THE ART CENTER’s community engagement programs reflect our commitment to making art accessible to all audiences. These programs deliver engaging educational visual arts experiences to under-served, economically disadvantaged, marginalized audiences, or communities with barriers. We serve the immediate community of Summit, the surrounding Hudson, Union, Essex, Sussex, and Somerset counties, and we recently launched new initiatives that reach communities statewide.

Museum Education Programs

Elizabeth Public School Arts Alive Initiative
Created in partnership with Elizabeth Public Schools, the Arts Alive Initiative brings students to the Art Center for an in-depth sequential learning arts education program that expands their knowledge and understanding of contemporary art. One of our flagship programs, the Arts Alive Initiative has brought 300 students per year from Jefferson Arts Academy to the Art Center to create art projects that apply ideas and themes from the Art Center’s exhibitions. This initiative supports the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Visual Arts.

CALTA21 & English Language Learners
In 2018 the art center trained 35 educators in our state with the CALTA21 technique of facilitation. The aim of the program is to create a dynamic environment where museums provide authentic, meaningful, and engaging experiences to immigrant communities and where learning, enjoyment, and civic engagement support the development of the individual’s voice. The mission is to serve as a national model and catalyst for the self-empowerment of immigrant English language learners and their families through the development of collaborations amongst museums, institutions of formal education, and literacy organizations. The program supports systemic change that transforms museums into powerful learning spaces for immigrants and their families and is a vehicle to strengthen the immigrant’s voice by encouraging the development of their academic, social, cultural, and civic capital. We trained educators to work with English language students in Elizabeth, NJ, and we continue to work with those teachers and students, opening up the museum to them as their classroom whenever possible. We have continued to receive funding for this program yearly since 2018 through generous grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and work closely with Patricia Lannes, founder of CALTA21.

After-School In-Community Programs

The Art Center sends our teaching artists out to lead various after-school programs for ages K–12.

SEEDS: Access Changes Everything
This program serves high-achieving, low-income 5th and 6th graders in Newark’s Young Scholars program with lessons in studio art and a strong focus on art history. It begins each year in January and runs through May. Our teaching artists develop the syllabus for the program with topics tying into art history and contemporary artists.

PEP Program
The PEP Program is a college access program that offers academic, social-emotional, and financial support for select, motivated, Summit, NJ, public school students from grades 7–12. Programming occurs during after-school hours and during the summer. The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey provides a multi-session exhibition-based visual arts program to PEP students during the fall and spring semesters.

Empowering Kids Organization
The mission of Empowering Kids Organization is to create strategies and programs to empower underprivileged kids to thrive throughout their educational journey, by connecting them and their families with opportunities and resources. Since 2019 VACNJ has partnered with EKO and worked with elementary, middle school, and high school students to pilot several programs aimed at art viewing and making exposure to the students. Those who are interested have access to scholarships to then continue exploring the arts.

Arts & Healing

THE ART CENTER runs several arts and healing in-community programs. Our partners include:

  • New Jersey Veterans Affairs—a year-round program offering creative arts therapy for veterans in nursing homes that are suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and to formerly unhoused veterans now living in transitional housing.
  • SAGE Eldercare in Summit—a year-round program using creative arts therapy for adult day program clients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • Neighborcorps Reentry in Middlesex County Department of Corrections—we provide arts and healing programs to incarcerated and reentering citizen populations.
  • ECLC Pride Program—VACNJ partners with Early Childhood Learning Center in a program with adults with special needs, giving the participants the opportunity to come to the art center for hands-on art-making. ECLC believes learning is enhanced by providing participants with a rich background of experiences and situations which enables them to express themselves and develop skills.

If you have any questions please contact Sarah Walko, Director of Education and Community Engagement at 908.273.9121, ext. 213 or

kids making pottery
student painting