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Cumberland, CMCo Teen Arts Festival Goes Virtual After 2020 Cancelation

Ocean City High School Art Teacher Paul Matusz participates in a virtual workshop.

By Press Release

COURT HOUSE – The first-ever, fully encompassing Teen Arts Festival was virtually held with great success April 21.  

According to a release, the Cape May County Division of Culture and Heritage partnered, once again, with Cumberland County for the Third Annual 2021 Teen Arts Festival. With over 1,000 participants attending their annual live festival and hopes of enticing more students and teachers, the Teen Arts Festival Committee agreed to move forward with a virtual festival for 2021, after canceling the 2020 festival altogether.  

“We did not want the students to miss out on the opportunity of experiencing a Teen Arts Festival. This event is such a unique compilation of the arts, and if that meant we had to make the festival virtual, that’s what we were going to do,” said Katie Kiessling, festival coordinator.  

The festival, hosted by the Levoy Theatre, in Millville, is traditionally a one-day event that occurs on and within businesses along High Street. The festival boasts in-person workshops, performances, pop-up entertainment, and a chance for students to come together with their peers and enjoy the arts. They feature many innovative components all designed to enhance the ability and careers of Cumberland and Cape May counties’ young artists and to promote the importance of arts education in our schools.  

“It is so important that we do our best to support our students in every aspect of education, especially after this past year, when classroom instruction was impacted by Covid,” stated Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton. “The Teen Arts Festival allows our emerging artists to showcase their talents, learn new skills, be creative, and engage with their peers from the other schools. This is an experience they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  

“They all did an outstanding job, and I am always amazed at the talent of the students in every discipline. I congratulate the students and commend the teachers, volunteers and parents for an exceptional Teen Arts Festival. Joining with Cumberland County is a great partnership that has made the event bigger and better.”  

In going virtual, the Committee did not want to compromise and leave out anything the traditional festival would have.  

“This was a go-big-or-go-home situation for us. After a rough 2020 and no festival to show for it, we wanted our students to have something to look forward to,” stated Kiessling.  

The festival hosted virtual workshops and a “pop-up” education library, covering a range of arts-based categories scheduled throughout the day, with around 500 students and teachers participating. All Cumberland and Cape May County students registered for festival adjudication were eligible to participate in these workshops. Adjudication was also held virtually and prior to the day’s events.  

The classes help students develop perceptual, intellectual and technical skills, gain cultural awareness and understanding of various art forms, and develop personal aesthetic values. 

“My students loved all the dance classes they took. As experienced dancers, they have been to a lot of dance workshops and conventions. The choreographers kept their interest, were appropriately challenging and fun, and the pace of the day was great. They had enough rest between classes and were eager to start the next class. Overall, they learned a lot, and it was a successful and fun day,” stated Alyssa Morrison, OCHS Dance, Health, Psychical Education teacher.  

The Cumberland and Cape May County Teen Arts Festival is not a competition.  

Performances were not compared or ranked in any way. Instead, the focus is on sharing achievements and learning. All student work at the festival was publicly critiqued by professional artist adjudicators prior to the day’s events.  

Student artworks, traditionally displayed in classrooms, were housed on their own website, making it easier to share their pieces with festival participants.  

“I think in going virtual, we learned a few things that can certainly be used to make our in-person event run smoother,” Kiessling stated. “We never had a closing ceremony to announce state nominees because students had to get back for dismissal, but we could virtually.”  

Selected student pieces will advance to the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival. The state festival will represent the very best of Cumberland and Cape May County teen artists.  

The Festival Committee was awarded funding from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to help offset costs, after the 2020 festivals were canceled due to the pandemic.  

Awarded funds will be granted to students to use for registration at the 2021 New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival. Registration fees are usually accrued by the students or schools.  

Cape May County students participated in two adjudicated categories at this year’s festival – Dance and Visual Arts (2D/3D). Students from the county have advanced under both categories of submission.  

A list of students and schools eligible to advance to the state festival is listed below. To view student artwork, visit https://sites.google.com/levoy.net/2021-teen-arts-student-gallery/home 

The Teen Arts Festival is made possible by Cape May and Cumberland counties’ commissioner boards, Cape May and Cumberland counties’ Division of Culture and Heritage, The Levoy Theatre, and the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. 

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