Young Audiences Honors Artists and Arts Supporters at the 2022 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education


Date: June 4, 2022

PRINCETON, NJ— On Thursday May 26, 2022 Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA), honored artists and arts supporters at the 42nd Governor’s Awards in Arts Education at the Patriot’s Theatre in Trenton. The prestigious Governor’s Awards are co-sponsored by Art Ed NJ, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. YA is on the Steering Committee of the awards, which are the highest honor in arts education in the state. Initiated in 1980 the awards recognize the creativity, talent, and leadership of those impacting arts education in the region. The award ceremony included messages from alumni, and performances from past and present award recipients.  

Young Audiences sponsors leadership awards for those who have made a significant impact on arts education in various roles both volunteer and professional. Many unsung heroes work diligently behind the scenes to ensure that schoolchildren experience the arts. The Governor’s Awards shines the spotlight on the funders, staff, artists and volunteer board members so critical to arts education.   

Governor’s Award 2022 Recipients, In Order of Appearance: Carol Hunt, Dave Fry, David Gonzalez, Gil Blitz, Erik James Montgomery, Linda Kinsey, Mary Knysh, NRG Energy, Inc.

The Corporate Philanthropy Award is given to a corporation that has made a significant commitment to arts education. This year’s awardee is NRG Energy, Scott Gillenwater accepted the award.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have committed their professional lives or volunteer their time, talent, and treasure to the cause of arts education. This year’s awardees are:  

  • Gil Blitz, Professional Financial Advisor, UBS Voorhees Blitz Amerio Group and Young Audiences Trustee
  • Dave Fry, Folk Singer, leader of Rock Roots and Young Audiences Teaching Artist 
  • David Gonzalez, storyteller, musician, poet, actor, writer and Young Audiences Teaching Artist
  • Carol Hunt, Young Audiences Associate Director of Programming (retiring June 2022) 
  • Linda Kinsey, Retired Theatre and Design Professional and Young Audiences Trustee 
  • Mary Knysh, founder Rhythmic Connections, musician, community builder, and Young Audiences Teaching Artist

The Arts United Award recognizes an individual who has contributed to advancing principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in arts education through their artistry, thought leadership, program development, or organizational leadership. This year’s inaugural awardee is Erik James Montgomery, Photographer, Founder of the EJM Foundation, and Young Audiences Teaching Artist.

“Young Audiences is grateful to Arts Ed NJ for their leadership of the New Jersey Governor’s Awards in Arts Education,” shared Michele Russo, YA’s President & CEO. “With the ongoing challenges we face it is so important to pause and celebrate, experience the joy that the arts bring, and to recognize those who, through their actions and work, create a vision for the future.” 



About Young Audiences Arts for Learning 

Founded in 1973, Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA is the premier arts education partner in the region, collaborating to provide high-quality performances and artist-in-residence programs to schools in all 21 counties of New Jersey and the 7 easternmost counties of Pennsylvania. Young Audiences’ extensive professional teaching artists represent all art forms—from dance and theater to music, language, and visual arts. YA programs are designed to be child-centered, outcome driven, and measurably effective, providing children with the opportunity to experience quality art; understand the art form and its cultural context; create their own original art; and connect art to their own life and learning. Since its founding, the organization has reached over 15 million children with essential arts education experiences. 

A not-for-profit organization, Young Audiences’ mission is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. As an organization that brings arts education into schools, we understand that our work exists within systems that perpetuate inequities and bias. We are committed to creating safe spaces and delivering programs that are inclusive of race, gender, ability, family structure, religion, and other lived experiences. We developed a policy and action plan for our antiracist, anti-oppression work and incorporated it into our strategic plan. 

Young Audiences is the first arts education organization designated as a major service organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and, as part of the national network of Young Audiences, Inc., was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. 

Young Audiences programs are made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Additional funding comes from foundations, corporations and generous individuals. To learn more, visit To be “social” with us, join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and Twitter at @yaaflorg. 

About The Governor’s Awards 

The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education program is presented by NJ State Council on the Arts and Arts Ed NJ. The program goals include: increasing public awareness of the high level of excellence in arts education in New Jersey’s schools, providing public recognition for the schools, agencies, and school districts represented by the award honorees, and increasing public awareness of the state organizations that support and recognize high-quality arts education. The program is a partnership of the Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, and the Department of State. Additional support is provided by the Planning Council including: the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Forensic League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; New Jersey Poetry Out Loud, New Jersey Thespians and Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania. The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education is a major collaborative effort of across the arts, education and state government.