Reopen Innovative Art Education Facility


Target: Newark Arts Council (NAC)

Goal: Encourage the NAC to reopen the Newark Museum’s Arts Workshop Department

For more than 80 years, the Newark Museum, New Jersey’s largest museum, was home to the Arts Workshop Department, a program that provided innovative educational workshops for adults and senior citizens.

Started in 1933 during the Great Depression, the museum provided services and programs for unemployed citizens, and helped them to be productive and creative. Founder John Cotton Dana felt it was important for the Newark Museum to be a place where people learned how to do things like the masters, rather than just look at works of art from them. Classes such as sketching, modeling, and stamp collecting were offered until 1937, when the workshops took a more ‘traditional’ approach and began offering classes in oil painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Weaving was added in 1944, and by 1945 memberships for the Newark Museum rose to more than 809 people engaged in 11 different kinds of workshop activities.

Since 1933, the Newark Museum has been revolutionizing the field of ‘adult art education,’ and up until the 70’s, they were the only place in New Jersey offering these types of programs. Thanks to the example of the Newark Museum’s Arts Workshop Program, many other museums began following suit, highlighting the importance of art in the realm of education.

Sharp budget cuts and funding shrinkage are to blame for the museum’s recent layoffs, and the shut-down of the once vibrant and iconic program. The Arts Workshop Department was once a place where artists could interact with the public, share their expertise, skill and ideas, and influence others to hone in on their creative strengths. By signing this petition, you’ll tell the Newark Arts Council that the Arts Workshop Department deserves to be funded and re-opened, and support founder John Cotton Dana’s dedication to education.


Dear Newark Arts Council,

Due to cuts in the Newark Museum’s budget, the museum has lost one of its most important facilities, the Arts Workshop Department. The first of its kind, this program was a haven for artists to congregate, share ideas, hone their skills and, most importantly, make art. Without the Arts Workshop Department, the public has been cheated out of a prime educational facility. It is a shame that Newark, the epicenter of the arts in New Jersey, was not able to uphold its promise to promote arts education, especially for adults and senior citizens.

The lives of those who lost their jobs due to the shut-down have forever been changed, as the Arts Workshop Department was more than just an establishment or source of employment, but a family of like-minded individuals with a passion for the arts and an even larger ardor for education.

I urge you to reconsider your decisions and think about reopening the Arts Workshop Department so that the Newark Museum can continue to be the premiere place for arts education. Founder John Cotton Dana would be proud to know that his educational legacy was being preserved by the continued funding of the Arts Workshop Department, and its successful comeback lies in the hands of your amazing committee.

Please take time to reevaluate the importance of this program.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: George Hook via Flickr

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80 Signatures

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