Let’s talk about the biggest teen arts celebration in New Jersey!
by: Kelly Fliller
Ocean County College students graduated last week, yet there is a buzzzzz around campus this week. You will see students walking quickly through the halls of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts with their musical instruments in tow. There are more students in the Black Box Theater wearing costumes or going into classrooms with paintbrushes and other arts supplies. Heading over to the planetarium, you’ll find students wearing virtual reality googles, creating art on the planetarium ceiling. If you make your way to the student center, there is a band having a nice jam session in the middle of the cafeteria, getting everyone else to tap their feet and nod their heads while they eat lunch.
What is this awesome arts world we’ve walked into? It’s the NJ State Teen Arts Festival from May 30 to June 1! This is the statewide culmination of the county arts festivals and is where arts students, educators, professional artists and arts advocates from all across the state come together to celebrate the arts. The festival has been growing each year and this year we’re up to 3,200 students participating. You can feel the excitement and energy the second you walk onto the Ocean County College Campus.
I’ve gone to the festival for the past three years. Each year I start out at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts so I can see the large instrumental ensembles. I played clarinet in band from elementary through high school. Seeing the high school bands and orchestras brings me right back to my days as a student. It actually makes me want to pick the clarinet up again and see how much I remember. The talent of these students (ALL of the NJ Teen Arts students) is just astonishing. And to watch the adjudication process is pretty awesome, too. The adjudicators get just as into the performances as the students and give them extremely impactful feedback.
After I listen to a few instrumental ensembles perform, I make my way upstairs into the art gallery. Here you will find visual arts masterpieces from students who were critiqued for excellence in each of the county teen arts festivals. Their work is done across various media whether it’s pencil, digital, mosaic or even a Sharpie. I saw one work of art done entirely with a Sharpie marker. I am in awe of the creativity of these students from how they come up with their subject to how they execute it.
This year, after some time at the Grunin Center, I went to the student center for a brief program and award ceremony for the arts educator of the year. If I thought the energy was high earlier, it was tenfold now! There was a student rock band performing and everyone was singing and cheering. I think my favorite part of all of this is the support the students give each other and to their educators. They celebrate each other’s successes and that is clearly evident.
Jay, Jeremy, Heather and I then toured the festival with Harrison Haney (the amazing festival coordinator) and witnessed some of the workshops and fun activities the students can participate in when they’re not performing. The stairs in the student center were turned into a piano with real music notes! The planetarium dome was transformed into a virtual reality canvas, where participants could create art on the ceiling by looking through the goggles and moving their heads. We saw a pottery workshop where the bowls the students make will be on sale, with proceeds going to the JBJ Soul Kitchen – more to come on this awesome project! These are just a few of the many awesome worships available throughout the festival.
To sum this up – it is the biggest arts celebration you will experience in New Jersey and it’s growing each year. We are so proud to be a sponsor of this festival and already excited to see what next year will bring!