Arts Ed Now: A Look Back at Teen Arts Festivals

June 8, 2016

Alaina Murphy, Grade 8, Mannington Township School at Salem County Teen Arts

After numerous county festivals in March, April and May, the final New Jersey Teen Arts Festival of 2016 was held at Ocean County College on June 1-3.

The three-day, statewide festival brought students to campus from throughout the Garden State. The state festival was described as “the exciting union of art, education and possibility” by Dr. Jon Larson, President, Ocean County College, and is a description that is fitting of all the festivals. Even though no two festivals were alike, each did embody this common theme.

Festival locations ranged from densely populated urban or suburban locations to sparsely populated rural venues with sprawling green space. And yet, regardless of location, the overarching spirit of possibility was distinctly felt.

With countless adjudicated performances and exhibits at each of the festivals, students learned a great deal from feedback that was offered by the professionals. Whether feedback was offered in the form of high praise or constructive criticism, the critiques serve an invaluable role in the students’ development.

Feedback is vital, because it provides objective input, and helps to shape students’ vision of what might be possible for them in the arts discipline of their choosing.

State Teen Arts Festival at Ocean County College. Photo Credit: Priscilla Hopkins-Smith
State Teen Arts Festival at Ocean County College. Photo Credit: Priscilla Hopkins-Smith

Excitement and enthusiasm from students was another constant! Participants — some in middle school, but most in high school — were eager to show their passion for the arts. Photos were taken at each of the festivals and added to the Arts Ed Now Instagram campaign.

The sheer variety of answers demonstrates that students themselves are thinking about all the possibilities their arts learning has prepared them for in the future. During the festivals, with an abundance of shared enthusiasm, it’s easy to believe that the list of possibilities is endless!

New Jersey supports the tradition of Teen Arts Festivals precisely because they are incubators of possibility. Bringing students together, from across the county or the state, fosters the beginning of new possibilities both in and outside the arts.

Students, inspired by the work or performance of others, have the opportunity to leave with a new perspective. The power of the festivals lies in the legacy of creativity, excellence, and above all, possibility they promote. This year, through the collaboration of many, the legacy continued and the results were truly inspiring.

And now, with the last festival complete, NJAEP is already looking forward to planning and taking part in the festivals next year!