Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mother Runs Program For the Arts

The unedited version is below, but if you want to read the article on the site it was posted on, click below.

With No Child Left Behind and state mandates saying that students must focus solely on math and English to pass the state tests, it’s the arts that sometimes get left behind these days. That’s where Jane Shatz comes in, a mother of three, and program director of the non-profits organization, the Morris County Arts Workshop, which she’s been in charge of since 2003.

“What the arts do is bring people together,” Mrs. Shatz says, “It’s a human understanding.”

Mrs. Shatz, who was formerly a New York ballet dancer, says she started the program mostly to make it easier for her to keep her three daughters in the arts without having to drive them back and forth to the city.

“I started the program for selfish reasons,” Mrs. Shatz says, jokingly, “Chester was really a cultural desert.”

Mrs. Shatz saw the potential though to change this “cultural desert” into a fertile spring, and enlisted other talented people she knew in the area to become teachers for her program, she now has 35.

“This community is very supportive of the arts,” Mrs. Shatz says regarding how many people around the area got on board and began to teach their specialties to the children, “I’m amazed by the response.”

Operating out of many locations in the Chester area, including the Dickerson Elementary School, the Bragg School, and the Black River Middle School, Mrs. Shatz says that the MCAW is open to all children and teens after school, even those outside of the area.

“We’re open to Morris County and beyond,” Mrs. Shatz says, who wants to make sure that the arts are available to all who desire to learn them, “We have scholarships [because] we don’t want financial reasons to be the reason people don’t come to us.”

Some of the programs that the little over 300 students learn are theater, drawing and painting, and even philosophy for 8-12 year olds, just to name a few of the classes that are now available.

“[We live in an environment] where we have all the technology you can ask for,” Mrs. Shatz says, “but I don’t think there’s anything that can replace making music together, or drawing together, or even knitting together.”

Art isn’t just for the children though, as senior citizens also get the opportunity to get their hands dirty and their feet moving, as the MCAW holds free seminars for them in the Presbyterian Church and the Wings Conservatory, too.

“We’d love to have our own building,” Mrs. Shatz says, wistfully, “Someday we will. Someday.”

If there’s one thing Mrs. Shatz wants people to know about the MCAW and art in general though, it’s that art shouldn’t be considered an elitist concept, but rather, something that should be open and available to everybody in the public.

“The arts should not just be for the rich or the affluent,” Mrs. Shatz says, “If you go to Italy, even a taxi driver can sing you an aria, [and that’s because] the arts need to be shared by everyone. There should not be a division.”

Showcases of the kids’ work will be up Tuesday, January 20th and Wednesday, January 21st. To find out more about the showcasing and about the group in general, check their website at

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