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Vol. LXI, No. 26
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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Leading Arts Education Groups Merge to Increase Effectiveness

Linda Arntzenius

Two of New Jersey's leading arts education providers joined forces as of July 1, to create an organization that is intended to benefit the children of New Jersey.

Young Audiences New Jersey (YANJ) and the Institute for Arts & Humanities Education (IAHE) have merged to form a single comprehensive arts resource that, it is hoped, will pave the way for greater sustainability and a more secure future for arts education in the state, creating an "arts incubator" to encourage and support artists and educators in developing new programs and services.

The merged organization will operate under the Young Audiences New Jersey banner, integrating programs, staff, resources, and teaching artists.

The move has been lauded by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

"The Dodge Foundation sees this integration of two remarkable organizations as a very positive, and very brave, step," said David Grant, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. "This is an appropriate consolidation around shared values and a shared mission, and we are sure it will lead to even greater impact. With the national conversation about learning finally beginning to acknowledge the importance of arts education, it is exciting that we will have a national model of effectiveness here in New Jersey."

Founded in 1973, YANJ is New Jersey's premier arts-in-education resource, providing high-quality performances and artist-in-residence programs to 420,000 children  pre-kindergarten through 12th grade  each year.

The organization provides professional development for teachers and maintains a roster of professional artists in all forms of art  from dance and theater to music, language, and visual arts. Its programs are accessible to all socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, and geographic communities, and are designed to strengthen the arts in schools, meet local and state curriculum standards, involve families in arts activities, and enrich cultural life in New Jersey's communities.

YANJ is the first arts education organization designated as a major service organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and, as part of the national network of Young Audiences, Inc., was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

Its 4,000 annual programs, serving some 415,000 children, are funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The state-wide non-profit arts education organization, IAHE, founded in 1982, offers a wide range of programs that provide interdisciplinary arts opportunities for students, teachers, and families including school residencies, professional development workshops, family arts programs, and the Summer Arts Institute, a residential program for talented teenagers.

Over the years, IAHE's programs have directly impacted more than 180,000 students, families, and teachers from all 21 counties in New Jersey.

"The vision of IAHE has always been to realize a world where each person's creativity is discovered, nurtured, valued, and shared," commented Executive Director Maureen Heffernan. "As we look to make that vision more of a reality we could find no better partner than Young Audiences. The chance to join forces with an organization like this is one that I, our staff, and our Board found to be exactly the right fit at exactly the right time."

The idea of integration began in December of 2006 with a casual conversation between Ms. Heffernan and YANJ Executive Director Larry Capo as they drove back from a meeting in North Jersey and compared their organizations' respective missions, personal goals, and visions.

Ms. Heffernan and Mr. Capo broached the idea of a merger with their respective boards and approached the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, their two largest funders, for their perspective on the idea.

Both organizations responded positively, with both boards of trustees voting unanimously for the merger.

"The opportunity to join our dynamic staffs and programs under one roof is incredibly exciting for all of us. Even after months of discussions about vision and the impact that will result from our integration, I believe we have only scratched the surface of the possibilities," said Mr. Capo.

Model for Change

In addition to benefiting those served by both organizations, it is hoped that the merger will be a model for change in the way that other not-for-profit organizations operate, setting an example by building on the strengths of both partners.

By combining resources, YANJ and the IAHE hope to reach more children and educators and to develop new initiatives for a broader audience as well as greater depth and impact in current and new programs.

For more information about YANJ's expanded services, cultural arts representatives, PTA and PTO members, school superintendents, and others are encouraged to call (866) 500-YANJ.

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