Young Audiences Honors Artists, Colleagues, and Arts Supporters at the 2020 Virtual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education


Date: June 24, 2020


Denyce Mylson

Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania

609-243-9000 x202

[email protected]

Young Audiences Honors Artists, Colleagues, and Arts Supporters at the 2020 Virtual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education

PRINCETON, NJ; June 22, 2020 — On Friday, June 26that 5pm, Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA), the area’s largest arts education non-profit,will honor artists, colleagues, and arts supporters alongside students at the 40thannual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education in a virtual awards ceremony. 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. The awards are hailed as the highest honor in arts education in the state by national and statewide arts organizations.Initiated in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, the awards recognize the creativity, talent, and leadership of those impacting arts education in the region.

YA Teaching Artist Queen Nur

The virtual award ceremony will include Young Audiences’ teaching artist Queen Nur as the Master of Ceremonies, remarks from state officials, messages from alumni, and performances from past and present award recipients. All are welcome to virtually attend by registering at

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Nominees include:

  • Corporate Philanthropy Award
    • Colleen Foy on behalf of M&T Bank
    • Paralee Knight on behalf of Wells Fargo
  • Distinguished Service Award
    • Heather Barberi, The Grunin Foundation
    • Andrea Colby, Young Audiences, Trustee
    • Steve Runk, Young Audiences, Trustee
  • Arts Education Award
    • Molly Gaston Johnson, Young Audiences, Teaching Artist
    • Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, Young Audiences, Performance Artist Group
  • Artists in Education Residency Grant Program Champion Award
    • Bradley Beach Elementary School
    • Sussex Avenue Elementary School
Image of Colleen Foy

Colleen Foy, M&T Bank

“On behalf of M&T Bank, I am honored to accept this award,” expressed Colleen Foy. “The Bank is a long-standing supporter of both the arts and education throughout our communities. Besides the sheer joy and delight one experiences in a live performance, there are so many other impacts of arts education such as inspiring those who learn in different ways and providing an outlet to the unique creative instincts in each of us. I continue to be awed by the talent of Young Audiences’ teaching artists. It is my pleasure to support Young Audiences so that they can continue their mission to inspire young people and to expand their learning through the arts.”

Image of Paralee Knight

Paralee Knight, Wells Fargo

“I’m so proud to receive this award on behalf of Wells Fargo,” said Paralee Knight, Community Relations Consultant at Wells Fargo. “We know that the arts help to express diverse points of view and contribute to the health of civil society. Thank you to all of the incredible teaching artists, students of the craft, and Young Audiences for your dedication to arts education and its transformative impact.”

Image of Heather Barberi

Heather Barberi, The Grunin Foundation

“I am honored to be a recipient of the 2020 NJ Governor’s Award in Arts Education,” expressed Heather Barberi, Executive Director of the Grunin Foundation. “Performing arts were a part of my life from a very young age. I know both personally and professionally how important the arts and arts education are to our students and community. As executive director of the Grunin Foundation, I’m proud to be able to support so many incredible arts organizations, like Young Audiences. I have the opportunity to see first-hand how arts experiences and professional teaching artists are positively impacting our schools. The arts nurture creativity, expand cultural awareness, and foster the development of critical thinking skills. With continued support of these programs, our students and community will flourish, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Image of Andrea Colby

Andrea Colby, YA Trustee

Andrea Colby shared, “I am incredibly moved and humbled to be recognized for service to arts education in New Jersey. Bringing arts education to children who might not otherwise be involved with music and other arts forms has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager.  Creating music has always been part of my life: it has been a solace in hard times and an expression of joy in good times. It has taught me so much that I have used in my professional life and beyond. I’m extraordinarily grateful to have the opportunity to support the amazing teaching artists of Young Audiences to bring the gift of music and all arts to the children of New Jersey.”

Image of Steve Runk

Steve Runk, YA Trustee

“Being a member of the Young Audiences board has been a rewarding experience, and I believe strongly in the organization’s mission,” expressed Steve Runk. “I knew the excellence of the organization in the past from a funder perspective, and the past few years have seen from the inside what makes Young Audiences such a strong and successful organization that has great impact on the lives of children and teaching artists.”

Image of Molly Gaston Johnson

YA Teaching Artist

Molly Gaston Johnson shared, “Receiving this award, and being nominated for it by what I consider to be my family at Young Audiences, is a signal that I am doing the right thing and that good people believe in me. Recognition at this level is a great honor that keeps me forging on. I have chosen a path that leads me to use my visual art skills for more than simply showing people what I see. My work as a teaching artist allows me to help others learn to see…to see and learn about their neighbor and also about themselves. The most beautiful part is that the teaching artist work I do through Young Audiences comes back to me as I get inspired to make more of my own art, which then feeds back into the teaching artistry in an ever upward and expanding spiral.”

Image of Louis Mofsie

Louis Mofsie, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, YA Performance Artist Group

“The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers have always put a great emphasis on reaching out to young audiences,” said Louis Mofsie. “We have performed and given dance workshops at numerous schools in the New Jersey and New York area. The arts are vital to the development of children and live performances are not only entertaining, but also educational. Understanding and comprehension through a one-on-one experience is often overlooked. We are confident that such experiences leave a lasting impression on the children. We are grateful to Young Audiences for giving us the opportunity to meet and perform for so many children. We are doubly honored to be receiving this recognition for our efforts from the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education.”

Young Audiences is pleased to present a new award this year, the AIE Residency Champion Award, which honors schools that have made an extended commitment to providing long-term artist in residence experiences for their students and school communities through the Artists in Education (AIE) Residency Grant Program. The Artists in Education Residency Grant Program is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA. The program is carried out in partnership with regional partners, including Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus, Count Basie Center for the Arts, and Morris Arts.

Image of Erik James Montgomery working with students in a photography class

AIE Photography Residency with YA teaching artist Erik James Montgomery at Bradley Beach Elementary School

“It is my honor to accept the AIE Residency Champion Award on behalf of the Bradley Beach Elementary School District,” shared Sarah Poppe, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Bradley Beach Elementary School.“With the help of AIE, our teachers in Bradley Beach have been able to provide our students with authentic education in arts through a number of projects. Students and teachers have been inspired and empowered by the work we have done through our collaboration with extremely talented working artists. We are grateful to AIE for helping us establish a strong arts culture in our school, one which we are dedicated to growing and continuing.”

Students form Sussex Ave. Elementery School in front of a mural

AIE Mural Residency with YA teaching artist Kit Sailer, Sussex Avenue Elementary School

“We have a moral obligation to ensure children have opportunities to express themselves in creative ways,” expressed Principal Darleen L. Gearhart from Sussex Avenue School in Newark, NJ. “Art is simply part of the human experience and therefore, is a crucial element of schooling.”

“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. “The Governor’s Awards provide a venue for our rich arts education community to celebrate our strength. With the ongoing challenges we face—the Covid pandemic, the disruptions to schooling, and the uprising against racism—it is so important for us to pause to 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 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. YA’s programs are accessible to all socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, and geographic communities, and are designed to strengthen the arts in schools, meet local and state curriculum standards, involve families in arts activities, and enrich cultural life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities.

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 @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. – See more at: