OUR MISSION & OUR HISTORY
The purpose of the Arts and Education Center is to provide high quality supplementary fine and performing arts education programs for all New Jersey students and educators.
We believe the basic human need for meaning and self-expression is best satisfied by the study and practice of the arts. An understanding of the arts helps describe, define, and ultimately deepen human experience. This must be an essential component of every child’s basic education and a life-long pursuit. We create art to understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us. By making connections and expressing the otherwise inexpressible, art helps us to better understand the human experience. By its very nature, art provides the cohesiveness that is the cornerstone of human society.
AEC was founded in 1969 as a county arts council. From its inception the organization has focused on providing support and opportunities for New Jersey artists and championing the importance of quality arts education in school curriculums. In its early years, AEC initiated several innovative programs that eventually grew into independent state-wide arts organizations. Teen Arts NJ, Very Special Arts/NJ, The Middle Jersey Writers Group, The Dance Council of NJ and The Visual Arts League were all, initially, AEC programs.
AEC was a pioneer in recognizing the need for quality arts education for gifted and talented children in the public school systems. Towards that end, in 1980, AEC created New Jersey’s first county-wide arts education pull-out program entitled Arts High School. In collaboration with 23 school districts in Middlesex County, children, accepted into the program by audition, are released from their schools and bused to a central location for weekly classes in creative writing, music, dance, theatre, photography or visual arts taught by outstanding teaching artists. The Arts Middle School program was added in 1994 and now includes children in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. This innovative program has been the primary focus of AEC for the past 35 years. In January 2004, at the request of school superintendents in Monmouth County, the Arts & Education Center opened an Arts High School for Monmouth County students. In January 2007, the Monmouth County Arts Middle School was launched. The Ocean County Arts High School program for Ocean County students began in the 2010-2011 school year.
AEC has been cited as exemplary by the NJ Department of Education for its concept, programs and administration and received a special citation and grant from the NJ Governor’s Office designating it “A School of Excellence.” In March 2003, it was recognized by the US Congress for being “a cultural pioneer” and successfully administering “a series of programs that have provided a much-needed outlet for a blossoming local artistic community".
Kevin E. Ciak – Executive Director / CEO
Donna Anonsen – Managing Director
Debbie Cavanaugh – Office Manager
Marisell Martely-Thomas—Middlesex County Administrator
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
President: Lenore M. Kingsmore
Principal, Henry Hudson Regional School, NJEXCEL Instructor & Mentor, Foundation for Education Administration
Vice President: Maria Naumik
Art Teacher, Monroe Twp HS, Chair Monroe Twp. Cultural Arts Comm
Secretary-Treasurer: Arthur J. Rittenhouse, Jr.
AFLAC Representative, Past Councilman, Borough of Sayreville
Joseph J. Jankowski, Esq.
Attorney & Shareholder: Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer
Honorable Joseph M. Kyrillos, Jr.
New Jersey State Senator, 13th District.
Honorable Frank Pallone, Jr.
United States Congressman, 6th District.
Brian A. Zychowski, Ed.D.
Superintendent-North Brunswick School District
ARTS ADVISORY BOARD
Retired Director of the Visual, Practical & Performing Arts, Piscataway Schools
Retired Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator, Highland Park Schools
Aide to the Chairman, The Citizens Campaign