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The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning

WARREN, N.J. (March 24, 2021) — Arts Ed NJ, the unified voice for arts education in New Jersey, has launched The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning (, a national institution dedicated to illuminating the intersection between arts education and social emotional learning (SEL) to facilitate the application of SEL-informed arts education.
The intrinsic connection between arts education and SEL is an emerging area of study and practice that has become a topic of increasing priority in the education sector internationally. It is a process intended to provide students and teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to understand and manage emotions, confront challenges, and make responsible decisions by being self-aware, socially aware, and confident.
By their very nature, the arts are both social and emotional and serve to enliven and activate SEL components, which in turn, make arts education a catalyst for students’ social and emotional development as students engage in the artistic process—in essence, preventative mental healthcare, which is particularly relevant during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harnessing nearly two decades of collective impact work, The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning builds capacity to facilitate arts education enriched by SEL. Informed by the Center’s six pillars of work, the institution fosters a new vision for SEL to activate competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making among preK-16 students.
“In every era, there are moments of tremendous clarity, when forces converge and something new, dynamic, and necessary emerges. Once it arrives, people wonder, ‘why has this not happened before?’” said Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. “The arrival of the Center for Arts Education and SEL is just such a moment, and it brings with it the synergy of arts education and SEL. ArtsEdSEL will carry this partnership and mobilize the research, policies, and practices that will encourage all students to be socially-emotionally intelligent arts contributors and consumers.”
Echoing this sentiment is Dr. Kristi Wilson, president of the ASAA, the premier organization for the nation’s superintendents serving thousands of education leaders throughout the U.S.: “As our public school system leaders continue to seek ways to support diverse populations, the intersection between arts education and social emotional learning provides a perfect opportunity to amplify student voice. Arts environments, coupled with social emotional learning infuses the love of learning among learner and adult, ultimately strengthening relationships, improving academic performance and outcomes in public education. This undoubtedly will impact lives forever.”
“Creating the Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning, where the arts and SEL are an essential part of the learning process for all students, is well overdue,” added Dr. Pamela Randall-Garner Senior Staff Advisor for CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “This is such an exciting time, especially now, to have this Center as a beacon of hope.”
The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning (ArtsEdSEL) team is led by noted veterans in the field of arts education and social emotional learning, including Robert Morrison, executive director; Scott N. Edgar, Ph.D., director of Practice & Research; Yorel Lashley, Ph.D., director of Student Empowerment; and Kira Rizzuto, director of Programs & Partnerships.
The launch follows the completion and rollout of the Arts Education & Social Emotional Learning Framework in 2020. The Framework is the result of a crosswalk between the social emotional competencies and the artistic process defined in the Visual and Performing Arts Education Standards, designed by the SEL and Arts Education Taskforce, which is comprised of experts in both SEL and Arts Education areas with members drawn from SEL4NJ and Arts Ed NJ. 
“As students prepare to return to our schools, their social emotional learning needs will be a central concern, particularly given the trauma brought on by a year-long pandemic,” said Robert Morrison, executive director of The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning. “By shaping curriculum, supporting teacher practice, and furthering arts education and social emotional learning research, ArtsEdSEL will positively impact the entire educational landscape.”
ArtsEdSEL’s six pillars of work are focused on:
  • Equipping arts educators and educational leaders with practices designed to activate the SEL competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making to enrich scholastic arts education environments.
  • Promoting empirically grounded insight that builds capacity for high-quality PreK-16 arts education, informed by culturally relevant and sustaining practices by establishing and enacting a research agenda for arts education and social emotional learning. 
  • Assisting with systematic approaches to developing and implementing policies that will lead to embedding SEL into arts education at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Supporting a collaborative space to translate and build upon established artistic SEL work by engaging the broad artistic and SEL communities to achieve complementary objectives.
  • Collaborating with and commission artists in all content areas to create purposefully integrated SEL artistic works.
  • Elevating and amplifying student voices and diverse lived experiences, as a catalyst for artistic growth, social emotional development, and educational equity.
By recognizing the implicit role of SEL in artistic works and making this role explicit in arts education, through elevating the lived experience, voices, and cultural assets of PreK-16 students, ArtsEdSEL aims to impact the role of arts education dramatically. Intentional SEL-informed arts education is a powerful vehicle to develop student artists’ identity, belonging, and agency which propels them toward school and life success.
To learn more about ArtsEdSEL, please visit:
For more information about Arts Ed NJ, visit