The Community Arts and Music Programs (CAMP) is one of the many programs at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts that has helped transform arts engagement in Ocean County.
TOMS RIVER, NJ – “The coolest thing just happened in this room… and everybody saw it,” said the Amazing Max Darwin. “If you [the audience] just saw a beautiful young lady floating in the air, please raise your hand [hands go up all around the theatre]. You were FLOATING [pointing to Catherine]. Look… everybody saw it. So now your name is not Catherine. You are Catherine the floating girl.”
With her eyes wide and mind bewildered, Catherine was in awe that she was part of something that could only be described as one thing – magical. It was a moment that she will remember forever.
Experiences like this happen regularly at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College.
The Amazing Max was a part of the 2022 Community Arts and Music Programs (CAMP) available at Grunin Center over the summer months.
CAMP was started in 2017 after David C. Wintrode, President of Causeway Family of Dealerships/Causeway CARes, had an idea to create a series of performances for the community that would focus on things that are really fun, but also educational.
“Many children never have the opportunity to see live shows,’’ said Wintrode.
“These programs would give school-aged children and individuals with special needs the opportunity to engage with the arts.”
Heidi M. Sheridan, Interim Executive and Artistic Director for the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, also notes that many places are eliminating music and arts from their programming. “We are stepping into make sure that children have these collective, shared experiences,” she said. “We really want children to feel like anything is possible.”
“This year, thanks to the generous support of the Wintrode Family Foundation and the Ocean County College Foundation, we hosted five artists for CAMP performances,” said Jaclyn Wood, Assitant Director, Education & Community Engagement at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts. “All the CAMP events were fully funded by these organizations and free for attendees.”
When it comes to selecting entertainers, it is a collaborative effort. “I will talk to different agents and artists and even see them perform,” said Wood. “I am looking for artists who are not just good at what they do, but they give these children an experience they will never forget.”
Once Wood has a list of vetted performers, Mr. Wintrode, alongside a committee, will select the talent.
This year’s programming included Jeff Boyer’s Big Bubble Bonanza, Doktor Kaboom’s Look Out- Science is Coming!, Twinkle Time, The Amazing Max and Christopher Agostino’s Storyfaces.
“The CAMP series has a lot of heart because it started in a very pure way,” said Wood. “The goal has always been to give kids the opportunity to be more involved with the arts.”
This summer, the CAMP series saw 2,880 attendees with both The Amazing Max and Storyfaces being filled to capacity.
Information about these shows was sent directly to camp leaders, as well as shared on the Grunin Center website and Facebook page and in the Grunin Center season brochure. In addition to camps and community groups, families and homeschool groups came to performances.
“We were pleased to welcome back groups who had attended these performances in the past, as well as some new groups,” Wood added.
Past participants who were in attendance this year included: Ocean County YMCA, YMCA Camp Zehnder, Point Pleasant Recreation, Little Egg Harbor’s Summer Splash, Lacey Schools Extended School Year (ESY) Program and Prime Time Center. New groups included: Red Bank YMCA, Freehold YMCA, Innovate Kids Club, My Jacob’s Ladder and Community Options.
Groups were extremely excited to be back, but perhaps the biggest challenge this year was getting them to the venue.
“Transportation was often an issue, with groups not having the funding to pay for a bus to bring them to the Grunin Center, but this year was especially challenging because of a bus driver shortage,” said Wood.
That’s when the Wintrode Family Foundation and the Ocean County College Foundation stepped in to help.
“Thanks to additional support from these organizations, we were able to bring 756 campers and camp leaders to the shows who wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise by booking charter buses to transport them,” said Wood. “I am so thankful for the support of these two organizations because without them these programs would not be possible.”
Looking back, perhaps the best part of the CAMP series is watching kids come into the lobby and you can see that they are just so excited to be there, according to Wood. “Everyone feels a sense of wonder and that anything is possible,” she said. “You can come here and have an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.”
To learn more about the CAMP series or to reserve your group for a future event, please email Jaclyn Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts offers year-round programming for individuals and families of all ages. Programming includes:
Grunin Presents: Word-class artists bring the stage to life in a celebration of music, dance, theatre and entertainment.
Family Series: Families can laugh, sing and explore the arts with programs designed to put smiles on the faces of children of all ages.
Blauvvelt Speaker Series: The Blauvelt Speaker Series enables OCC’s Foundation to bring world-renowned speakers to the campus for students, faculty and the community to enjoy.
Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon
Afternoon Recital Series: The Friday afternoon recital series is celebrating the 200th anniversary of César Franck with a series of recitals devoted to his music.
Schools ‘N Stage: The Grunin Center is proud to host programs and performances that support classroom curriculum and the invaluable skills that arts education gives children.
OCC Repertory Theatre Company
OCC Concert Band
For the full list of event dates and tickets, visit grunincenter.org.