Excellence in Cultural Accessibility Awards June 23 at Two River Theater | New Jersey Theatre Alliance

Excellence in Cultural Accessibility Awards June 23 at Two River Theater

  • Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s Arts Access Program, winner of the 2016 Innovator Award for Art Garden CSA. Pictured is Matheny artist Brad Goldman.
    Matheny artist Brad Goldman.

On Thursday, June 23rd, at 10:00 a.m., the Cultural Access Network Project (CAN), a program of New Jersey Theatre Alliance and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, will host the 8th annual Excellence in Cultural Access Awards at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Attended by leaders in the state’s arts and cultural community, the event will feature a keynote address by comedian, actress, and singer Shannon DeVido. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested, at: njtheatrealliance.org/eighth-annual-excellence-cultural-access-awards-save-date.

“For nearly a quarter of a century, the Cultural Access Network has been one of our longest and proudest partnerships,” said Nicholas Paleologos, Executive Director of New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “The Excellence in Cultural Access Awards ceremony—where we recognize colleagues who have found new and innovative ways to connect people with disabilities to arts and cultural programming—is for us, the year’s most gratifying event.”

The following organizations and individuals will be honored:

Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania (YA) of Princeton, NJ, will receive the Leadership Award for its ongoing commitment to removing barriers that prevent students with disabilities from fully participating in its programming. YA provides 700 area schools with arts performances and artist-in-residence programs each year. It has proven its commitment to accessibility by adding special-needs teacher workshops and artist training to its offerings, and has increased its programming in integrated classrooms, self-contained schools/classrooms, and schools in medical facilities. YA’s workshops, classes, and performances provide meaningful experiences for students on the autism spectrum, or who are living with cognitive or developmental conditions.

Arts Unbound of Orange, NJ, and Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s Arts Access Program of Peapack, NJ, will receive an Innovator Award for its Art Garden CSA (“Community Supported Art”) program, which is based on the model of Community Supported Agriculture that is popular nationwide. A jury selects ten artists who are commissioned to create original artwork. Individuals or groups purchase one or more of the 25 available shares. The artwork is organized into equal shares, which are distributed at two pickup events throughout the year. Each share contains ten original pieces of artwork. Art Garden CSA helps artists generate reliable income, connect with new buyers, and further their careers as professional artists. It also enables organizations and individuals to display and enjoy original artworks created by highly skilled and inspired individuals.

Center for Modern Dance Education (CMDE) of Hackensack will also receive an Innovator Award. The mission of CMDE is to preserve and promote modern dance and related art forms, to make the art of dance available to everyone, and to serve as a resource for the professional dance community. CMDE offers classes for people with cognitive and physical conditions, classes and summer camps for youth at-risk, and community outreach programs and performances at festivals, public schools, parks and colleges.

Cape May County Division of Culture and Heritage in Cape May, NJ, will receive the County Achievement in Cultural Access Award for its recent effort to work with the county arts and history organizations to ensure they are accessible. The Division provides technical assistance and workshops on ADA assessment and planning, as well as site visits. As a result, many sites now have physical access, appropriate signage, and programs for the visually impaired. Some have listening-assisted devices available on a regular basis and some are offering performances in American Sign Language or low-sensory experiences for people on the Autism spectrum. The Division also runs a Veterans’ Art Exhibit every November, which encourages veterans to exhibit their work in a nurturing environment.  Many veterans turn to art as a healing process after their war experiences. 

Since its inception in 1992, CAN has facilitated accessibility among the state’s cultural community through training, workshops, a comprehensive online resource bank, an online theatre performance directory searchable by access services, and a tool that streamlines cultural organizations’ ADA planning and reporting. CAN’s innovative programs and services have earned national recognition and have framed New Jersey as a model state in the cultural access field.

In addition to support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s access initiatives are made possible by The Fund for New Jersey Blind, Johnson & Johnson, Kessler Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement.