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News from the Valley Arts District



WEST ORANGE, NJ --- ValleyArts and Orange Public Schools has announced the formation of a new arts education alliance that features a 14-week Saturday Arts Academy and two in-school residencies.These programs will reinforce the music, dance, theater and art education students receive in the Orange public schools, as they work with renowned performers and artists who will provide hands-on instruction. 

Featured performer/artist-teachers will include two-time Tony nominee Reg E. Gaines (lyricist and book: Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk), nationally recognized musician and producer Mike Griot, artist and director of the Romare Beardon Foundation Diedra Harris-Kelly, and dancer-choreographer Tiffany Taylor working in consultation with Deborah Rembert.  In addition to Ms. Rembert, Orange teachers working in the program are Peter Abazia, Avril Bogle, and Marianne Mroz. Mr. Gaines' visit has been arranged by Luna Stage Theatre Company. 

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The programs are made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town initiative, which seeks to build bridges between the arts and local communities.  ValleyArts' project was one of just 59 nationwide this year that were selected to receive an NEA Our Town grant. 

"These programs will assist our schools in teaching those children who have a talent and affinity for the arts - but just as important, they will help all children, and their family members, to develop a continuing appreciation, understanding of and love for the arts," said Richard T. Bryant, executive director of ValleyArts.  "That kind of involvement really does have a positive impact on communities, providing youth with a safe and exciting place to learn and become involved.  And it will engage the general public through its expansion into the local streets during our second Hat City Streets Festival on June 7."   

"We are pleased that we are able to partner with ValleyArts to provide our Saturday Arts Academy for a fourth year," added Ronald C. Lee, Superintendent of the Orange Township Public School District. "This program has proved to be an asset in strengthening the district's arts programs and through ValleyArts will afford our students the opportunity to interact with well-known professionals, working and learning alongside them.  As with many of our partnerships, this alliance will provide a very positive experience for our students and the Orange community." 

Saturday Arts Academy - January 25-May 17, 2014

Orange Public Schools and ValleyArts launch the Saturday Arts Academy, a 14-week arts program at Lincoln Avenue School, on January 25, and it will run through May 17. The sessions will be offered from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. for 14 Saturdays, as follows: January 25February 1, 8, 15; March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; April 5, 12; May 3, 10, 17 at the district's Lincoln Avenue School, located at 216 Lincoln Avenue. All students are also invited to participate in the June 7 Hat City Streets Festival under the supervision of a parent.

The Academy is designed to instruct and involve local students from K-12 in visual art, music and dance.  A fee of $45 includes instruction in all three disciplines. For more information or to register online with a Visa or MasterCard, visit The Saturday Arts Academy coordinator, Marianne Mroz can also be contacted for additional information at or visit

Each of the Academy's three disciplines is led by well-known arts professionals.  Diedra Harris-Kelley, artist and co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation, leads the visual arts component of the Academy, in which students will engage with music, literature, language and social change and express their ideas through drawings, collage and other techniques of visual literacy.  Avril Bogle, a respected art teacher at the Forest Street Elementary School in Orange, will team with Ms. Harris-Kelley.

Orange native Mike Griot, a nationally regarded musician/producer and founder of the annual South Orange International Blues Festival, leads the music section.  He plans to take the students on a "tour" of music, focusing on the uniquely American genres of blues and jazz, while expanding basic understanding of rhythm, melody, and composition.  Students will be presented with an opportunity to create their own music using unlikely objects as instruments.  Peter Abazia, an active and dynamic New Jersey music educator and percussionist, will assist Griot. 

The dance section of the Saturday Arts Academy will be led by choreographer and dancer Tiffany Taylor, working in consultation with Deborah Rembart.  The team has designed an energetic, participatory series of classes instructing young people about how dance forms a powerful non-verbal language spoken the world over. Jazz, modern, tap, ballet and martial arts are some of the techniques that will be introduced to the students.

Private music lessons will also be offered through the Saturday Arts Academy, by appointment only (register in-person).  The Academy also invites parents and community members to take an hour-long weekly Zumba class from 9:15-10:15am for only $5 (cash) per week. 

Coming Up: Second Annual Hat City Streets Festival, Saturday, June 7

At the conclusion of the Saturday Arts Academy, on Saturday, June 7, students, their family members, and the public are invited to participate in the Second Annual Hat City Streets Festival.  The festival will feature a daylong cavalcade of live performances, art exhibitions, family activities, delicious foods from the Orange Valley, and nonstop fun reflecting the spirit and diversity of the region and celebrating the creativity of Orange.  Produced by ValleyArts and hosted by volunteers of Creative Orange, the Second Annual Hat City Streets Festival is free and open to the public.

Reg E. Gaines and Mike Griot Lead In-School Residencies 

In February, ValleyArts will also begin two In-School Residencies, featuring instruction by Reg. E. Gaines and Mike Griot. 

Reg. E. Gaines is an author, playwright, director, two-time Tony Award nominee, Grammy nominee and Bessie Award winner for Best Book/Lyrics for the Broadway hit "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk."  Luna Stage Theatre Company has arranged Mr. Gaine's participation in this program for ValleyArts. On February 14, 2014, Mr. Gaines will present to Orange High School students his "Lyric Learning" workshop, where students critically analyze popular hip-hop lyrics and re-write them, using language which would be acceptable on an English essay.  

Musician, producer and educator Mike Griot will draw from a body of instructional work he has developed over the past several years and customize it for the Orange schools.  He'll be accompanied by other performing artists as they demonstrate varied aspects of the jazz and blues genres in classrooms at Orange High School.  The conclusion of Griot's residency will be a school assembly featuring the "Orange Blues Tornadoes," an ensemble featuring the student musicians. 

About Valley Arts

ValleyArts is the arts service and activist organization of the Valley Arts District. The highest priorities of ValleyArts are to inspire the neighborhood to recognize the arts as essential to community health and vitality; help build up and serve individual artists, arts organizations, and creative entrepreneurs; and encourage everyone to participate in arts, culture, and creativity as part of everyday life. To propel this mission, ValleyArts seeks to attract, serve, and support artists and creative organizations to work and live in the Valley Arts District. ValleyArts is closely allied with HANDS, Inc., a nonprofit organization that combines strategic real estate investment and community organizing to revitalize communities.


ValleyArts is a nonprofit organization funded in part by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Kresge Foundation, Target Foundation, Investors Savings Bank, Bass Foundation, Orange Orphan Society, Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs, Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills, and others.  



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