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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Students in Donna Clark’s advanced painting, drawing and calligraphy class at Egg Harbor Township High School are dedicated to their work. They see each project as an opportunity to push beyond their comfort zones and into a world of artistic creativity.

Now, thanks to a grant from South Jersey Energy, the students will receive a boost for their imaginations. The visual arts program at the high school is just one of 15 programs in central and southern New Jersey schools to win one of this year’s Energy for the Arts grants.

South Jersey Energy launched the program in 2011 to support the schools, said Lauren Hurtt, supervisor of Community Relations at South Jersey Industries. “The arts programs are losing funding, so we thought it would be great to launch a program to support arts within the schools,” Hurtt said.

This year, 46 schools applied for the Energy for the Arts grant. To be eligible, schools must use the money for a competitive arts program and they cannot receive the grant two years in a row. The winners are selected randomly in a lottery.

The $1,000 grant will be used to purchase art supplies for honors arts students at Egg Harbor Township High School as they work on their projects for the annual Atlantic County Teens Arts Festival. Students expressed interest in additional painting supplies such as improved palettes and canvas. The funds could even be used to frame pieces that are entered in the Teen Arts Festival.

“It will allow us to buy art supplies that wouldn’t necessarily fit in our normal operating budget, especially for the honors and advanced class,” said Clark. “It’s so helpful not only in terms of the money but for the support of the arts in school. That goes a long way.”

As students arrived for class, they quickly gathered their projects and supplies and aimed their focus on their work. They are drawing close-ups of themselves or a portion of a displayed bicycle to practice observational drawing. They have to draw from an actual object rather than a photo or other reference. “Many art schools want to see observational drawing in their portfolios,” said Clark.

Andrea Perez, 17, a senior, aspires to be an art teacher after college and hopes to create a piece in the honors arts class that gets entered in the Teen Arts Festival again this year. “I was in it last year. I didn’t win, but just having it in there was really cool,” said Perez.

Like many students in the art class, she says it is the place where she challenges herself and pushes her boundaries. “I like to try new subjects and experiment with different things to challenge myself and get better,” said Perez.

This year, Energy for the Arts grants from South Jersey Energy were awarded to Bunker Hill Middle School in Sewell for music; Clayton High School for visual arts; Commercial Township School District in Port Norris for theater; Dane Barse Elementary School in Vineland for visual arts; Dr. Albert M. Bean Elementary School in Pine Hill for visual arts; Edgarton Christian Academy in Newfield for visual arts; Egg Harbor Township High School for visual arts; Glassboro Intermediate School for music; Lower Cape May Regional High School for dance; Millville High School for music; Olivet Elementary School in Pittsgrove for visual arts; Pinelands Regional Junior High School in Little Egg Harbor for music; Quinton Township School for theater; West Deptford High School for music and Woodland Country Day School in Bridgeton for visual arts.

In previous years, the grant money has been used at Folsom Elementary School to purchase a video camera for the digital media department, and Winslow Township High School instrumental music department to purchase orchestra bells for their competitive marching band. Mainland Regional High School Drama Department used the grant to fund registration fees and travel for the students to compete in a New Jersey Drama and Forensic League event.

Energy for the Arts will be offered again in September 2017. For information, visit “About SJE” at www.southjerseyenergy.com.

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