Category Archives: Education

Art Works (Update)

Last Monday, November 23rd, Kate and I presented our program proposal for  a Social Justice Challenge hosted by Rutgers University- Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA). Unfortunately, we were not selected as the recipients for the $5,000 prize for the national tract, instead we were selected as the 1st runner-up.

What is Art Works?

Art works was a brainchild formed by us when we were thinking of Social Justice issues affecting youth of low socio-economic status and minority groups. Being from New Jersey and looking to create a local project we selected to use Newark as our area of study and future site for our projects’ pilot area. After several meetings and discarding other ideas we kept coming back to education, particularly public education in inner-cities. It is well known that since the economic crisis of 2008 there have been many local, state, and federal budget cuts on most if not all programs. Some of these being public education and social services. 


Public Education in Newark

On a national level, staff members, teachers, and schools have been challenged to raise student scores ,standardized testing and completing subject curriculum within 180 days, focus on student development, correcting assignments, to name a few. All while having larger class sizes, dealing with teacher assessments, lack of contracts, and a reduction in funds.

Over the past 5 years Newark Public Schools have been losing funding and have had to make adjustments to their programs, often resulting in the reduction of staff, arts, and extracurricular programs. Quality and complete education is a right and not a privilege that must focus on academic development as well as social and cultural growth. The lack of holistic education has created a ripple effect that is negatively impacting communities in Newark. Without quality education and the increasing budget cuts there has been an inverse correlation between education and crime (CD-Index 618.3 vs. USA CD- Index 294.7 ) ,dropout ( ACS 2013  6.2% vs. USA 4.5%) and graduation rates (67.7% US. Department of Education).

Studies conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts have shown that youth engaged in high arts regardless of socioeconomic status have higher levels of political engagement, efficacy, and community involvement. These studies show that stronger integration and investment in the arts have a strong correlation to community/civic engagement, high school graduation, college enrollment and achievement.


Find the whole report with additional information here.

Looking Forward

Art works is certainly not the solution for the education reform that needs to occur in Newark, instead it aims to be a low-cost/ high-impact supplement to integrate the arts into education and empower, educate, inform, inspire the under-served population within our society. We hope that we can partner with other like-minded individuals, organizations, and institutions. While we were not able to attain the $5,000 to initially start Art Works we remain hopeful and are looking for other ways to accomplish our goal. We are currently planning to submit an updated proposal to Rutgers University-New Brunswick & Newark and Newark’s Board of Education that will go into more depth of community participation, impact analysis, and overall need for projects such as Art Works.

Below find our current Abstract and proposal (12/1/2015):

Art Works Abstract
Art Works Proposal

You can also watch a recording of our presentation by following this link. The presentation starts at min 22:40 and ends at 38:00. Any comments, questions, or general participation interest can be sent to me via comment or e-mail at


Social Justice Challenge

Welcome to my first blog post! Here I will be sharing and updating the public on some of the projects I am working on and share my general interests. If you don’t already know who I am check out my About me.  Thanks for visiting and hope you enjoy the content I put up here!

So back in September a professor of mine told me to submit a proposal for a Social Justice Challenge hosted by Rutgers University- Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA). I asked a friend of mine, Kate,  if she was willing to join me on putting forth a proposal and luckily she said yes.

On October 30th we were notified that our proposal was accepted for the National Tract and we were 1 of 4 finalists who will be competing for the seed money ($5,000) to get our project started. It is our hope that our project will be selected as the winner so that we can start our project in Newark and then implement our program in other cities across the country. Posted below is the abstract for our program and after November 23rd I’ll post the complete proposal and timeline.


Art Works, a summer program, aims to empower, educate, inform, inspire, build community, and provide a platform for civic engagement. Art Works will be conducted over five weeks in June, in Newark, and will work to engage 300 members of the Newark community. In the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, reduction in funding has impacted education across the United States; however, the primarily targeted programs are visual and performing arts. Numerous studies have shown that well-rounded education promotes substantially greater success rates, particularly among students of low socioeconomic status. It is our hope that this supplementary program will engage the community and provide an opportunity for community members to participate in active discussion through artistic expression through the use of the following themes:

  1. Social Justice and Me
  2. Art as a Storytelling Tool
  3. How do you see Newark?
  4. What will the future look like?

Our themes along with the variety of art forms used will be used to aid in constructive expressive art that captures what residents hope to see happen within their communities, share their struggles, communicate ideas thus providing empowerment and increasing efficacy. Art Works will achieve its goal though engagement and active cooperation with the city of Newark, local non-profits, teachers, university students, community leaders, and other volunteers.

Looking to get some feedback we created a short survey online asking our networks about their interest in participating and their experience with different artistic mediums. Out of curiosity for more public feedback on social justice issues, we ended the survey with an open ended question asking “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing urban communities today?” Below is an image that shows the most used words(larger words-more frequent & smaller words- less frequent).


If you are interested in seeing our presentation you can view it on Monday November 23rd at  10:30 am as we present it to a panel of Social Justice professionals and a chance at $5,000. Register by clicking here.


If you have any further questions or comments feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.