To demonstrate our commitment to sustained engagement and participation of all Central Jersey Shore residents in the arts, we developed the Engage Arts Program. We want to encourage every citizen at the Central Jersey Shore to awaken their creativity, individuality, artistic and technical abilities to embed interaction with the arts and culture in our community.

Giving Tuesday Theater Group Challenge

The Giving Tuesday Theater Group Challenge was open to Ocean and Monmouth County 501(c)(3) or school theater groups. We received so many awesome audition videos which made it a very tough job to pick the top five who would go on to compete for a chance to win a total of $10,000. After much deliberation, we had our top five which included Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice:

  • Brick Children’s Community Theatre (BCCT) (People’s Choice)
  • The Ashley Lauren Foundation Theatre Ensemble (People’s Choice)
  • Bellarine Theatre Company (Judge’s Choice)
  • Our Gang Players (Judge’s Choice)
  • Toms River High School North Nautical Star Theatre Company (Judge’s Choice)

On Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2016, the top five theater groups performed at a sold out event at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College. From there, one group would be chosen as the winner of Adjudicator’s Choice for $5,000. Videos of the performances were put online and open to the public to vote for the winner of an additional $5,000 and the title of People’s Choice. The Ashley Lauren Foundation Theatre Ensemble won Adjudicator’s Choice for their performance of Shrek. The Toms River High School North Nautical Star Theatre Company won People’s Choice for their performance of TheatreVision, which was an original, written by the TRHSN Nautical Stars. In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, the winner of the Adjudicator’s Choice picked a charity to receive ticket sale proceeds. The Ashley Lauren Foundation was chosen and the money went to help children with cancer.

Great Arts Challenge

In the summer of 2016, we announced the Great Arts Challenge. What made this contest unique was that participating artists only had three days from the announcement of the theme to create their work of art! The theme was “Remembering Our Veterans” and artists were able to enter under one of the categories of music, poetry, sculpture, painting or photography. We received nearly 70 total entries across all categories. A panel of esteemed judges chose the short list and the public voted online for their top pick per category and overall. Each first place category winner received $1,500 and the overall winner received an additional $2,500! The talent, design and detail of each piece was breathtaking and truly captured the theme of “Remembering Our Veterans.”

The winners of the Great Arts Challenge were:

  • Heather Pryce – photography and overall winner
  • Jim Houba – painting
  • Karla Ivarson – music
  • Heidi Hodges – poetry
  • Veronica & Genaro Vega – sculpture

Community Mural Project

In early Spring of 2015, we put out a call to all local artists to design a mural that would be installed on the wall of 207 Main Street, at the entrance into Downtown Toms River. This would not only showcase the assets of Toms River, but would be a project to bring the entire community together. The winning artist would be responsible for the drawing, painting, site preparation and installation of the mural. But as this would be a job way too large for one
person, it would turn into a collaboration of people, organizations and businesses.

There were 42 entries, 12 judges and three finalists. Once the judges chose the finalists (Elizabeth Paseler, Carolyn Travisano and Gregg Hinlicky), the public decided which design would become the larger than life mural. After about 5,000 votes and a very close race, Elizabeth Paseler was chosen as the winner. She won $10,000 and the opportunity to turn her design into something that will be enjoyed by generations to come. She began to bring her design to life along with the help of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, Yvonne Yaar (local artist and co-project manager of the mural project), Community Art Project (CAP), Toms River Artists Community (TRAC), Toms River Business Improvement District, the Ocean County Library Toms River Branch, public officials, businesses, organizations and community members. Hundreds of people came out over the summer to help paint the panels that would be installed on the wall. It took eight days for installation and on September 20, 2015, the mural was completed!

Halloween Parade Challenge

In the fall of 2015, we challenged the Toms River community to create the greatest float in the history of the Toms River Fire Department No. 1 Halloween Parade. The float had to show why Toms River is the best place to live, work and play.

The team that designed the best float received a materials budget of $5000, up to 160 volunteer hours of help from the Toms River Artists Community (TRAC), and $10,000 from the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation.  The Foundation also gave TRAC a $5000 donation for their great community spirit!

Toms River High School North Nautical Star Theatre Company won the Engage Toms River Fire Company No. 1 Halloween Parade Competition with their 3D TRopoly Board. They then opened up another round of community voting to decide who and where in Toms River should be represented on the Tropoly Board.

Those winners were:
Standout Community Leaders

1. Father G. Scott Shaffer, Pastor at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church
2. Jonathan Petro, Partner at the Law Offices of Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle and Sacks, YMCA Board Member, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters Volunteer, Toms River County Club Board Member
3. Tom Kelaher, Mayor of Toms River

Best Toms River Charities

1.  Big Brothers/ Big Sisters
2.  Habitat for Humanity
3.  Ocean of Love

Most Inspiring Teacher

1.  Karin Krenek, Donovan Catholic High School
2.  Carolyn Little, Toms River High School North
3.  Kyle Seiverd, Toms River High School North

Local Businesses/ Groups that Further the Arts
1.  Color Me Mine
2.  Exit 82 Theatre Company
3.  Toms River High School North Nautical Star Theatre Company

Best Specialty Food Shops
1.  LaScala Pastry Shop
2.  OB-CO Donuts
3.  Yellow Brick Road Ice Cream

Best Toms River Restaurant
1.  Aqua Blu Restaurant
2.  Cool Beans Coffee House
3.  Xina

Favorite Things to Do in Toms River
1.  Ocean County Mall
2.  Our many beaches
3.  Robert J. Novins Planetarium

Best Local Business
1.  Accents by Narcissus Florals
2.  Hecht Trailers
3.  Uncle Dood’s Donuts

Best Toms River Event
1.  Toms River Farmer’s Market
2.  Toms River Fire Company #1’s Halloween Parade
3.  NJ State Ice Cream Festival