(TRENTON, NJ) -- The New Jersey Governor’s Awards in Arts Education, the state’s most prestigious celebration of excellence and achievement in the arts, will be taking place virtually on May 22nd at 5:00pm. The ceremony will celebrate the winners: 98 students and 17 adult leaders who have demonstrated excellence in and dedication to arts education.
The 2021 winners represent passion and resilience through the many challenges that the past two years have posed. Gianna Albanese, a student at Cedar Grove High School and a winner of the Improvisational Pairs award from the Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey explains,
“The last show our school did was completely virtual, and I can remember literally being on the opposite end of my room, singing and dancing without a care in the world… Even though we weren’t together, we were still able to create something beautiful, and to be honest with you, that’s all that really matters. Especially now during a pandemic. That only proves the importance of arts education…Just being able to sing with people or play an instrument, it’s absolutely amazing that even though we are so, so far apart, through the amazing things that our state does for arts education, we are still able to have some kind of normalcy.”
Grace Petersen, recipient of the All-State Chorus Award from the New Jersey Music Educators’ Association and a student at Chatham High School adds, “I think if there’s anything we’ve learned from the past year, it’s how important art education is. It keeps us alive, it gives us community, it shows us that we can still be connected even when it seems like we’re so disconnected. And if I have any advice for future generations it would be to persevere through any obstacles you may face, especially in the arts. If you have a passion for the arts, don’t give up. Keep trying to find ways to create.”
The virtual awards will be hosted by Louis Mofsie, director of the globally recognized Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. It will feature special alumni guest speakers, a visual arts exhibit and performances from past and present winners that demonstrate how artists in all disciplines have persevered through the throughout the pandemic.
Director of the Governor’s Awards program Priscilla Hopkins-Smith reflects on this year’s virtual celebration: “Forty-one years ago, we set out on a mission to publicly recognize a select group of students and adult leaders for their achievements in arts education. The goal was to increase public awareness of the... high level of excellence in arts education in New Jersey and the state organizations that support and recognize high-quality arts education. Through this pandemic, the arts have created a sense of community and inspiration as we deal with not only a health crisis, but a continued social justice crisis. Our students have reminded us time and time again that through the arts we can heal, transform and envision a new, just world. We are so elated to once again virtually honor these students and leaders for their vision, passion, and resilience.”
This year’s awards are sponsored by the Grunin Foundation. The program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a founding agency of Arts Ed NJ.
The Governor’s Awards event is a partnership of the Arts Ed NJ, the Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by: Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Speech and Debate League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey, and New Jersey Thespians.