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Behind the Curtain Blog

07Apr

Beyond the Boundaries: Arts Education Through a Pandemic

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Priscilla Hopkins-Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications for Arts Ed NJ. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

“We always have a choice of how we respond to the crisis. The arts give students a voice.”

-Tilottama Bose, Vice Principal at The Academy of Visual & Performing Arts Trenton Central High School, quoted in “Beyond the Boundaries: Arts Education through a Pandemic”

Over the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic, Arts Ed NJ, the statewide arts education advocacy organization of New Jersey, collected hundreds of pieces of artwork and virtual performances that were so powerful and innovative. The creativity and passion shared with us from NJ educators and their students was simply overwhelming. This story needed to be told.

We realized that this was the ultimate advocacy moment. There was no better time to share the need for arts education and the power of creativity. Since the onset of the pandemic and throughout the past two years, the landscape of arts education has changed dramatically. At schools throughout the state of New Jersey, students were forced to communicate and create from home, or through major restrictions during in-person learning. However, in spite of this blow, students and the educators who lead them were able to adapt, create, and blossom. When we saw the amazing work being done by educators and students in spite of the challenges of the pandemic, we decided to document it in a film that would celebrate and commemorate their achievements against the odds. In Arts Ed NJ’s short documentary feature, “Beyond the Boundaries: Arts Education through a Pandemic,” arts educators share how their students adapted and pushed through the challenges of COVID-19 to emerge stronger than before.

We had been working consistently with our partners to produce never-done-before virtual events, showcases, workshops, and conferences throughout the pandemic. Creating this documentary, however, was a new challenge. We decided to find the voices, provide the space, and see what grows. We identified an amazing videographer, Christopher King of Endless Echo, LLC. Then we approached various New Jersey arts educators in different disciplines. We sent out a call to the field for artwork and performances. The story unfolded on its own, we were just the vehicle for delivery of that message.

The short film showcases breathtaking student artwork and performance from around the state, all created throughout the challenges and restrictions that the past few years had necessitated. The documentary is a display of New Jersey arts students’ and educators’ resilience and ingenuity. It is an exploration of what happens when a community faces unique challenges and emerges even stronger than before. As one educator states, “What the pandemic taught the students more than anything is that they are the driving force. They are the medium. They are everything.”

You can view the documentary feature, “Beyond the Boundaries: Arts Education through a Pandemic,” produced by the nonprofit Arts Ed NJ, here.

“Our post-pandemic future will be imagined through arts education.” - Arts Ed NJ

Photo of Pricilla in black and white, she is smiling, has light shoulder length hair, is wearing a floppy hat and black shirt.

Priscilla Hopkins-Smith is the Executive Producer of this short documentary and the Director of Marketing and Communications for Arts Ed NJ. Arts Ed NJ is the unifying organization and central resource for arts education information, policy and advocacy in New Jersey. Priscilla is also the Director of the NJ Governor’s Awards in Arts Education which is the highest honor that can be received in Arts Education in NJ. With over 15 years of experience in nonprofit communications and administration, Hopkins-Smith’s expertise lies in events, outreach, and community engagement through the work of Arts Ed NJ and the #ArtsEdNow campaign. For marketing: Quote: “We realized that this was the ultimate advocacy moment. There was no better time to share the need for arts education and the power of creativity. Since the onset of the pandemic and throughout the past two years, the landscape of arts education has changed dramatically. At schools throughout the state of New Jersey, students were forced to communicate and create from home, or through major restrictions during in-person learning. However, in spite of this blow, students and the educators who lead them were able to adapt, create, and blossom.” In this guest blog post, Priscilla Hopkins-Smith of Arts Ed NJ describes the organization’s process of documenting student involvement in the arts during the Covid-19 pandemic. The resulting film showcases breathtaking student artwork and performance from around the state, all created throughout the challenges and restrictions that the past few years had necessitated. Board member of Dance New Jersey.

Photo Credits: Featured photo by Stacy Lespanisse, Headshot by Hoffer Photography

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