The Levoy Theatre Encourages 'Arts for Smarts'

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MILLVILLE, N.J. -

The Levoy Theatre invited local Millville students to be their guest Thursday night as the cashed in their Arts for Smarts vouchers for a seat at their production of Beauty and the Beast.

The Levoy Theatre has been a staple in the Millville community for several years, providing the area with professional live performances year-round.

But three years ago, they wanted to take it a step further.

“We thought maybe we should come up with a concept, like a reward system, for academics in the local school system to sort of incentivize academic performance and also enrich the youth of the community with the cultural benefits of the Levoy Theatre,” said Lauren Van Embden, director of programming at The Levoy Theatre.

So, they created Arts for Smarts, with teachers determining which children are excelling in school socially or academically.

“Then they get a voucher and they can redeem it for a ticket for themselves and for their parent for free to come see any number of shows here at the theatre,” said Van Embden.

This year, the Ocean First Foundation is helping fund the program.

They were able to give out 3,500 vouchers in 2018.

They hope it’ll help inspire kids to love the arts.

“So, what we try to do is steer the redemptions to the live performing arts because it really does engage and activate a different part of the brain then say a TV screen or an iPad,” said Van Embden.

Thirty students from Millville Public Schools came out Thursday night (August 9th) to experience the magic that is Beauty and the Beast at the Levoy.

“It gives them a chance to get out and experience things that they might not experience. It’s a free event for them, they don’t have to pay anything. Just a chance for them to get out, see what’s happening in Millville and the surrounding communities,” said Howard Drew, principal of Thunderbolt Academy in Millville.

“I think they’re very kind for actually paying for the tickets and making this whole thing happen,” said Victoria Gong, a 5th-grade student who received a voucher through the Arts for Smarts program.

“The best part of my day is to know a child came here and saw something for the first time in their life and then they grow up knowing that this is here in their community and maybe they’ll become a part of it,” said Van Embden.

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