Molly Gaston Johnson

Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA – Arts Education Award

In April 2020, Molly Gaston Johnson created, “Exquisitely Connected,” an east-coast/west-coast partnership between Maryhill Museum of Art and Monmouth Arts in response to Covid-19. This digital mural project allows people from anywhere to submit a visual art piece that expresses their ideas on this particular moment in time and connects their work to others, forging larger and larger community understandings.

Molly is a mother, Young Audiences credentialed teaching artist, college professor, and studio artist specializing in printmaking (which requires planning, patience, and small steps to achieve end goals). This informs her work with all ages. She is a proud part of the Young Audiences New Jersey/Eastern Pennsylvania family, where her art residencies blend discovery in hands on making with reading, social studies, math, social and emotional learning, and community-mindedness. Molly participated in a 2019 Maryhill Museum of Art project, Exquisite Gorge, which selected 11 artists from across the country to create community-based work inspired by the Columbia River Gorge, was honored by Young Audiences peers as 2019 Teaching Artist of the Year, received a 2012 New Jersey Governor’s Award, and was the only individual artist awarded a Dodge grant to develop New Jersey-based public art in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. She received a full fellowship and an MFA from the Ohio State University, a BFA from James Madison University in printmaking and a BA in Art History, and a certificate from Columbia Teachers College Teaching Artist program.


Personal Quote:

Receiving this award, and being nominated for it by what I consider to be my family at Young Audiences New Jersey/Eastern Pennsylvania, is a signal that I am doing the right thing and that good people believe in me. Recognition at this level is a great honor that keeps me forging on. I have chosen a path that leads me to use my visual art skills for more than simply showing people what I see. My work as a teaching artist allows me to help others learn to see…to see and learn about their neighbor and also about themselves. The most beautiful part is that the teaching artist work I do through Young Audiences comes back to me as I get inspired to make more of my own art, which then feeds back in to the teaching artistry in an ever upward and expanding spiral.

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.

16 Mount Bethel Road Suite 202, Warren, NJ 07059
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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.