Thursday, July 30, 2009

STAB Campfire Letters

At our June 2009 STAB retreat, members of STAB, New Urban Arts' Studio Team Advisory Board, and some of our artist mentors read letters to New Urban Arts around a campfire as a reflection exercise. The retreat was a chance for us to celebrate the accomplishments of STAB for a great 2008-09 year. Big thanks to Nate Barchus, our RISD summer Americorps intern, for putting this slide show together:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Urban Arts on NBC10

NBC 10 covered yesterday's press conference and got some great shots of Westminster Street and our studio in action.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Stimulus Funds to Rhode Island Arts Organizations

July 27, 2009
Press Conference Announcing Stimulus Funds to Rhode Island Arts Organizations
Carter Center for Music Education & Performance
I was invited by Randall Rosenbaum to speak on behalf of 18 grantees that received grants from RISCA through the NEA through the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, AKA, the stimulus bill). It was an honor to speak to so many great Rhode Island arts groups and nearly the entire Rhode Island Congressional delegation (only Jack Reed couldn't be there) and Governor Carcieri. Thank you Randy for the honor of asking me to speak. Thank you to our entire Rhode Island team for securing these funds for the arts in Rhode Island.

Here were my remarks, enjoy:

Thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the grantees.

I'd like to thank Governor Carcieri, the RI General Assembly, the RI State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the RI Foundation for making this support possible. In addition, I'd also like to thank Rhode Island's congressional delegation for their tireless support of the arts.

I'm the Executive Director of New Urban Arts. We're a community gallery and art studio in Providence for emerging artists and high school students. Our goal is to nurture in everyone a lifelong creative practice they can sustain for their lives. We recruit and train artists from a range of backgrounds to mentor high school students in free after-school and summer programs.

I came to Providence from NYC in 1998 to attend RISD. In 2001, during my senior year, I worked as an after-school mentor at New Urban Arts.

It was then a tiny storefront on what could be called a depressed urban street. Tyler Denmead, a Brown graduate who had given up a medical career, had started the program just two years earlier. As a mentor, my students and I never followed a script, we just followed our creativity. The idea was that by using the arts to put young people in the driver's seat of their learning, we would develop the citizens and leaders we needed for the 21st century.

I loved every minute of it. I probably spent more time at New Urban Arts than my own RISD studio my senior year. I moved back to New York in 2001, stayed in touch with the folks at New Urban Arts. A year and half ago, I moved back to Providence become our Executive Director.

In the time since, New Urban Arts has grown while remaining committed to the same spirit of partnership between artists and young people. Since I've been back, I never cease to be amazed at the development of our Westminster street location. There is no doubt in my mind that New Urban Arts has been instrumental in helping our block become a thriving business and social center. Where there were vacant storefronts there is now a busy intersection with small businesses. Down the street from us, a bubble tea cafe has become another popular spot for young people after school. Two 20-year olds, former New Urban Arts students, opened the cafe last year.

Our block is dotted with neighborhood businesses, many that have sprung up in the last few years. The local pizza shop, the book store, the bubble tea, and the coffee house. Like New Urban Arts, our small business neighbors also serve as community spaces where people can gather, stop and talk and forge connections.

Every day, I see firsthand how the arts make our communities better places to live and strengthens our local economy. This grant will help us continue to contribute to that development. We won't have to reduce the number of students or artists we serve this year.

This is precisely the time to invest in the creativity of young people. We are learning that sustainable wealth isn't built by exotic financial instruments that no one understands or loose credit. While I don't know the path to a sustainable new economy, I do know that won't get there without the creativity and leadership of our young people.

In closing, I again express my deepest gratitude for this support. I'd also like to emphasize the importance of arts and cultural groups across this entire state. I urge you all to please support the arts in in any way that you can. Donate. Buy tickets to a show. Visit. Support local artists. Volunteer. Do something.

Supporting the arts is investing in our shared future as a state.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Providence Athenaeum Visit

For the longest time, I could never pronounce (or spell) “Athenaeum.” I always wanted to put an “n” after the first “a” – and make it into a place about “anthems.” But once someone pointed out to me that it wasn’t about anthems, but named in reference to Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, peace, warfare, strategy, handicrafts and reason, I got it. When New Urban Arts’ Summer Inquiry Project, this year focused on archives and collections, made a visit to the Providence Athenaeum on 16 July 2009, we didn’t learn anything about warfare, but sure got a lot of insight into wisdom, strategy and reason – and a few pointers about handicrafts, too!

Kate, the technical services librarian, met us in the main circulation area of the library and shared with us some of the early history of the building and the early organizations that ultimately formed the library. After ascending the delightfully narrow stairs to the mezzanine and Art Book Room, we learned about some of the special collections held by the library. We also learned about the legendary romance between Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman.

Kate led us through all the back rooms, archive areas and nooks of the library -- helping us to see that the building itself, in addition to what it holds, is a kind of archive in its own right. Our final stop on the tour was in the Philbrick Rare Book Room, where Kate had laid out a massive grouping of historical material -- sharing with us not only amazing documents related to the founding of the library, but also some of its most rare and precious holdings.

Personally, although it's very difficult for me to pick a favorite moment, seeing the Athenaeum's first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass -- with the copyright hand written by Whitman himself -- was an amazing experience!

To cap off the visit, Kate very kindly gave to each of us an original copy of the 1911 annual report of the Providence Athenaeum. A few of us thought it was a reproduction at first, but a real sense of thrill ran though the group as we collectively realized that we'd been given a gift nearly 100 years old. I know it's one of the oldest books in my library!

Monday, July 06, 2009

New Urban Arts Returns to the Woods!

For the second consecutive year, in June the Studio Team Advisory Board went to Camp Aldersgate for an overnight leadership retreat to culminate the program year.

Known best as “STAB,” the Studio Team Advisory Board is a collective of 13 students and alumni who are leaders in our studio community, organizing publications, events, and studio traditions such as ArtsGiving and the All Night Art Lock-in. They also advise the staff and the board of directors on key programmatic decisions and represent the organization to community leaders and supporters. To celebrate and support the leadership of these students, on June 6 we held a retreat in the woods of Glocester, RI.

We went hiking. Got lost. Hung out together in the community cabin. Made art using nature only, including flower bouquets, faerie dwellings, and leaf letter carvings.

We went on a night hike after the sun set, wearing glow in the dark necklaces. We watched a surprise slideshow of pictures from the year played to songs such as If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out by Cat Stevens. We filled up on smores and ghost stories, and tried making popcorn over a campfire. We played the question game late into the night. We went on a treasure hunt the next day. We played guitar and read books on face reading.

We received limited edition “I Stabbed the Studio” tshirts. We wrote notes to each other in our “Campbooks” which were a cross between a yearbook, FaceBook and a key chain. We learned about our leadership styles through a favorite, the Leadership Compass which encouraged us to consider the way in which our style affects other members of the team. Then we had a picnic.

“I loved the campfire! That was amazing," said one student. "But I also loved just being around each other. It was just a really great experience and I feel like I bonded more with the STAB committee. I also liked the CampBooks alot."

Each year, a highlight of the retreat for many has been the Ceremonial Campfire.

First we write letters reflecting on the year. The letters begin, "Dear New Urban Arts." Later we read these letters aloud to one another around the camp fire.

Next we distribute Letters of Recognition to students. These letters are from their family and mentors and describe students’ growth, leadership and unique contribution.

Check out more pictures here.

Many thanks to volunters Caitlin Cali, Zachary Clark, Jason Yoon, Jesse Banks III, Andrew Oesch, Melissa Small, Seth Gruenwald, and especially Emily Ustach for their help in making this retreat possible.