TJ Arts was conceived in 2009 by Karen Suszynski, a retired Thomas Jefferson High School theatre/communications/English teacher, and a group of TJ theatre alumni, with the goal of supporting the performing arts in the West Jefferson Hills School District. Initially, the group discussed how to create perpetual scholarships for TJ Theatre Arts students to pursue the arts on the collegiate level. By summer 2009, the group had decided to form as a nonprofit in order to maintain more control over the mission and goals of the organization. In July 2009, a board of nine individuals was formed, monthly conference calls began, and the group became a legal entity. During fall 2009, TJ Arts established its bylaws and in November submitted its application for 501(c)(3) status. By March of 2010, that status was attained. By this time the goals of the organization had expanded to our current goals and the membership of TJ Arts expanded from only theatre alumni to any friend of the arts in the community.
Since it’s inception, TJ Arts has established two signature events: Hot on the Arts which is a theatrical cabaret, and Sweet Sweet Jazz which is a jazz concert. Furthermore, we have created several scholarships and awards, we began the STArts Program which provides free lessons in the performing arts for students of financial need and artistic promise, we support an arts enrichment program for all students in West Jefferson Hills, and we have improved artistic facilities. We are beginning to address other needs within the communities of West Jefferson Hills by creating a senior citizens choral group. Most recently, we have created an Agency Endowment with the Pittsburgh Foundation in order to permanently endow our scholarships.
TJ Arts is dedicated to supporting and encouraging the full expression of the performing arts in the schools of the West Jefferson Hills School District and the communities it serves. Our guiding principle is that exposure to the arts during adolescence plays a significant role in forming the fabric of what young people become, enriching their lives and instilling a lifelong appreciation for artistic performance and creative expression.
The main goals of TJ Arts are to enhance the profile of the performing arts in the West Jefferson Hills School District by:
- raising public awareness about the vital importance arts education plays in the development of our children and our community;
- serving as proponents of the arts programs among the district’s school board, administration and faculties;
- raising funds to help WJH schools maintain robust and active arts programs;
- creating arts enrichment programs in the schools of West Jefferson Hills in order to bring professional artists into the classroom and take students to professional performances and artists;
- creating permanent college scholarships for TJ graduates who intend to major in the arts, and providing awards to students who have excelled in the arts in high school;
- underwriting the costs of lessons and classes for deserving students to foster talent and artistic appreciation;
- funding improvements in arts facilities within the district;
- creating connectivity between professional artists and teachers of the arts and their students;
- creating arts enrichment programs to serve other populations (non-school aged) within our communities.