ArtsConnection: Empowering NYC Youth Through Arts Education

On June 5th, ArtsConnection hosted their 2024 Benefit, the “Art is the Heart of Life Festival,” at the IAC Building in Chelsea, New York City. The event, attended by nearly 200 guests, was hosted by WABC Anchor and “Here & Now” host Sandra Bookman. The benefit successfully raised nearly $1 million to support the organization’s mission of providing arts education to NYC public school students through in-school, afterschool, and community programs.


The IAC Building was transformed into a vibrant homage to New York City, featuring a live Statue of Liberty model, a graffiti wall, dance performances by NY Chinese Cultural Dancers, live portrait sessions, and food stations representing cuisine from each borough. The event’s design was crafted by celebrated event designer and ArtsConnection Board Member, David Monn.

The evening’s honors and presentations included:

  • ArtsConnection 2024 Janklow Award: Tiffany Barrett, Teaching Artist, and Pascale Pradel, Principal P.S. 38K, presented by Linda LeRoy Janklow, Founding Board Member.
  • Arts Innovator Award: Peter Cincotti, Jazz Pianist & Singer-Songwriter, presented by Debra Harounian Peltz, Board President.
  • Arts Innovator Award: Basil Twist, Puppeteer, and MacArthur Fellow, presented by Rachel Watts, Executive Director.
  • Special Honor: Sony Corporation of America, accepted by Braxton Midyette on behalf of Sony Corporation of America, presented by Debra Harounian Peltz.

Each honoree, along with host Sandra Bookman, received original artwork created by an ArtsConnection student, highlighting the event’s celebration of creativity and education.

For 45 years, ArtsConnection has been a pivotal force in arts education within New York City public schools. Rachel Watts, Executive Director of ArtsConnection, shared how the organization has evolved from merely bringing artists into schools for performances and workshops to establishing long-term, integrated arts curricula tailored to individual schools. This evolution has seen the expansion of programs to include career exploration opportunities in the creative industries for teens, as well as professional development workshops for educators.

Fundraising Success, ArtsConnection

This year’s fundraising event was a resounding success, raising nearly $1 million. Watts attributed this achievement to the dedication and involvement of board members. From event planning by board member David Monn to securing auction items and liquor donations, the collective efforts of the board were instrumental in reaching this milestone.

Arts in Education, ArtsConnection

The impact of ArtsConnection’s programs on students is profound. According to Watts, participating students demonstrate critical thinking, independence, creativity, and perseverance. They also develop valuable teamwork skills through ensemble experiences in dance, theater, and music. These skills are not only beneficial for their education but also essential for their growth into adulthood.

Community Collaboration

ArtsConnection collaborates with cultural institutions and community venues across the five boroughs to support their programs. In particular, their teen programs introduce high school students to cultural institutions, exposing them to various career opportunities within the creative industries. This exposure helps students envision and build pathways to these careers, underscoring the importance of NYC’s rich cultural landscape.

Future Goals for ArtsConnection

With the success of the recent benefit, ArtsConnection aims to expand its ArtsConnection@Work program. This initiative brings artists to workplaces for team-building activities, providing more work opportunities for artists and generating revenue to support programs for young people. Watts encourages interested parties to reach out and participate in this program.

Host Experience

The event’s reach and impact were significantly amplified by having Sandra Bookman as the host. Her involvement, both during the event and through her show “Here and Now,” increased the visibility of ArtsConnection’s mission and efforts.

Cultural Impact

ArtsConnection has reached 3 million students, and Watts highlighted the long-term impact observed in program participants. The organization continually sees young people benefiting from the arts, which helps shape their future aspirations and personal growth.


One of the major challenges ArtsConnection faces today is financial, due to cuts in public funding. To address this, the organization is exploring ways to reduce reliance on public funds, including the expansion of the ArtsConnection@Work program.

Personal Stories

Watts shared that the impact of ArtsConnection’s work is often seen in how teachers’ perspectives on their students change. By participating in arts workshops, students can showcase skills that might not be apparent in traditional academic settings, thereby increasing their chances of success in school.

Looking Ahead for ArtsConnection

Watts envisions a future where arts are integral to every child’s education in public schools. Despite the challenge of inadequate funding and the lack of arts teachers in many schools, she emphasizes the essential role of organizations like ArtsConnection. Watts believes that every child, regardless of the type of school they attend, deserves the opportunity to experience the benefits of arts education.

ArtsConnection continues to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for NYC students, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and a passion for the arts that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Here’s a link index for ArtsConnection, a nonprofit organization focused on arts education in NYC:

  1. ArtsConnection Official Website: Visit ArtsConnection
  2. ArtsConnection for Educators: Teach with ArtsConnection
  3. Facebook Page: ArtsConnection on Facebook
  4. Instagram Profile: ArtsConnection on Instagram
  5. LinkedIn Profile: ArtsConnection on LinkedIn
  6. ArtsConnection on Governors Island: ArtsConnection Programs on Governors Island
David Christopher Lee


David Christopher Lee launched his first online magazine in 2001. As a young publisher, he had access to the most incredible events and innovators of the world. In 2009, he started, one of the largest portals for all things luxury including 5 star properties, Michelin Star Restaurants and bespoke experiences. As a portrait photographer and producer, David has worked with many celebrities & major brands such as Richard Branson, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, Cadillac, Lexus, Qatar Airways, Aman Hotels, just to name a few. David’s work has been published in major magazines such as GQ, Vogue, Instyle, People, Teen, Men’s Health, Departures & many more. He creates content with powerful seo marketing strategies.

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