TJ Arts was conceived in 2009 by Karen Suszynski, a retired Thomas Jefferson High School theatre, communications, and 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 intended to create perpetual scholarships for TJ Theatre Arts students to pursue the arts at the collegiate level. By summer 2009, the group formed as a nonprofit to maintain more control over the mission and goals of the organization. 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 submitted its application for 501(c)(3) status. By March 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.
Originally, TJ Arts established several scholarships and awards for promising students and student leaders. The organization also created two signature events: Hot on the Arts, which was a theatrical cabaret, and Sweet Sweet Jazz, which was an annual jazz concert. Later, TJ Arts began the STArts Program, which provided free lessons in the performing arts for students of financial need and artistic promise. The organization also supported arts enrichment programs for students of all ages in West Jefferson Hills, improved artistic facilities at the high school, and created an Agency Endowment with the Pittsburgh Foundation in order to permanently endow our scholarships.
In 2019, at the beginning of the organization’s second decade, the board decided to return to the original goals of TJ Arts: Supporting scholarships and awards and underwriting the costs of arts programming for students of all grade levels in West Jefferson Hills.
To provide a lasting gift to the district, TJ Arts commissioned the creation and installation of an original work of art that adorns the rotunda of the newly constructed Thomas Jefferson High School. The artwork, titled The Vision by Dennis Stocke, was unveiled and dedicated at the grand opening of the new school on August 18, 2019.
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