Blog: Interview with JoAnn Onnembo, President of AENJ to discuss YAM, stories and advocacy.

March is Youth Art Month (YAM), a time, according to the National Art Education Association, “to celebrate visual arts for grades K – 12, emphasize the value of art education for all children, and encourage support for quality school art programs.”
In New Jersey the YAM theme for 2016 is My Art, My Story. The YAM exhibit will be at the State House in Trenton from March 4th to the 11th.
Recently, the NJ Arts Education Partnership sat down with JoAnn Onnembo, President of Art Educators of NJ to discuss YAM, stories and advocacy.
NJAEP: What is happening for YAM?
JO: There are a huge number of activities and events happening in NJ. Art teachers throughout the state submitted designs in five categories using the theme My Art, My Story. The categories are – button, invitation, poster, billboard and flag. The winning billboard will appear in two places – Hackensack and Trenton. The winning poster will go to all schools in NJ and the flag will fly at the National Conference in Chicago.
NJAEP: Why the story theme?
JO: People respond to stories. It is so important that we get the stories out about the importance of the arts in our student’s lives. This theme will continue at our conference in October.
NJAEP: The idea of using stories is a key component of our public awareness campaign ARTS ED NOW.
JO: I know and I have been working to include the ARTS ED NOW logo on all of our information. It was included on all of the YAM materials. When the billboards appear they will have the ARTS ED NOW logo. We are also using it on all of the conference materials.
NJAEP: The campaign does not officially launch until September. Are people asking about the logo and what it means?
JO: I keep putting the image out and people are asking about it so when it does launch they will say “oh that is what that is about.” Where ever there are parents and teachers – I am talking about the campaign. I want them to know that there is advocacy going on – AENJ is the support system but NJAEP is doing all of the work.
NJAEP: Other than some curious faces, what feedback are you getting?
JO: People are curious. They are anxious to see what it is all about and want to learn more. I point them to the artsednow facebook page and tell them to check out
NJAEP: Why do your think the ARTS EDNOW campaign is important?
JO: It will build awareness. It will tell stories – real stories of what the arts do for our lives. People will truly buy into the value and importance of art. If the message is clear and powerful – people will use it and get behind it. For teachers, I want them to get the support that they need and clout that they deserve.
NJAEP: How can other arts associations adopt ARTS ED NOW?
JO: They can put the information out to their members and encourage them to share it. Work to build excitement and curiosity. Let them know that there are many ways to get involved and that tools are available for becoming an advocate for the arts and arts education.
NJAEP: JoAnn, thank you for being such an amazing teacher and voice for arts education. Much success with Youth Art Month.
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