Arts and Culture | Local

Tucson J and Arts for All will integrate, expand programs

Taglit participants, friends, and Tucson Jewish Community Center staff gather for a semi-formal dance at the J on April 19, 2019. (Photo JCC)
Arts for all day program participant Bren Quihuis uses a laser art technique with teaching artist Harriett Morton.

The Tucson Jewish Community Center will expand its capacity to serve people with disabilities by integrating Arts for All, a Tucson-based organization founded in 1985, into its programming early next year. Arts for All provides opportunities for adults and children with and without disabilities to participate in performing and visual arts.

The integration will increase the number of people the Tucson J can serve through its current Taglit day program for young adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, and expand the range of ages it serves.

“For years and years, the J has had inclusion in our camp program,” says Todd Rockoff, CEO of the J. “Almost 10 years ago now, as children were aging out of camp but still desiring to participate at the J, Taglit was created. Taglit is for individuals with disabilities that are post-high school up to age 39.”

Taglit supports participants in developing life and job skills that promote increased independence in areas such as problem-solving, community participation, and expressing creativity. The program had maxed out at 25 participants before the J’s renovation and expansion four years ago. “We added the second floor [Taglit space] during our renovation in 2015 to be able to move from there to where we are now, at about 45,” says Rockoff.

But there is still a large waiting list for Taglit, he says, adding that “throughout the J, inclusion still takes place in our after-school care program, in our summer camp and early childhood,” among other programs.

“About a year and a half or two years ago, Marcia Berger, who is the executive director of Arts for All, began a journey to look for a partner to work with. As she says, she was looking for Arts for All to be ‘the jewel in someone else’s crown,’” says Rockoff, noting that the organizations’ similar missions, visions, and values around working with individuals with disabilities soon made it apparent that the J and Arts for All were “a very strong fit.” 

“I am thrilled,” says Berger, “to have found a partner organization with a commitment to arts, culture, and serving people with disabilities.”

The plan to integrate the organizations was passed by both boards of directors in late October.

Both programs are licensed by the Arizona State Department of Economic Security Division of Developmental Disabilities. The new alliance will allow clients to flow between both programs, with services provided at both locations: the J at 3800 E. River Road, and Arts for All at 2520 N. Oracle Road. 

What that means for the J and the community, says Rockoff, is “the ability to accommodate more individuals with disabilities between the two delivery systems.”

“The other thing,” he emphasizes, “is Arts for All serves an older age group as well, so we will not be at risk of some of our participants aging out of our program. This integration allows the J to really be one of, if not the largest, provider of day program services for people with and without disabilities.”

The J’s department of special needs services will be retitled the department of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Rockoff adds and will include, along with Taglit and Arts for All, the J’s inclusive Sparks cheerleading team, JPride, and the new Women InPower fellowship.

“I am excited to witness the synergies that will result from the J and Arts for All coming together to better serve those in our community with disabilities,” says Sarah Singer, the J’s incoming board chair. “This collaboration will enable both organizations to better leverage their respective expertise, experience, and knowledge.”

Arts for All programming will continue to operate under the Arts for All name. Berger will become a key member of the J’s leadership staff while Frank Hernandez, currently an assistant director with Arts for All, will become the J’s program director for Arts for All.