Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania

Michele Russo

President and CEO

“passionate, committed, collaborative”

Michele Russo is Young Audiences’ President & CEO, having joined the organization in October 2015. Michele previously served as Associate Director of The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Poetry in the Schools Program since 2011. Prior to her time at the Dodge Foundation, she served as a Senior Education Associate at Young Audiences for 10 years. Michele chaired the New Jersey Arts Education Collective from 2008-2011 and was a member of the LeadNJ class of 2014. Michele has published articles on early childhood education and the arts and has traveled nationally as a trainer of arts education programs. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey.

Overview of Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania: Arts education is who we are and what we do. Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania’s (YA) mission is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. The work of the Board of Trustees and staff is guided by a vision of a future in which all students in our region engage in high quality arts that are a basic part of their education, directly learning about art, art forms, and the processes of creating and expressing art.

Our venue is the school. Our model of delivery brings arts experiences by professional teaching artists directly to students. By doing so, we eliminate barriers to participation and make the arts accessible to students of every socioeconomic background, geographic area, and ability. We deliver this programming in formats designed to complement the workings of a school. Formats include workshops, residencies, performances, and teacher professional development. All programming is designed to meet school-defined needs. Our programs are consistent with New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in the Arts, National Core Arts Standards, and 21st Century Skills.

What makes YA unique and necessary? Children are at the center of our work. YA teaching artists focus on an outcome driven approach, with emphasis on the skills and knowledge children should acquire, understand, and apply to their lives and learning. At the center of this model are the four core elements that are the hallmark of all YA programming:

1. EXPERIENCE extraordinary art and artists, 2. UNDERSTAND the value of art and creativity in the world, 3. CREATE art that engages the imagination and expresses ideas, and 4. CONNECT the creative process to learning and life.

The quality of our teaching artists and their ability to educate children is our top priority. YA engages professional teaching artists and provides them with the opportunity to work with students, teachers, and parents.

Services provided by YA: 

WORKSHOPS AND RESIDENCIES transform a classroom into an artist studio and provide hands-on sequential art learning activities. Students and teachers are guided by professional artists to actively engage in art-making experiences for one to 20 days.

PERFORMANCES are valued by YA as a vital component of arts education. Our performances introduce the arts and provide new and diverse cultural experiences to our audience of students and teachers. While our stage is a school auditorium, the work is no less important or impactful than an event at a performing arts venue. YA strives to ensure that children value live performance as an essential part of a full life, cultivating the next generation of performing arts supporters.

TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (PD) seminars empower and encourage classroom teachers to integrate the arts across the curriculum.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY EVENTS extend arts education to parents and families.


Arts Ed Newark is made possible by the generous support of: Turrell Fund, The Prudential Foundation, The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey, The Victoria Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts



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