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Featured Mini-Grantee | Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC)

2024-06-27T19:21:14-04:00June 27th, 2024|

Improving Health Through the Arts

Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) offers culturally rich programming for Jersey City’s diverse population. The JCTC Arts for Wellness program is a community-based initiative to engage the elderly, veterans, and individuals with disabilities in arts activities.  The program promotes physical, mental, and social well-being while fostering creativity, self-expression, and cultural engagement.  And JCTC provides a safe and inclusive space for participants to explore various performing art forms and encourage them to participate in arts activities locally.


HealthierJC + the Jersey City Theater Center

The Jersey City Theater Center believes that a Culture of Health means embracing a broad range of arts from diverse cultures that enhance the emotional and physical health of all Jersey City residents.  Research findings from the Americans for the Arts show that health improves when people participate in the arts and share how they feel with their communities.  And while the benefits of communal art activities are clear, veterans, elderly individuals, and people with disabilities often face significant barriers that hinder their engagement.

 JCTC understands that breaking these barriers is crucial for developing strategies to promote inclusion and enhance their quality of life and well-being.  This aligns with the mission of HealthierJC to “proactively reduce health disparities and improve health equity” by providing equal access to arts programming and arts education. And when people from diverse backgrounds come together to experience various art forms, learn about each other’s cultures, and collectively participate in the creative process, deep connections are formed between individuals and within communities. 


How was the Mini-Grant Used
?

The HealthierJC mini-grant allowed the center to staff and run programs from June to September 2023, during the summer months when they usually do not offer them. Highlights of mini-grant usage include:

  • A reading of “Smoke” by Nurse Practitioner Zelda Patterson, which sparked a dialog about mental health with audience members who shared their experiences.
  • The Summer Youth Theatre Camp for Refugee Children organized by the Church World Service was conducted at JCTC, which enabled these children to experience the arts, discover their creative potential, make friends, and build communication and coping skills.
  • A book signing was held at a Greenville library, for Jersey City native son, Kevin Powell, who shared how his experiences growing up in Jersey City made him resilient in a book titled “The Kevin Powell Reader”. Copies of the book were also purchased and distributed at the event.
  • A series of free educational dance and theatre workshops were sponsored by JCTC for adults and children at Jersey City public libraries and the 100 Kids building. It also offered a program on the philosophy of African expression and the intricacies of African dance and drumming with the Kofago Dance Ensemble.
  • In collaboration with Hudson Pride Center, a viewing of a documentary about the history of the Pride Center and the Jersey City LGBTQ+ community was held at JCTC Studios.
  • Working with Jersey City senior homes, JCTC offered seniors free tickets to stages readings and Global Music Series performances.

Other programs included Sibling Rivalries: An exploration of the African American experience at institutions of higher learning, an Immigrant Artist Summit, the 100 Kids Express Yourself Theatre Workshop, and a Minority Mental Health Month Reading/Workshop. 

JCTC estimates that 786 people, including 122 children, participated in 2023 programs funded by the HealthierJC mini-grant, representing minorities, women, veterans, seniors, individuals with disabilities, low-income residents, and refugees form all six wards.

 

Making a Difference …

“The seeds of health start when we feel someone cares about us. Life is art, and when it is not, it is disease.”
—Olga Levina, Cofounder and Executive Producer, Jersey City Theater Center

Levina said that the mission of the center, which is to bring diverse communities together locally and globally, accords with HeathierJC’s focus on health and wellness.

After witnessing a concert from Indonesia, a senior came up to the Executive Producer and said: “Thank you for enriching my life. I feel like I just took a trip to Indonesia and learn so much about these kind people”.

“Relationships and communities directly affect our health,” she said. “We are tribal, and we need each other.”

Serving Jersey City’s youth is a key spoke in the Jersey City Theater Center’s wheel. “Children don’t need police on the streets,” Levina said. “Kids are talented in art, and that’s where the magic happens.” 

For more information, visit Jersey City Theatre Center (JCTC).