Arts of Respect  High School Program

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.

Project Objectives

Based on the success of the program as measured by the increase in participants from 35 in 2009 to 105 in 2012, the richness and variety of the works produced, and the abundance of productive and constructive dialogue during the festival, Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict plans to: 1) expand Arts of Respect (AOR) to include additional Northern New Jersey high schools in 2013, while continuing the association with its current institutions; 2) more than double participation in AOR from 105 students in 2012 to 250 in 2013 (80 from new schools and 65 from current schools); 3) facilitate expansion of the program by promoting use of the model successfully tested in 2012 whereby each school has a student coordinator and conducts their arts competition in-house, after which the work of their finalists is submitted to the judges at Drew who determine recipients of the high school awards; 4) capitalize on the former Madison mayor’s declaration of March 2011 as “Month of Respect,” by expanding this concept to all of the AOR schools, enabling the program to raise awareness of the need for mutual respect among all students/staff with buttons and banners, for example, that promote respect during the whole month of March; 5) continue expansion of AOR throughout New Jersey, and make a replicable program model available on the Drew website after the 2013 program as a way to foster mutual respect among our neighbors across United States and the globe.

Activities Used to Accomplish the Goals of the Program

  1.  November 2012: Invite additional high schools to participate in the two-week 2013 AOR program. Current high schools have expressed a desire to participate again.
  2. November 2012: Select and invite professionals who will speak/lead workshops during 2013 program. High Schools finalize student coordinators.
  3. December 2012: Announce AOR at Drew, program director will travel to announce AOR at the seven high schools. Students sign up, receive guidelines, and begin artwork; first of three surveys distributed.
  4. January-February 2013: High school students create artwork submissions for judging in their schools – the top three entries from each school are submitted to Drew for judging in the high school competition. Students create artwork and submit March 1, 2013 for judging in college competition. Student coordinators at all institutions finalize plans for “Month of Respect” activities.
  5. March 21-April 12, 2013: AOR festival during which professional performances and artist workshops take place; students from participating schools invited to attend; artistic submissions from all schools are displayed at Drew, and posted on a dedicated AOR webpage and Moodle on Drew website.
  6. April 8-10, 2013: Finalists from high schools and Drew present their artistic representations of respect at Drew. All participants, family, and friends are invited to attend.

April 12, 2013 Winners Announced

7) April 15, 2013: Post-program surveys distributed.

8) April-June, 2013: Drew program director, art teachers and student coordinators in each school meet to assess the program, and make suggestions for the 2014 AOR prgram; final survey distributed, results analyzed, and final report prepared.