Arts of Respect

Drew University,
Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict
contact: Jonathan Golden

Project Narrative

Arts of Respect (AOR) is an annual 2-week arts festival and competition in the visual, literary, and performing arts. Its focus is respect for humankind and to promote greater understanding of how the arts can help build more cohesive community at Drew University and beyond. AOR, established in 2009, is sponsored by Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict, which endeavors to end hatred and mere tolerance, and promote mutual respect. In 2012, 105 students from Drew’s three schools, the Newark Public Schools’ Marion A. Bolden Center, and Madison and Millburn High Schools created artwork illustrating what respect means to them, and participated in professional performances and artistic workshops. The program culminates with a celebratory event during which the finalists’ interpretations of respect are displayed, read, heard, and acted out. Monetary prizes are awarded, and each student receives a certificate of participation.

In a world plagued by prejudice, hatred, and conflict, the arts offer a means of building bridges between and among people, of calling us out of ourselves into the imagination of others. The arts invite us to look at the world through different media, and to experience truths we might not otherwise contemplate, motivating us to constructive engagement with others. Arts of Respect (AOR) originated at Drew as the brainchild of Dr. Paul Drucker, a member of Drew’s College of Liberal Arts class of 1951 and a retired physician who has a passion for advancing respect among all people. Dr. Drucker and Drew collaborated on developing the concept for AOR to encourage students and the community at large to explore conflict through the lens of art. While art is sometimes used as a medium for the expression of hatred, bias, and intolerance, Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict seeks through AOR to give students of all ages the opportunity explore their perceptions and feelings about social and cultural problems – of a personal and/or a macro nature – in a creative and positive way. AOR was expanded in 2011 to include high school students from the local Madison area and Newark. With further expansion, ultimately reaching schools and communities across the state of New Jersey, the nation, and beyond, we seek to promote the theme of mutual respect among students from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds, enhancing student well-being and creating healthier learning environments.

Project Goals

Today’s world and its mix of races and ethnicities are closer and more intertwined than ever, and the need for us not only to “get along” but to create synergies is crucial to our living in harmony versus violence and strife, and living to our fullest potential. The objectives of Arts of Respect are to: 1) place the topic of respect “on the table,” and raise awareness of the need to acknowledge, accept, and embrace differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background, to name a few, which underlie the prejudice and intolerance that result in bullying and discrimination at a vulnerable time in students’ lives; 2) give students a venue in which they can safely “put a face” on prejudice and intolerance among their peers, and be heard, as a way to promote sensitivity and dialogue; 3) help students to gain a greater sense of well-being, and thereby create a healthier learning environment in the schools where they can better concentrate on their school work and participate in the classroom, as well as socially; 4) give students the opportunity to develop leadership skills by coordinating participation in AOR in their schools, and leading a sustainability program to motivate continued dialogue about respect, and perpetuate an improved climate of tolerance and acceptance.