My name is Julia Weingaertner – I’m the Programs and Marketing Assistant at Arts Ed NJ, and I work closely on the NJ Governor’s Awards in Arts Education (NJGAAE). This month I’m proud to be celebrating one year with Arts Ed NJ.

One whole year! It has been a thrill and a privilege to reconnect with the Governor’s Awards community – to learn from program director Priscilla Hopkins-Smith, engage with our phenomenal planning council organizations, and most of all, to connect with people who love the arts like I do and know what a difference arts education makes. 

The New Jersey Governor’s Awards are the only Governor’s Arts Awards program in the nation to place arts education at the forefront by celebrating students. My Governor’s Awards journey started in 2015 when I was the NJ Speech and Debate League State Champion in Prose Reading and continued in 2016 when I was lucky enough to win again in Oral Interpretation of Literature. For those who may not be familiar with the ins and outs of competitive high school speech, these categories involve creating dramatic performances from published literature. Because I have a personal connection with the Governor’s Awards, being able to support the program feels even sweeter. Getting to be a part of students’ joy at their moment of recognition is so special because I’ve felt it myself. I know firsthand how hard they worked to get there. To me, it’s that joy and that recognition that makes the Governor’s Awards so special.

That’s little me on the left with my teammates, Roz and Madeleine!

Arts Ed New Jersey, the Governor’s Awards’ managing organization, advocates for all students throughout the state to have equal access to a quality arts education. Working with Arts Ed NJ, I have become an advocate and am so grateful for the chance to spread the #ArtsEdNow message through outreach. The Governor’s Awards and Arts Ed NJ share a mission: to raise awareness about the difference that arts education makes in students’ lives. At the Governor’s Awards, students, educators, and leaders throughout the state come together to celebrate the arts. The program is a concrete demonstration of how vital it is to protect arts programs.

Jocelyn and I attended Northern Burlington Regional High School’s fall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to speak with students and parents about #ArtsEdNow!

In 2021, the Governor’s Awards planning council put together another exciting virtual ceremony. We were thrilled to share footage from student winners and grateful to our alumni who shared their inspirational stories and congratulatory messages. Winners received award packages in the mail with exclusive Governor’s Awards merchandise, proclamations from Governor Murphy and of course, their medallions. We counted down to the awards ceremony with a virtual red carpet live stream. Hosted by our staff member Jocelyn Jeffries and past winner Tamar LaSure-Owens, it featured performances, interviews, and lots of enthusiasm! The strategies that our team learned from moving to a digital platform will stick with us as we plan for this year. 

Our one-of-a-kind design by 2021 Arts Advocacy Awardee from ArtPride NJ, Trenton-based street artist Leon Rainbow!

Today, Thursday January 20th, is our first annual NJGAAE Day of Giving. We are fundraising to livestream the event as it moves back into its venue – the Patriot’s Theatre at the War Memorial in Trenton. Our team is still figuring out the parameters of this year’s events – whether it will be hybrid or in-person. However the event takes place, we want to be prepared to livestream it so that friends, family and supporters from near and far can tune in safely. We’re also working towards the long-term goal of providing scholarships for student winners. There’s a lot that the team wants to achieve. Every bit of support– whether it be financial, through helping us plan, or by sharing your story as a past award winner– is one step towards those goals. Find out more about our Day of Giving here: !


As I reflect on the past year with Arts Ed NJ, I want to say thank you – especially to my supervisor Priscilla who has given me so many opportunities to do important work and get to know so many interesting people. It has also been fantastic to work with the ever-enthusiastic Jocelyn whose video editing skills leave me forever impressed! I have so much admiration for everyone who works at Arts Ed NJ and couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to learn about the landscape of arts education throughout the state. I’m looking forward to everything that the 2022 Governor’s Awards (and this blog!) have in store.

If you’re an alum or if you have any questions for the Governor’s Awards team – please reach out to . I’d love to chat!

Filed Under: Upcoming Events

The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of the award winners. Each year, awards are presented to approximately 20 educators and 80 students. National and statewide organizations select the students for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theatre and visual arts and the leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education. The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates, whose leadership has helped nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.

432 High Street Burlington, NJ 08016

The Governor’s Awards event is a partnership of the Arts Ed NJ, the Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by: the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Speech and Debate League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Writer's Theatre of New Jersey; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; New Jersey Thespians and Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The cooperating organizations, award sponsors and individual members of the planning council dedicate their time to make sure that excellence in the arts is rewarded, and work tirelessly throughout the year to plan this special event. The Governor's Awards in Arts Education ceremony are a major collaborative effort of the arts, education and state government.