a front row seat at the Patriots Theatre of the War Memorial in Trenton. I was not only honored to be part of the ceremony, but got to enjoy the remarkable talent of students who performed throughout the event. Shayne Austin Miller, a previous Governor’s Award recipient for Opera, spoke about how he took his love of music to various stages of his career. Shayne is currently the Director of Press and Public Relations at Paper Mill Playhouse where he recently formed the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir. Their performance of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” set the celebratory tone followed by members of New Jersey’s All State Chorus and All State Opera Festival winner singing the national anthem.
The Governor’s Awards, like the rest of Arts Day (see previous posts), are characterized by partnership and this event coordinated by the NJ Arts Education Partnership would not happen without the leadership of the NJ Dept. of Education, the NJ State Council on the Arts, the NJ Dept. of State, and the ArtPride NJ Foundation. A few members of the event’s Planning Committee and the NJAEP Steering Committee received adult leadership awards including Don Gephardt, Dean Emeritus of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Rowan University who received an award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Arts Education; Mary Reece, Director of School Leadership Programs for the Foundation for Educational Advancement, who received Young Audiences’ Outstanding Arts Advocate Award; and Kim Huyler Defibaugh, Supervisor of Fine Arts K-12 for Toms River Regional Schools, who received the National Association of Arts Education Eastern Region’s Art Educator of the Year Award from AENJ.
Eighty students and twenty arts leaders proudly received their recognition in the form of medals and gubernatorial proclamations from Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Carol Cronheim, Tracey Severns, Assistant Commissioner of Education, and Nick Paleologos, Executive Director of the NJ State Council on the Arts. Dr. Cronheim’s remarks unfailingly recognized the priceless contribution of parents to the awards process by noting their support of students financially, emotionally, and through the commitment of time that in many ways eliminates the concept of “weekends,” as transportation demands for classes, workshops, and performances transcend seamlessly into free time from hectic weekday schedules.
Families of awardees left the Patriots Theatre glowing with pride and eager to celebrate in community with students from all over the state having witnessed extraordinary achievement in the visual and performing arts. Sharing refreshments following the ceremony, I thought how all would look back on this day as a warm memory and milestone. They will all fondly remember the NJ Governors Awards in Arts Education, knowing how the arts brought them distinction, no matter where their career paths and life’s journey may take them.
Images courtesy of ArtPride
Ann Marie Miller is the Executive Director of ArtPride, the premier arts advocacy organization in New Jersey, and a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.