By: Richard L. Smith
Arts Ed Newark (AEN) will present its newly published 5-year report, which reflects on five years of successful collaboration, aligning arts education and trauma-informed care and healing-centered practices in partnership with The Greater Newark Health Care Coalition (GNHCC).
Officials said My Brother's Keeper Newark (MBKN) and other community-based health and safety, education, and arts organizations.
The document chronicles the years of community convening, curating, researching, developing, and sharing best practices, which involved significant Newark stakeholders such as Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition, Newark Trust for Education, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Services, and ultimately garnered over $350,000 in investment from funders like the National Endowment for the Arts as well as broader attention from arts organizations across the country like Young Audiences, New Jersey Performing Arts Center Arts Education Department, Save the Music Foundation, El Sistema USA, The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning, and Grantmakers for Education.
AEN developed an inspiring workshop series and peer learning community, amassing a team of teaching artists and social workers to work with youth-serving professionals to understand trauma, incorporate arts-based strategies that reduce the impacts of trauma, and promote healing-centered engagement for students, education, and healthcare colleagues, and workers in cultural institutions and community-based organizations.
To date, AEN officials said the three-part workshop series, offered free of charge, has served nearly 400 educators, community members, and parents, 156 Newark Board of Education (NBOE) educators- responding directly to Mayor Baraka's 2016 all for a more trauma-informed city.
Additionally, a Peer Learning Community has been established since 2021, allowing 72 trained participants to implement their learning and dig deeper into the subject matter.
The program has been presented in-person, virtually, and at site-specific schools (Lincoln Elementary, located in Newark's West Ward, where nearly 70 school staff members have ongoing workshops).
Compiled by Sonnet Takahisa through first-hand interviews of original committee members, thought partners, facilitators, and participants, AEN officials say the report is a testament to the power of collective impact and what coming together under one unified goal can achieve.
It also shares how the trauma-informed and healing-centered program evolved over the pandemic and its growing impact.
"We could not have anticipated how an international pandemic might have both interrupted and also tested this work in real-time," said Lauren Meehan, Director of Arts Ed Newark, as she reflected on the timing of the course's initial 2020 rollout.
"Since then, an overwhelming majority of participants have come away with actual tools to mitigate and understand the impact of trauma."
"When we embarked on this work in 2017, we hoped to shift thinking from "what is wrong with you? to "what happened to you?" We are now shifting our language and working toward the more asset-based lens of healing-centered engagement, asking participants to go further and ask, "What is right with you"?
To help celebrate the report's publishing, AEN is hosting a Launch Party on March 30, 4-6 pm at the NJ Historical Society, 52 Park Place, to feature a panel of past/present facilitators and participants, followed by refreshments with the initiatives' funders, partners, city, and NBOE district officials invited. RSVP is required here.