“I realized I had a gift in art when my high-school art teacher helped me to explore my raw talents. Her encouragement strengthened my resolve to pursue art,” says Ann Marley, Jersey City Public Schools Visual Arts Supervisor and devoted supporter of the American Conference on Diversity Annual Poster Art Contest in Hudson County.
Born and raised in Jersey City to Irish Catholic immigrants, Ms. Marley says her parents “encouraged me to find a career I loved and to do it well.” So she pursued her artistic talents, earned her bachelor’s and masters of arts from New Jersey City University, and landed her first job as a designer of fabrics for prestigious Gloria Vanderbilt. Ms. Marley also worked as a children’s wear designer before expanding her horizons into education. Ms. Marley was hired to teach the gifted and talented program in Jersey City Public schools and launched her career as an art teacher at Jersey City ARTS High School Program. She found her passion assisting diverse students attain their goals to receive scholarships to arts colleges and universities nationwide. An educator for the past 28 years, she now dedicates her life to maintaining a world-class arts education for all students K-12 as the Jersey City Public Schools Supervisor of Visual and Media Arts.
“I just love the diversity and the kids in Jersey City. We have 150 difference languages spoken in our schools,” she says. “Through our arts programs, we learn to respect one another and celebrate our diverse cultures in our schools through the arts.”
Ms. Marley’s commitment to the American Conference on Diversity dates back to 1989, when the inaugural diversity-themed student Poster Art Contest was held at St. Peter’s College and there were only a handful of entries. “It became an instant hit,” she says, “and local teachers really started to promote it! They loved the idea of building harmony in our culturally diverse community.” In addition, Ms. Marley helped spearhead the organization’s “Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week” in New Jersey. A national holiday that began in 1934 and celebrated near George Washington’s birthday, the event brings together people of different faiths and backgrounds.
Over the years, Ms. Marley has judged thousands of entries and has witnessed many positive changes. In addition to conveying the importance of cultural bridge-building through art, middle and high-school students now include heartfelt essays with their images. “I’m also seeing student posters focus less on differences and more on working together, capturing the beauty of harmony and unity,” she says.
To recognize Ms. Marley’s longstanding commitment, dedication, and expertise, the American Conference on Diversity introduced the Ann Marley Spirit Award this year. The Spirit Award was presented by Ms. Marley this past spring to 11th grade McNair Academic High School student Lester Sanchez during the Hudson County Chapter Humanitarian Awards luncheon, where guests had the pleasure of getting involved and casting their votes for the winning posters.
“It’s such an honor to have an award designated in my name,” says Ms. Marley. “This is all about the spirit of being an artist and going above and beyond the artwork to be respectful, kind, and tolerant.”
For more on the American Conference on Diversity Youth & Collegiate Services, please visit http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/youth-collegiate-services or contact Pam Harris, Director of Education & Evaluation, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (732) 745-9330.