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Arts Education - ArtsEd Forever!
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ArtsEd Forever apple motif.ArtsEd Forever!

By Lisa Turano Wojcik

Pablo Picasso once said, "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."

According to many talented and dedicated people, there is no better way to give away one's gifts and talents than to the minds of children and youth - for they are the future of our community. It's proven that through education in the arts, students and at-risk youth can improve their self-esteem and academic skills while starting down the path to becoming the self-disciplined, well-rounded adults of tomorrow.

Ramblewood Middle School Marching Band, directed by John Nista, 2014 Arts Teacher of the Year, Music

ArtsEd Forever! honors outstanding contributors to the realm of arts education in Broward County - the celebrated teachers, legislators, dedicated individuals and local businesses and community organizations who have made a lasting impact on the arts.

The Broward Cultural Division and its partner, Business for the Arts of Broward, held their 29th annual awards program at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts last November.


Formerly known as the Arts Teachers of the Year Program, ArtsEd Forever! was expanded to recognize others who enrich our community through their outstanding dedication and achievements in arts education. Honor of Excellence awards are presented in five categories for teachers of visual arts, music, theater and dance and for teaching artists. Legislator Recognition is for government officials who promote and are involved with the local arts community.

The Exceptional Arts Education Organization award is for local arts education organizations, while Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education awards recognize local individuals, businesses and organizations. Local individuals considered for the award are those who, through volunteer hours, fundraising contributions and advocacy, perform valuable service to advance arts education in Broward. Local businesses and organizations

Local businesses and organizations chosen are those which enrich our community through funding or creating arts education programming. ArtsEd Forever! strives to bring awareness to these often-unsung heroes.


The Honor of Excellence recipient for visual arts was Wendi Librach. She’s been teaching for 11 years, three of which were as art specialist at Flamingo Elementary School in Davie. Librach has been a passionate advocate and vocal supporter of the benefits of art education.

She explains, "My goal is to expose my students to every aspect of the arts, as well as teaching them how the arts are a part of every subject they are learning. I believe theater, music, dance and the visual arts will help my students to become engaging young adults." Librach bubbles over with compassion and encouragement for her students. She says, "The main thing I try to instill in my students is that they shouldn’t be afraid to try to create art. I allow them to have fun without fear of judgement. And when they find success, from their own perspective, in a form of art, then I know I have succeeded!"

John Luffred, Honor of Excellence winner for musicMusic : John Luffred

John Luffred, Honor of Excellence recipient for music, is the choral director and chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs. He has been

teaching for 32 years and is the current president of the Broward County Vocal Teachers Association and acts as a choral group judge throughout Florida. Luffred received a Miami Herald Silver Knight Teacher of the Year award and was inducted into the Teaching Hall of Honor. He declares, "It’s just a great experience for me, seeing how energized the kids are, how focused they are and how talented they are!" Luffred is an inspiring teacher.

"I’ve always felt the need to provide a well-rounded music education for my diverse student population," Luffred says, "where they can work to achieve high accomplishments and feel the joy of success." Their success led to what Luffred thinks is his biggest contribution. He has created a legacy of musicians and music educators in his past students. "I am proud of the fact that many of my students have gone on to major in music education in college and are now successful professional educators."

2014 Honor of Excellence winner for theater Michelle TerlTheater : Michelle Terl

The Honor of Excellence recipient for theater was Michelle Terl, director of theater at Parkway Middle School of the Arts in Lauderhill. Terl is a 15-year veteran of teaching theater in addition to her background as an actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker and film editor. She is founder and president of the Broward Educational Theatre Association (BETA) and also served on the board of directors of the Florida Association for Theatre Education (FATE).

"The most important thing I believe," Terl says, "is that the arts are crucial to a complete education. Through the arts, we learn to express ourselves, to synthesize our academics, to learn empathy and to understand what it is to be human." Art education gives students the opportunity to experience confidence-building freedom, connections with others and communication skills.

Terl thinks her greatest contribution comes from building connections. "I connect my students, past and present, to each other. I connect my students to theater professionals and theatergoing experiences. "The classroom is everywhere. Connections help me create the next generation of artists and arts patrons."


Aimee Sangster was the Honor of Excellence recipient for dance. She has been a dance and reading teacher for seven years at New Renaissance Middle School in Miramar and is also a professional dancer. She danced in the Black-N-White Hip Hop Showcase, performed with famed recording artist, Pitbull, among others, and did choreography for music videos. She is a leader in the Dancers Alliance Organization, fighting for dancers' rights.

As dance director, Sangster spearheaded the school's Booster Club and raised money to turn an empty room into a full dance studio. She received the Teacher Directed Improvement Fund and the IMPACT Grant for five years. She showcases her student-created music video project, "Reading with Music," at the IMPACT Expo. Sangster's dedication to building the dance program at New Renaissance has had a major impact on the school and community by bringing culture to many students who wouldn't ordinarily have opportunities for dance instruction.

"The most important thing is having a trusting, mentoring relationship with my students," Sangser says. "They can make big changes in their lives, when my students accept my advice, not only in school, but in life as well."


The recipient for the category of Teaching Artist Recognition was Carrie Sue Ayvar. She has been connecting with people through stories in English and Spanish for over 30 years. Ayvar is a nationally renowned master storyteller, Chautauqua scholar and Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap-trained artist. She has received many awards, including the National Storytelling Network’s Oracle Award, Advancing Teaching and Learning Through the Arts and a National Parenting Publications Honor from iParenting for her CD titled, Cuentame Un Cuento/Tell Me A Story. Ayvar explains that storytelling is one of the oldest, most universal forms of education. She says, "Cultures all over the world have told stories as a way of teaching and passing on their beliefs, traditions and histories."

Ayvar has a rich talent for connecting people, cultures, ideas, experiences and curriculum content through stories. She believes her greatest contribution to her students is finding purpose in what she does. "I find my purpose every time I ‘paint’ my pictures in the listener’s minds. Shared stories build bridges between people. It’s hard to hate someone when you know their story; when you can see them as an individual."

Sue GunzBurgerLegislator Recognition - Sue Gunzburger

Former Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, who retired from office in November 2014. was awarded the Legislator Recognition award for her dedication and outspoken support of the arts over the course of her 32-year public career. This award was a fitting and well-deserved farewell.

Gunzburger made important contributions in promoting the arts through her work on the Broward Cultural Council and Funding Arts Broward (FAB). She was also very vocal in lobbying the state government in Tallahassee for adequate levels of funding for arts education. Her experiences as a parent and teacher gave Gunzburger a profound appreciation of the benefits of art education. She adamantly states, "If we don’t educate the young in the arts, the arts will die out." She continues, "Some children who struggle with academics can, through the avenues of visual arts, dance, theater, bands and orchestras, learn self-discipline, improve their self-esteem and improve their grades overall."

Among the many causes Gunzburger championed, one of her great accomplishments was improving the lives of many Broward County children through her work with the Children’s Services Council, which she helped create. Highlights in her long list of accolades include the Crystal Vision Award for Government from the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood and the Encore Award for Government Leadership from ArtServe. Gunzburger is truly a person who cares deeply about making a difference for the people of Broward County.

Janet Erlick, Executive and Artistic Director, Fort Lauderdale Children's TheatreExceptional Arts Education Organization - Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre
Photo: Janet Erlick, Executive and Artistic Director, Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre

The Exceptional Arts Education Organization award went to the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre. Accepting the award on behalf of FLCT was Janet Erlick, its executive and artistic director. Erlick also received the Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education Individual award. Erlick served for 25 years as CEO and CFO for the 61-year-old nonprofit arts education organization. The FLCT offers classes for students ages 4 to18, produces high-quality productions and serves more than 40,000 people each year. The Galleria Mall, which houses FLCT, received the Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education, Business award.

Erlick’s achievements include doubling FLCT’s annual budget and producing and directing more than 150 full-scale professional productions. She developed a comprehensive community outreach program, which includes A Bridge From Me to You, an anti-bullying conflict resolution program, and From Page to Stage, a literacy program for students throughout Broward County. Erlick also created a scholarship program that provides more than $60,000 per year in FLCT tuition assistance to students.

Participation in the Arts, Erlick believes, transforms lives and communities in profound ways. "Every person can

benefit in a significant way, whether as a participant or supporter," Erlick says. "In addition to entertainment and importance to our quality of life, the arts also increase engagement, address social issues, challenge beliefs, ask tough questions and contribute to the healing of the world." Erlick thinks her greatest achievement is her development and implementation of arts programs for people with terminal illnesses and their families, people with special needs, children in residential social service settings and in juvenile justice or rehabilitation programs. "In every instance," she says, "I have witnessed lifechanging moments through the arts."

Ana M. Valladares, Children's Services Council of Broward County.Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education - Children's Services Council of Broward County
Ana M. Valladares - Governor Appointee,  Children's Services Council of Broward County

The Children's Services Council of Broward County in partnership with HANDY Inc. (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth) received Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education, Organization award. The Children's Services Council has funded hundreds of programs serving Broward's children and families. Its mission is to empower children to become responsible, productive adults while realizing their full potential, hopes and dreams.

Piper Roth has been the programs manager at CSC for eight years. She oversees transitional programming for older youth with disabilities and youth development programming for middleschool students. Roth currently serves on the Broward County Arts Education Committee and is a strong advocate of the arts. "The arts are an integral part of educating and supporting children and youth," she states. "Arts education provides children the opportunity to experience success and express themselves in ways that they may otherwise not have." Roth thinks that the CSC's major contribution to arts education is the funding the agency allocates for arts programming with interactive activities for children and families. The CSC provides a large portion of funding, resources and technical assistance to HANDY for its work with at-risk youth.

HANDY is an award-winning nonprofit organization made up of dedicated advocates for children in foster care and in the child dependency system. HANDY has met the critical needs of more than 45,000 at-risk children in Broward. Since 2004, the organization has incorporated music, art, dance, and drama into its life skills curriculum. Recent partnerships include Jubilee Dance Theatre and Chie Moo Arts for dance and drama, well-known local artist George Gadson for visual and literary art classes, and local artist Steven Sylvester for a clay art project, Help Me Build a Home of My Own, which emphasizes interpersonal skills. These programs combine expressive art, community service opportunities and positive adult role models.

Evan Goldman, an attorney and CEO of HANDY, says the art programs "foster a hard work ethic and development of a high level of commitment and responsibility in each young talent." He continues, "The benefit of arts education to disadvantaged children is immeasurable. The positive impact on their lives is priceless." He adds, "Making the arts available to these children has allowed them avenues for healthy emotional expressions of deep-seated pain and newfound happiness." Goldman praised the CSC, saying that it is the driving force behind infusing arts education in child-serving agencies across Broward - and HANDY’s most important partner. Their efforts are truly worthy of community-wide applause!"

The Broward County Cultural Division’s ArtsEd Forever! Program proudly celebrated these individuals and organizations who truly excel in giving their talents and gifts away to benefit the children and youth of our community. Artistic disciplines in schools and community organizations are critical to the development of young minds. Arts education fosters confidence, creative problem solving, collaboration and communication, crucial in every aspect of their lives. As Michelle Terl says, "Our youth become the creative thinkers and innovators of the 21st century." CQ

ArtsEd Forever LogoThe ArtsEd Forever! event is a dazzling, arts-filled array of activities scheduled for October 28, 2015, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

It’s a very special evening with a private reception for award nominees and sponsors, followed by a public reception for supporters, parents and families. The night culminates in a stage production featuring performances by youth from Broward County schools, followed by the awards presentations to the arts educators of the year, the exceptional arts education organization and outstanding contributors to arts education. The event will also be the kickoff for the one-year term of service of the Arts Education Ambassador.

Interested in Sponsoring the ArtsEd Forever! 2015-2016 Program?

The Broward County Cultural Division is seeking private sector contributors who believe in the powerful effect of arts education on academic achievement and creativity and its ability to inspire a desire for lifelong learning. The Division aims to raise $25,000 to make this event happen.

Committed sponsors will have their names and company logos prominently displayed in the event program and will receive recognition at the ArtsEd Forever! receptions and public event on October 28 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. For information contact Grace Kewl-Durfey at 954-357-7869 or Brittany Martin at 954-357-4795.



ArtsEd Forever Logo

Aimee Sangster, Michelle Terl, John Luffred, Wendi Librach and Carrie Sue Ayvar

The Arts Ed Forever! class of 2014, from left to right: Aimee Sangster, Michelle Terl, John Luffred, Wendi Librach, Carrie Sue Ayvar

Broward Cultural Division invites Broward Schools’ representatives, teachers, government entities and members of the general community to nominate an outstanding Arts Teachers and Teaching Artist in Broward County for doing a remarkable job in dedication to this field.

This award highlights their significance to the sustainability and advancement of arts education. Teachers and Teaching Artists may also submit applications for themselves.

There are two main categories of awards - Arts Teacher of the Year for school-based arts teachers in Broward County public, charter and private schools (Application Deadline was June 8); and the Teaching Artist of the Year, for teaching artists who work in multiple learning environments (Application Deadline: August 10).

To increase public awareness of the importance of arts education in our everyday lives, the ArtsED Forever! Program recognizes and promotes not only school-based arts teachers, but also Teaching Artists working throughout Broward County schools and communities.

Teaching Artists who are listed in Broward Cultural Division’s Arts Education Directory are eligible for nomination by any representatives from Broward’s schools, government entities and any organizations that have utilized the services of the nominated teaching artist more than once within the past 24 months.

The recipient of this award will be announced, and presented with a recognition plaque and a $2,000 cash gift, at the ArtsED Forever! Ceremony on at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

The program celebrates a dazzling array of unsung heroes, whose talent and leadership keep the arts alive for people of all ages.



ARTS TEACHERS (one each)
Dance Music  Theater  
Visual Arts

$2,000 cash award to each winner in each discipline

$500 award to the arts program of each winner’s school

TEACHING ARTIST $2,000 cash award to the winner






Broward County Cultural Division
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