Our Mission

Founded in 1988, the Theater and Poetry Project was designed to offer quality arts education in the Paterson Public School System. Created by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, executive director of the Poetry Center and Cultural Affairs Department at PCCC, the program began modestly, offering a limited number of plays in the first year. It didn’t take long for the initiative to expand, and today TAPP continues to present an aesthetically exciting, comprehensive program that is free of charge to all Passaic County schools.

The Hamilton Club at passaic county community college
The Hamilton Club at Passaic County Community College. Photograph by Mark Hillringhouse.

Accessibility & Facilities

The Cultural Affairs Department strives to maintain a barrier-free facility including complete access for patrons using wheelchairs, large print materials, sign-interpreted programs, and FM listening systems.

What Can TAPP Arts Education Do for Your Students?

Theatrical productions help to expand the students’ aesthetic horizons, poetry workshops enable them to understand the creative process and gain critical writing skills, and Meet-the-Author sessions offer a personal connection with literature and a sense of how books illuminate our ordinary lives.

The Artistic Process:

Create – Perform – Respond – Connect 

According to the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, the artistic process  lays the foundation for literacy in the arts. TAPP provides the type of learning experiences that will enable students to engage in these practices as part of the art making process.

About the Founder and Executive Director

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is winner of AWP’s 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature, Poets & Writers’ 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and the 2008 American Book Award for All That Lies Between Us. She has published 23 books and is founder/ executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and professor emerita of English and creative writing at Binghamton University—SUNY. www.mariagillan.com.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Executive Director of the Theater and Poetry Project

Meet Our Staff


Madeline Lora, Coordinator

Madeline is Arts in Education Coordinator, Cultural Affairs at PCCC.  She came onboard in October 2019, and is responsible for coordinating educational workshops, demos and performances, and designing publicity materials for TAPP and the Folklife Center of Northern NJ. She is a Paterson native, and is committed to bringing meaningful arts programming into classrooms that will inspire youth and create a richer, more engaging learning environment.

Susan Balik, Director of the Theater and Poetry Project
Susan Balik (right) with artist Anna Carina Sinocchi in the Hamilton Club art gallery.

Susan Lembo Balik, Director

Susan is Director, Cultural Affairs at PCCC, and supervises programming for TAPP. She joined PCCC in October 2010, and along with TAPP, is responsible for grant writing and arts administration for the Poetry Center, the Folklife Center of Northern NJ, the Passaic County Cultural and Heritage Council, and the PCCC Art Galleries.  She also works on special projects funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Park Service and the NJ Historical Commission. Susan has an MA in Journalism from New York University. Her first book of poetry, Sinatra, the Jeeperettes & me was published by Garden Oak Press in 2014, and she has poems published in the Paterson Literary Review, Lips, San Diego Poetry Annual, and other journals.

Smita Desai, Secretary for the PCCHC

Smita Desai, Secretary

Smita is the secretary for the Cultural Affairs Department at PCCC. She primarily supports the Poetry Center, but also lends a hand wherever she is needed, including programming for TAPP, the Passaic County Cultural and Heritage Council, the PCCC Art Galleries, and the Folklife Center of Northern NJ.  Smita emigrated from India in 1991, and worked in customer service for AT&T before coming to PCCC in 2006. She received her BA from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India. Smita lives with her husband in Clifton, NJ, and enjoys being with her family, especially her two young grandchildren, and cooking her native foods. 

Get in Touch!

Whether you’re a teacher, an an artist, or a member of the public,  you are an essential part of our program and we want to hear from you. Please reach out if you have any questions about programming, partnerships, or just have general feedback.

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