$10M gift to NJPAC launches Colton Institute for Research and Training in the Arts, education hub and incubator

A $10 million gift to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center will lead to the creation of the nation’s first-ever research hub and incubator for arts education programs within a performing arts center.

Hip-hop students at NJPAC. (NJPAC)

Judy and Stewart Colton, of the Short Hills-based Colton Foundation, have generously gifted NJPAC, which will use the funds to create the Colton Institute for Research and Training in the Arts. The institute will be devoted to research and evaluation, curriculum development, teacher training and pre-professional workforce development for students, building on the arts center’s dedication to arts education that began more than 24 years ago.

For the Coltons, the gift is personal, as one of their grandchildren participated in NJPAC’s arts education programs, and they have witnessed firsthand how transformational that experience can be.

“As Arts Center patrons over many seasons, and volunteer leaders engaged in NJPAC’s evolving education work, we wholeheartedly believe in the vision and the objectives of the Institute,” they said.

NJPAC said it has long focused on the arts as a means of learning, empowerment and self-actualization, and the Colton Institute will allow NJPAC to ensure its programs engage students on the deepest level, and with an emphasis on research and understanding best practices, scaling them to be shared more broadly, strengthening the field of arts education.

The Colton Institute will also increase the arts center’s education offerings and advance its services for students — many of whom come from economically disadvantaged circumstances — including mentorship and field training, creating a pathway for college and career opportunities in the performing arts, whether onstage, behind the scenes, or in administrative offices.

The Colton Institute’s work will also allow NJPAC to:

  • Expand its most effective arts education and teacher-training programs to reach more students;
  • Develop a more comprehensive arts training experience for teachers and professionals;
  • Identify research agendas and, working in tandem with a team of professional researchers, study and consistently analyze the impact of the arts center’s arts education work;
  • Continue to develop NJPAC’s rigorous training for its arts education faculty, enabling the arts center to ensure consistent knowledge and pedagogical practices for all its teaching artists;
  • Develop and disseminate learnings and tested curricula to other performing arts centers, educators and the field at-large on a national level.

“The arts are inherently linked to 21st-century skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving, critical thinking and global and cultural awareness,” said John Schreiber, NJPAC’s CEO and president. “The Colton Institute will allow NJPAC to expand and enhance programs that advance those skills and help our students use them to take the next steps on their journeys. I’m incredibly grateful to the Coltons for their acknowledgement and generous support of this mission.”