Saturday, April 24, 2010


Well fellow readers, it seems we must part ways. I must say that I greatly regret not ever going to a lock-in before, and waiting until I became an alum to attend. Still, it was unlike any other overnight event I've ever experienced and in the span of one night it has felt like a whole vacation. We all gathered in a circle and received cute little gifts to commend our strength for holding out so long. This has definitely been a memorable experience and I hope NUA continues this tradition for generations to come. If you are reading this and have never participated in one, I strongly encourage you to volunteer, or if you are a student please come next year! Thanks for sticking around with me and I hope this has been insightful.

Much love,
Andrew Migliori

5:00 AM

It's the 11 hour mark! Wowwwwww it has been an alternately slow and fast night, and the last hour is embraced with both relief and a tinge of sadness. The energy that has been exchanged among us is something only this studio can produce and is not something that can be easily let go. At the same time, all our eyelids are heavy as hell. I personally have been up for almost 24 hours at this point and could do with a good set of z's.

"...its only gonna get weirder from here." -Caitlin Cali

An Interview with Sarah Meyer

Sarah has been an integral part of the NUA community since she joined in the early 2000s. The first lock-in took place during her first year here, so at this point in her career she has seen her fair share of overnight events. She had several thoughts and stories to share when she sat down with me.

S: "I remember [Maria and Rosa] were like, 'Can we do a lock-in?' and I was like, 'I dunno, what does it mean to do a lock-in?' I didn't know if they would sleep here or do activities all night. They kind of put together the structure of the different rules, the schedule, that there would be no sleeping, just art-making all night long. I talked to Tyler and Tamara about how some kids wanted to do a lock-in, where they would do art all night, and they told me I was crazy. But they didn't say that it was impossible, that we couldn't do it, so I turned to the students to help put it together. Then the next year, kids came back saying that they wanted to do the lock-in again, and every year the students looked forward to it so there's a different group of students each year that help make it happen.

How has the lock-in changed since it started?

S: "At first, we didn't really know how much food to get, how long workshops should last: they used to be three hours and they would start to lose steam and the kids would get more tired, so we learned we had to keep things going at a quicker pace. The first lock-in we had only three mentors: me, Jesse, and Kedrin, and I knew from there that we needed a lot more mentors."

After some discussion, Sarah and I determined that lock-ins seem to go by so fast and the students stay up so easily because they all feed off of each other's energy. It's almost like it's a group challenge to stay up and we're all working together to stay enthusiastic and positive and alert.

Sarah also made a lot of mention of the notion of "play" with regards to why lock-ins are so successful. Some of the activities are so simple and loose, such as bubble art or maskmaking, that we just revert to our inherent playful nature. It is a nice break from the more conceptual art many of us are used to and it is in part due to this relaxed atmosphere that lock-ins are such a blast! So we have Sarah to thank as well for pushing the original students forward to creating this great annual tradition.

An Interview with Maria and Rosa

Maria and Rosa are among the many alumni who came here tonight to volunteer. But that's not all! Maria and Rosa are credited with STARTING the annual NUA Lock-In! I figured it would be pretty relevant to sit down and talk with them in their off-time.

Why is there a lock-in in the first place?

R: "Honestly, we were thinking about being [in the studio] all day. They close the studio at seven, and we were thinking, why couldn't we be there any longer? They said it was because no one would stay here, but we knew people would want to stay."
M: "Yeah, after seven we have nothing to do at all. We were thinking that we should stay here overnight!"
R: "We told Tyler the next day and he apparently said that people had been wanting to do a lock-in but we never really thought anyone would do it. So we took it in our hands to do it. We were kinda iffy about people actually signing up."

The first lock-in turned out to be a hit.

R: "Staying overnight is more exciting! We got the concept because [Maria] used to do stuff like that for her church, so we brought the idea here."

What kind of stuff did you do in your first lock-in?

M: "My favorite was the mosaic!"
R: "Yeah we had someone come in and break dishes and stuff and it was really fun.
M: "...egg dyeing..."
R: "That was around the time that Tyler's wife was pregnant, so we had Pin the Baby on Tyler! We also had a scavenger hunt at the beginning."

That's right, that wonderful scavenger hunt that kicked us off is no new feature for the lock-in.

Were you guys able to sleep at all the first time?

M and R: "NO!"

This great tradition is still going strong and these two women are proud to have it as part of their legacy. Rosa even travelled all the way from New York THIS EVENING to take part in her own special NUA event. This event creates a sense of community and it is this humble reporter's hope that the NUA Lock-In goes on for all time.

Just Getting Started

We were running a little over 1 o'clock before Jadrian called everyone to attention to get the next workshops a-rollin'. Now we've got people making pocket shrines, altered clothes and surprise balls. Gooooood stuff!

A Soldier's Courage

Just arriving at this time of night is one of the Cali sisters, Cristin. This brave soul volunteered her time, starting at 1 AM, even though she had just had her wisdom teeth removed yesterday! Poor Cristin was not put under during surgery and "felt like Gollum being tortured in Lord of the Rings." After going through such an intense and traumatic experience, she still found the time to spend time here with all the wonderful students. What a trooper!

Happy Midnight!!!

We have reached the halfway point! Jesse's sirens called for the all activity to stop, and some techno beats came over the speakers. We were then treated to a wonderful fashion show led by Karrie which can be seen on our Facebook page. Then, with the remaining time we counted down to midnight, when a great number of very loud balloons were released into the air, in conjunction with Kevin on the conga drums. Now I watch as Jason teaches dancing, Kevin has a jam session, and Alice makes moustaches!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hour 4

Over the past hour, more mentors and volunteers (including a few old alumni) have been arriving as we move into the second 4 hour block! Some people have left but with that more came in. We have reached the point where the doors have been locked so it is officially a LOCK-IN. To my left, a group of students are chilling out and watching Up, and to my right, students are crocheting and design tattoos to screenprint. The activity just goes to show the diversity and creativity abounding between these walls!

Hour 3

10 o' clock is approaching faster than we expected! Interestingly enough, once DDR was broken out, the studio was calmer than it had been earlier. Two tables of Bananagrams competitions were set up and others hit the snack tables. An intense Championship for DDR was held and now that it's over, things are quiteting down.

Or so I thought.

It seems this time of night is ripe for breaking out the speakers and having an "acoustic DDR rematch." This should be interesting.
Legend: "What time is it?"
Sarah: "9:21."
Legend: "I don't want this to end!"
"YOU'RE ON FIRE!!!!" -Stephanie across the studio to the DDR participants

Hour 2

The past hour has been a great start with Bubble Art, Balloon Candles, Blanket-making, and Monster drawing! Check out our Facebook page to see some demos of the workshops.

Jesse came parading in with tons of Subway sandwiches that were easily destroyed within minutes.

The crowd of students and mentors continues to grow and get restless as we watch a couple of YMCA volunteers set up a big portable Dance Dance Revolution area.

The Scavenger Hunt

While the studio began to fill up with more students, volunteers, and mentors, three brave mentors grouped the present students into teams to set out into Providence and embark on a scavenger hunt. I tagged along with a team (aptly dubbed Team Awesome) to feel the energy of the group. Team Awesome was comprised of:

-Artist mentor Caitlin Saharek

The scavenger hunt was created by another student, Kimchua, and had teams looking for such diverse items as the "Signature of someone with an N, U and A in their name (not from someone at the lock-in)" or simply a paper clip.

Immediately after the countdown, Team Awesome headed out the door amidst cheers from our very own Jason Yoon. It was a hectic rush as the team decided which direction to go, seeing as they only had 20 minutes to complete their task. I served as the trusty time counter, giving live updates on how much longer we had. The sun was beginning to go down and the beautiful sky light kept us pumped.

Along the way, I talked with Jackson, a senior at Classical High School, and a member of the Studio Team Advisory Board. When asked why he was interested in spending twelve art-filled hours at New Urban arts, he replied that it was an obvious choice because of all of the "new things" he knew he would be learning and trying out. This is Jackson's second year participating in the Lock-In and he feels quite confident that he can keep up with the activities all through the night, as he did last year. If he is in danger of falling asleep, he has his good pal Kimchua to keep him awake.

Sadly, Team Awesome was not the victor of the event, but that wasn't the point in the slightest! Well, maybe a little bit. But still, it was a fun bonding experience and a good insight into what this whole crazy festival has to offer.

Introducing: Andrew Migliori

Greetings fellow followers! My name is Andrew Migliori, a NUA alum and current freshman at RISD. I have been assigned the wonderful yet arduous task of documenting the 2010 NUA Lock-In! Stay tuned here, on Facebook ( and on Twitter ( for updates as I tell tales and document the magical night that is THE LOCK-IN.

xoxo Andrew

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jason's remarks at the 2010 Annual Campaign

Thank you Emely. [I followed Emely]

What Emely is too modest to tell you, is that on top of all of the amazing work she has done here starting new programs, events, and making amazing artwork, she has been accepted to nearly every college she has applied to - with scholarship offers from Hampshire, Salem, Guilford and URI!

Thank you for coming tonight. I want to start with some acknowledgments. --- I ask that you hold your applause until I’m done.

  • The young people that were here are from STAB, our studio team advisory board. This group of incredible young leaders mentor their peers, organize events, reach out to the public and much more. I hope you had a chance to talk one of them tonight.
  • Our artist mentors. These amazing volunteers make an incredible commitment to our youth. They practice the most sophisticated and transformative kind of education, teaching in partnership WITH young people not TO them.
  • This organization is actually led by an incredible team that is the staff here. They have saved me more times than I can count. Sarah, Tamara, Jesse, Emmy, Kedrin and our newest staff member, Dan. And our studio assistants, Michelle and Shannon.
  • Our board of directors. These community leaders balance multiple commitments and voluntarily take full responsibility for our work and survival. I particularly want to acknowledge our chair, Myrth York.
  • Our event committee has spent the last two months planning this night. Mike, Sally, Rebecca, Zach and Derek.
  • Our silent auction team, Tamara, Holly and Priscilla!
  • All the volunteers that transformed our studio into the White House!

And now let’s say thank you to them all with a big round of applause.

Please look at the program for our event sponsors, these generous businesses keep our fundraising costs low-this means more of your donations go directly to young people.Citizens Bank, Neighborhood Health Plan of RI and GTECH have been very generous sponsors of this event and New Urban Arts.

We've had a lot of visitors recently. Funders, public servants, researchers, people trying to learn what makes this place “tick.” They will usually sit down with a group of young people here and ask them what is significant to them about this place. And even though we don't tell young people what to say, there is incredible similarity across what I hear.

One young woman said something last week that summed it up really well. She said:

“My sense of....what's possible...has changed here...

This is one of the only places in my life where I'm told that things ARE possible, NOT impossible.”

We're talking a lot as a nation about education inequality. Some of our most passionate and talented minds are addressing this persistent problem. What do we do?

Longer school days? Longer school years?

More testing? Less testing? Better testing?

Uniforms, standard curriculums?

There are NO easy answers.

But what we do know is this: a young person's sense of what's possible for their lives, communities and their world MUST be our foundation.

Education inequality, at its core is about more than just being denied access to money and material resources (though they are important, we can always use more here..!), ultimately it is about who is encouraged to believe what is possible and who isn't.

There may be no greater injustice that we can inflict on another human than to silence their sense of possibility. But we systemically do it every single day. We do it by cutting our arts programs to the bone, by denying young people a say in how they learn, in the countless subtle and not so subtle messages that tell young people what they can and cant do.

I'm pretty sure that somewhere along the way in your life, someone or someone’s told you that things were possible. You took those first steps and risked what one of our past artist mentors calls “glorious failure.”

This is what New Urban Arts does for over hundreds of young people every year. This is the change you're making happen.

We've gotten some great recognition in the last year and it's been really exciting. We have the opportunity to share what we've been doing with new communities, and go out and learn from some other amazing folks across the nation and even the world.

But it doesn't change the fact that we still need your help now, and year in and year out to keep these doors open.

Ten years ago, we launched our first annual campaign so we could effectively fight for “the possible” for our youth, independent of the changing whims and agendas of big institutions and the powers that be.

We still need your help.

If you've already given THANK YOU (feel free to give again!)

To make a donation to our annual campaign please complete donation card and leave it in our donation box. If you don’t have your cc or your checkbook, we will gladly take a pledge and follow up with you.

Please, lets keep telling young people that what they dream is possible.

Thank you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Words shared from a graduating senior at last night's annual campaign event

Hi, my name is Emely Barroso. I am a senior at Feinstein High School and have been coming to New Urban Arts for four years. Throughout these four years, I’ve been involved with their comics, watercolor and self-publishing programs, and have participated in their summer program for two years. My passions are storytelling, sequential arts, and painting. Last year, I started a Zine Team at my high school and last Saturday, with New Urban Arts, organized a city-wide Zine Fair here in the studio. I am graduating this June and am planning on going to college to pursue a degree in visual arts or illustration.

Before I stepped through the doors of New Urban Arts, I was always the type of person who apologized frequently (sometimes unnecessarily too). Maybe it’s because I was also the type of person who didn’t like the person they were; someone who didn’t think others liked that person either; someone who felt just their presence was a burden to be around.

So when did it all change? When did I stop hanging my head down in shame and holding it up with pride and self-worth? When did I stop being afraid of being around others and start feeling comfortable around them? When did “maybe you shouldn’t” get replaced with “you totally should”?

When did others around me stop saying “you shouldn’t apologize so much” or “stop being so sorry; it’s ok” and start saying “wow, that’s great! You should totally go for that” and “I’m so happy for you, Em”?

All of that changed because of New Urban Arts.

Walking in that first day with my little yellow folder of drawings, I was petrified to no end at what the people would be like, and ultimately shocked at how nice and welcoming Sarah M., the first person I met here, was and is. So through New Urban Arts, I feel like a lot has changed. I’ve changed.

It feels like all those sob stories I used to peddle have become a love story with New Urban Arts; like my whole life, I’ve been watching an underdog story and it feels like now, I’m really rooting for a hero.

Through this place, this amazing wonderful place, my sorry’s became thank yous.
Thank you’s for the mentors and the students. Thank you’s for the memories and the friends I’ve made here.

Thanks for making my high school experience something worth telling. Thank you for being patient and giving me the room to become who I am today. Thank you for giving me a future I’m really excited about. Thank you for letting me thank you and for being here day after day.

Thank you, NUA.

Thank you.

From the Perspective of an Artist Mentor

Hi, I’m Sarah Greenfield. I’m a new mentor this year for sculpture, though anybody who’s worked with me can tell you that pretty much anything goes at my table. Over the past year my students and I have sewn stuffed animals, experimented with paper mache and clay, drawn, painted and even organized a giant collaborative ocean installation in the front window. The only time I really feel like the “sculpture” mentor is when somebody comes to me with questions or looking for advice on working in 3D, and even then, it’s likely I’ll have no clue either and we’ll end up learning together---that’s my favorite.

I’m going to do my best to tell you how much this place means to me, personally, what it’s changed for me. To use this year’s own particularly meaningful language, I’m going to try to tell you how I’m taller, and why.

When I applied to be a mentor last summer, after a lot of gentle but firm encouragement from my best friend, former mentor Lane Taplin, it was partly because I knew I needed some help. That may sound strange or seem like it goes against the idea of a mentor as someone who is a primarily a giver rather than a receiver of support, but it’s something I’m actually proud that I recognized back then---I think because I’d seen firsthand the incredibly positive effects this studio had on Lane.

Last summer, I was in the middle of an intense burn out---I had just graduated from RISD with no job, no plans, no idea where I wanted to go or how on earth I was going to get there. I was terrified, confused and angry that even though art school had taught me more than I ever thought possible, it had also made me realize that a career in commercial art was the last thing I wanted. When I walked into New Urban Arts for the first time, I hadn’t made art in months.

I had heard that this was a place where art was self-driven, expressive, community-based and most importantly, fun. I needed to see that, to be a part of that, to remind myself why I chose to create in the first place. I needed to be with people for whom art was essential, playful, a way to transcend and transform.

I remembered what art had been to me when I was in high school. I wanted to share the knowledge and skills I’d learned, all the enthusiasm and support I could give, in exchange for just being able to see that passion and drive that I was lacking, to be in the same room as someone who couldn’t stop making art, and not because there was a deadline looming.

So okay, I knew (or at least had a really strong feeling) that being a mentor at New Urban Arts was going to help me heal my art block. I had no idea it would change everything else. I didn’t know how much I’d fall in love with the students here, how much they would impress me with their compassion, their talent, their commitment, how much it would mean to me to be invited into such an important part of their lives.

I didn’t know that the other mentors, the staff and the fellows would be so supportive of me, so willing to lend a hand or an ear or a shoulder whenever I needed it---which was kind of a lot, especially in the beginning when we all barely knew each other and I couldn’t stop worrying about whether or not I was doing this “right.” I didn’t know that at some point during this year I would really stop worrying, that my students would become my friends and this studio would start feeling like home to me, like family.

I didn’t know I’d discover that nothing makes me happier than seeing the excitement and pride on the face of a student who’s showing me something she made herself, something she learned with my help or encouragement, hearing her say “I can do this.” I think that’s been inside me my whole life, that joy that comes from teaching, from sharing---I could always see it in my mother and my grandmother, both lifelong teachers, but now I can see it in myself too and I owe that to this studio.

New Urban Arts has given me both the experience I needed to realize that I want to teach art, and the support and resources I now need to pursue that goal. I want to say thank you by continuing what was started here, by carrying this experience with me and trying my hardest to give it to others.

And oh, by the way, I’m making art again. And I love it. Most of all I love making it here, with my students, my friends.

So what is New Urban Arts to me?

It’s a small table covered in paper, scattered with markers, surrounded by laughter, where we learn during a giant game of drawing war that hot sauce defeats a kraken.

It’s an expedition to the darkest recesses of the basement---never finding exactly what we’re looking for but always returning with something else, a new idea, and the seeds of new friendships born out of a shared adventure.

It’s an ocean overflowing the front window with spontaneous mixed-media collaborations, proudly displaying our diversity, our talent, our ridiculous sense of humor.

It’s knowing that every time I walk in the door, I will be smiled at, I will be hugged, someone will want to sit down and talk to me, someone will want to show me something they made, and someone will want to make something---with me.

It’s that excitement, that trust, that sharing of what’s most important in our lives---our art, ourselves---that defines this studio for me, that’s made me so much taller this year, tall enough to see over the top of my fears and my doubts to what’s right there in front of me. My future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Announcing Our 2010 Sandra Olson Award Winners

Thank you to all of you who submitted your incredibly passionate and thoughtful nominations for the Sandra Olson Awards.

It is one of my favorite times of the year because I get to read about all the different contributions people are making to making New Urban Arts what it is. It is also one of the most difficult times of the year because there are nominations for so many different people, which is a sign to me of how much everyone here gives above and beyond what is expected of them!

But after careful conversations and thought of the event committee, three honorees in each of the three categories became pretty clear. I want to share with you the 2010 Sandra Olson award winners! The quotes are excerpts from their nominations.

--Jason Yoon, Executive Director

Individual staff, student, alumni category: Rosalia Velis, Alumnus
“She has put her best foot forward with much grace this year, but for many years she has cared for the studio and the people in it. She reaches deep inside herself for us and keeps reaching.”

Volunteer category: Angelo Manioudakis, Board Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair

“New Urban Arts is in a sound and stable position because of his work in the last six years. He has consistently given time and leadership far above and beyond what would be expected of any nonprofit board member.”

Business/organization category: Andy Cutler, Cutler & Company
“Andy Cutler essentially volunteered enough hours to be considered a New Urban Arts PR staff person during the months leading up to the Coming Up Taller ceremony! He is dedicated to the creative and entrepreneurial energy of all young people in Providence.”

About the Sandra Olson Awards: New Urban Arts introduced the Sandra Olson Awards in 2002 to recognize individuals and organizations that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to New Urban Arts.Extraordinary contributions of time, expertise, money, energy, or support – often given without solicitation- qualify recipients. The award also honors Sandra Olson, who once mailed New Urban Arts a $2 check each week over the course of two years. Her gifts totaled over $250.

Past winners are:
2002 - Peter Hocking, Jephry Floral Studio, Marly Louis, Echoing Green Foundation
2003 – Kathleen Connolly, Jason Yoon, Gasbarro’s Wines
2004 – Jesse Banks III, White Electric, Craftland
2005 – Michael Fournier, Kedrin Frias, Jennifer Rice, Cornish Associates
2006 – Priscilla Carrion, White Whale Web Services, Tamara Kaplan, Judy Vilmain
2007- John Tabor Jacobson, Mary Adewusi, Esther Chak, Simon Moore, Jack Richter
2008 - Sarah Meyer, Myrth York, Aneudy Alba, Andrew Oesch
2009 – Deborah Obalil, Mathias Arling, Vilmain Inc., Erik Gould

Congratulations Rosalia, Angelo and Andy! We are so grateful for all of your work!