Visual Arts Center of New Jersey Receives Transformational Grant from The Nicholson Foundation

The Nicholson Foundation LogoSummit, NJ (May 10, 2023)—The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (VACNJ) is pleased to announce that it has received a grant award from The Nicholson Foundation in honor of the Art Center’s 90th Anniversary. The transformational $1 million gift will have a lasting impact in funding VACNJ’s Arts & Healing initiatives by providing $100,000 a year to programs assisting two vulnerable populations: formerly houseless veterans and houseless or housing-insecure families and incarcerated individuals being held in the Middlesex County Corrections system and those re-entering their communities.

“The belief in the transformative power of art is at the core of all we do at the Art Center,” says Melanie Cohn, VACNJ Executive Director. “That power extends beyond our walls and into the community where it can affect some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. With this generous grant award from The Nicholson Foundation, we can expand our Arts & Healing programs and make a positive impact on those who need it the most. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to advance our efforts in promoting healing and hope through the arts.”

Funds from the grant will fund a series of programs. A portion of the grant will fund an expansion of the New Jersey Veterans Affairs Arts & Healing Program which was originally founded in 2020 through a previous grant from The Nicholson Foundation. The 90-minute art therapy program will run twice a week for 46 weeks each year at Veteran’s Haven North and Veteran’s Haven South, institutions that provide support services for veterans including recovery groups, transitional housing, and job and housing placement. The art therapy programs funded by this grant assist in the recovery process for veterans who face challenges such as addiction, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, the Art Center is restarting a program with GRACE (Giving and Receiving Assistance for our Community’s Essentials) to reach families that are houseless or housing insecure by offering them art therapy programming once a month. The purpose of art therapy with this population is to help families deal with the stress that comes with housing vulnerability and give families art tools and strategies for managing stress that they can take and use beyond the program.

A second portion of the grant is funding art and art therapy programs for incarcerated individuals and formerly incarcerated individuals re-entering their communities. This program was originally piloted by VACNJ in 2019 with Middlesex County Corrections and Neighborcorps Reentry Program and offers 46 weekly art sessions with an art teacher and art therapist. The art program within the corrections setting allows incarcerated individuals a place to have an improved mental outlook and a pathway to reconnecting with society. In addition, the Art Center will work with Neighborcorps Reentry Program to continue serving these individuals as they re-enter their communities with three, one-hour-long sessions of art therapy each week. Studies have shown that these types of art therapy programs can increase self-esteem and help develop basic communication and other essential skills.