On Saturday, November 2, 2019, the Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter (CJA) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. held an Arts Festival for Youth at Franklin Middle School located in Somerset, New Jersey. Hosted by the chapter’s Arts & Letters Committee, the festival provided a unique opportunity for 25 artistic students to be inspired by six local visual and performing artists. The artists included: Cliff Ward and Autin Wright, resident sculptors at Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ) who brought examples of their work for students to experience and reviewed sketch drawings from aspiring illustrators/architects; actor JD Williams, actor/producer/host Steve Strickland, and recording artist April Harris-Holmes who candidly shared their personal stories and journeys to success in the entertainment business; and dance educator Susan Pope Gaddy who shared how dance transformed her from a shy little girl to a confident dance expressionist, a sentiment that was shared by a promising student.
The open discussion session was moderated by CJA Member Kristine Smith and owner of Inspira Performing Arts & Cultural Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Smith contributed her own stories of a passion for dance and operating a dance studio. The students demonstrated their engagement by asking their own questions and sharing their own artistic journeys. The youth received invaluable practical strategies, suggestions, and motivation from the professional artists. These young attendees were encouraged and coached on promoting their work, building resiliency, and understanding divine purpose and that power of enjoying the passions they pursue. The participating parents and young artists enjoyed the opportunity to network with each other and exchange ideas on nurturing talent. At the conclusion of the session, the guest artists were thanked by the Arts & Letters Committee and gifted a “Precious Moments” print commissioned by local artist Alonzo Adams, furthering noting CJA’s support of the arts and local artists.