Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Jersey Non-Profits and Professionals to be Honored for Making Arts and Culture Accessible


(Morristown, NJ) On Thursday, June 21st, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Cultural Access Network Project (“CAN”), a program of New Jersey State Council on the Arts and New Jersey Theatre Alliance (“the Alliance”), will host the 10th annual Excellence in Cultural Access Awards at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. Attended by leaders in the state’s arts and cultural community, the event will feature presentations by Roger Ideshi, Associate Professor of Instruction at Temple University, and Katie Curran, Founder and CEO of Proof Positive consulting. There will also be a panel discussion on the role of the autism advocate.

Don Ehman, former Director of Artists’ Services and Access Coordinator at New Jersey State Council on the Arts, will receive the Championship Award for his dedication to and leadership of cultural access over the years.

“We’re always amazed by the innovative work being done around the state, and for ten years now we’ve been able to celebrate the individuals making it happen through these awards,” said Allison Tratner, Interim Executive Director of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “We are especially pleased this year to be able to recognize our recently retired colleague and friend Don Ehman with the Champion Award—a well-earned honor for his decades of dedication and true passion for making the arts in New Jersey not only accessible to all people, but welcoming.”

“Don's passion and commitment to making the arts accessible has made a lasting impact on New Jersey's arts patrons and organizations in an infinite number of ways,” said John McEwen, Executive Director of the Alliance. “As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Cultural Access Awards, we are thrilled to recognize Don's dedication to cultural access with this year's Championship Award.”

MPAClogoMayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown will receive an Innovator Award for the Miracle Project, which helps children and young adults with autism and other cognitive disabilities build communication and social skills, community, and greater self-esteem though music, acting, dance, acting and storytelling.

"The Miracle Project is more than just theatre arts training for children on the autism spectrum and with other special needs,” said Education Director Cathy Roy. “It's about making each student comfortable and giving them a full experience. It's so wonderful to see the new friends they make, and see their self-esteem grow as the class moves along. I enjoy every second working with them."

Morristown High School Theatre Department will receive an Innovator Award for providing a safe and inclusive space for students with disabilities and specific learning and social/emotional needs. Team-building activities, community-engagement activities, and the adoption of a therapy dog, Madagan, are some of the various accommodations that the Theatre Department provides.

“Theatre is all about bringing joy and a shared experience to everyone involved,” said Michael Maguire, Morristown High School Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director. “Every student has the ability to bring something to the table; exclusion of any kind defeats the core purpose of theatre and that’s why we make such efforts to create a successful program for all.”

Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company of Fort Lee will receive an Innovator Award for Project D.R.E.A.M. (Dance Rehabilitation Education Affecting Movement), which provides creative dance lessons to students of A. Harry Moore Laboratory School of New Jersey City University, who have various disabilities.

Adaptive Physical Education Teacher Lori Bierig remarked, “Some of [the students] are beginning to move parts of their bodies that have not moved for years. Some of them are talking and smiling more. We are encouraged that the students, through music, movement, imagination, and improvisation, are discovering their own abilities. They are taking dance lessons ‘just like other kids.’”

Since its inception in 1992, CAN has facilitated accessibility among the state’s cultural community through training, workshops, a comprehensive online resource bank, and a tool that streamlines cultural organizations’ ADA planning and reporting. CAN’s innovative programs and services have earned national recognition and have framed New Jersey as a model state in the cultural access field.

The Excellence in Cultural Access Awards are made possible in part by the support of Johnson & Johnson. The Cultural Access Network is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For the past 26 years the Alliance’s access initiatives have also received support from Christopher& Dana Reeve Foundation, Fund for New Jersey Blind, Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, The Karma Foundation, Kessler Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Springpoint Senior Living Foundation, and the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement.

New Jersey Theatre Alliance unites, promotes, strengthens, and cultivates New Jersey’s professional theatres. It advances the theatre community by developing innovative, collaborative, and engaging programs and services for member theatres and their diverse audiences. It also produces public programs such as the annual Stages Festival and NJArtsTix, an online discount ticket service. Its member theatres are both large and small with a wide variety of repertoires, each a fully functioning business that pays its staff and artists (designers, technicians, directors, and actors). Through their programming, these theatres inspire, challenge, and entertain about one million theatre-goers annually, and enrich communities through outreach programs and arts education. For more information, visit

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