Arts and Education Center


154 Main Street Suite 102
Matawan, NJ 07724
County: Monmouth


Kevin Ciak

Grant Amount


Program Area



Grant Details

To provide support for the NJ State Teen Arts Festival's Dodge Literary Cafe and exploration of diversity, inclusion, and equity principles and opportunities relative to future festivals.

Organization Background


By making connections and expressing the otherwise inexpressible, art helps us to better understand the human experience. By its very nature, art provides the cohesiveness that is the cornerstone of human society.

We envision a future when arts learning is a basic component of every child's education and a respected life-long pursuit.

AEC was founded in 1969 as a county arts council. From its inception the organization has focused on providing support and opportunities for New Jersey artists and championing the importance of quality arts education in school curriculums. In its early years, AEC initiated several innovative programs that eventually grew into independent state-wide arts organizations. Teen Arts NJ, Very Special Arts/NJ, The Middle Jersey Writers Group, The Dance Council of NJ and The Visual Arts League were all, initially, AEC programs.

AEC was a pioneer in recognizing the need for quality arts education for gifted and talented children in the public school systems. Towards that end, in 1980, AEC created New Jersey's first county-wide arts education pull-out program entitled Arts High School. In collaboration with 23 school districts in Middlesex County, children, accepted into the program by audition, are released from their schools and bused to a central location for weekly classes in creative writing, music, dance, theatre, photography or visual arts taught by outstanding teaching artists. The Arts Middle School program was added in 1994 and now includes children in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. This innovative program has been the primary focus of AEC for the past 35 years. In January 2004, at the request of school superintendents in Monmouth County, the Arts & Education Center opened an Arts High School for Monmouth County students. In January 2007, the Monmouth County Arts Middle School was launched. The Ocean County Arts High School program for Ocean County students began in the 2010-2011 school year.

AEC has been cited as exemplary by the NJ Department of Education for its concept, programs and administration and received a special citation and grant from the NJ Governor's Office designating it "A School of Excellence." In March 2003, it was recognized by the US Congress for being "a cultural pioneer" and successfully administering "a series of programs that have provided a much-needed outlet for a blossoming local artistic community".

Tony Petito has been the Artistic & Executive Director of the Arts & Education Center since September 2001. In that capacity he has expanded Arts & Education Center programming into Monmouth & Ocean County. New programs successfully launched under his leadership include a five year arts enrichment and academic improvement after-school program at the Carteret Middle School, a three year reading improvement program for Elementary school children in the Carteret School District, and reintroduction of the Nj State Teen Arts Festival in 2010. He holds an MFA in Directing from the Goodman School of Drama, Art Institute of Chicago.

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