Author: Kimberly Olsen

Latest Memo from NYC Department of Education Office of Arts & Special Projects

Updates from OASP, NYC Department of Education. Pictured: NYC Department of Education and Office of Arts and Special Projects logos.

Posted on Friday, May 8, 2020

Yesterday, the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects shared the attached memo with the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable regarding the continuation of remote learning services.

As it relates to our community’s ongoing advocacy work, the memo states:

“…Arts services that are provided remotely in collaboration and in support of schools’ remote teaching plans, and fulfill mandated services and/or New York State graduation requirements can continue to be offered.

DOE managers will ensure that invoices for services rendered to schools and central offices prior to April 1st, as well as any services which meet the above criteria offered after April 1st, will be paid accordingly.”

For questions about Arts Partnership Grants, please reach out to Audrey Cox, Director of Arts Partnerships at ACox16@schools.nyc.gov. For any other questions, please reach out to ArtsAndSpecialProjects@schools.nyc.gov.

 


Our Suggestions

Based on our understanding of this memo, the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable offers the following suggestions:

  • Review your Purchase Order(s). How can your organization provide contract deliverables remotely? How do these activities and objectives align with city/state arts learning standards and/or standards in other academic subjects?
  • Be prepared to justify why your program(s) fulfill mandated services. Highlight required arts instruction hours, graduation requirements, arts support for student sub-populations (i.e. students with disabilities, ENL students) and arts education’s impact on student learning, health, and wellbeing. **See helpful research links below.
  • Advocate directly to the school principal with these points clearly laid out (and ‘CC partnering educators, arts liaison, and other support staff). Give them what they need to make the case for your services. Be clear on PO deliverables in digital space, provide program rationale, and attach the memo from OASP.

It is our understanding that it will ultimately be up to each individual principal to justify and advocate for the continuation of arts vendor services. Given the current uncertainty about the future landscape of in-person education, we hope you can use these suggestions as a way to continue building relationships that will carry into the next school year.


Research / Policy

We hope you can use the below policies and studies as a jumping off point to advocate for your programs now and in the future.


Our Next Steps

The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable would like to thank our community members who helped advocate for these written assurances from the NYC Department of Education. It will be a long road ahead, and there is more work to be done. The Roundtable will continue to advocate on behalf of our membership to address the challenges that lie ahead and to ensure #ARTSareEssential in the “new normal”.

We hope you will join us on Wednesday, May 13 from 10:30am – 12pm for A Roundtable Conversation: Advocacy in Action to discuss how we can use our collective impact to move the field forward from here.

*****

#KeepMakingArt: NYCAIER on Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie

Published Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Together, Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie podcast and Creative Generation announce their partnership to produce a video series titled, #KeepMakingArt.

The series will explore the work of creatives all around the world as they respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic and will be released regularly on the Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie YouTube channel. This partnership, and resulting series, is a component of the #KeepMakingArt campaign, which is facilitated by Creative Generation. The goal of the campaign is to inspire and support youth, educators & artists, parents, and organizations to keep making art despite the tremendous circumstances we are facing. The campaign toolkit can be found here.

This week, Courtney J. Boddie chats with the Co-Chairs of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, Jennifer DiBella and Sobha Kavanakudiyil with their colleague, Managing Director, Kimberly Olsen to discuss how the #ARTSareEssential.

*****

About Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie

Teaching Artistry blends creative and educational practice in service of community building, social justice, and inspiring joy. Courtney J. Boddie, Host and Creator, chats with teaching artists and arts educators who are driving professional teaching artistry forward. Courtney and her guests discuss personal journeys, celebrate triumphs and challenges, and advocate fiercely for the arts in all communities. Listen & subscribe on your favorite podcast player, today! Learn more here

About Creative Generation

Creative Generation works to inspire, connect, and amplify the work of individuals and organizations committed to cultivating the creative capacities of the next generation. Learn more here.

ADVOCACY ALERT | NYC AiE Roundtable Needs YOUR Help

Posted on April 20, 2020

The following letter was sent out to the Roundtable mailing list on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 and Monday, April 20, 2020. To stay up to date with weekly e-blasts about advocacy efforts, best practices, current trends, upcoming events, and more, please subscribe to the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable mailing list. (more…)

You’re Not Going to Write King Lear and That’s Okay: On Finding Empowerment Through Art for Art’s Sake under Covid-19

Teaching Artists Speak Out: Blogs from Quarantine. Post by Chelsea Asher. Background image: NYC apartment building and blue sky.

By Chelsea Asher

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

This blog is a part of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s new blog series, “Teaching Artists Speak Out: Blogs from Quarantine.” As schools remain closed, we’ve invited some “Teaching Artists of the Roundtable” to help us curate a series of blog posts written for and by NYC teaching artists. We’ll be posting new blogs each Tuesday and Thursday for the next several weeks. To view other blogs in the series, please click here.

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Teaching artists are no stranger to the American hustle culture – if anything, it’s the nature of the work we do. In New York City, we’re on and off trains, buses and subways. We’re in and out of classrooms, federal institutions and midtown buildings. We’re on late night and early morning weekend calls and basically just doing the whole damn lot. Before I was faced with the reality of losing many of my employment opportunities, sudden social distancing, and isolation, you might have caught me saying, “Well, if only I had more time, I’d be able to finally write my novel.”

The nature of the pandemic has forced many of us to interrogate truths we ordinarily wouldn’t have had to. This looks different for everyone, and has been particularly poignant, as ever, for communities living below the poverty line. As a teaching artist, I am anxious about the impact a recession will have on arts education and our students, as well as the pressure on many artists to hustle: to commodify and monetize their newfound “free time” toward an unattainable benchmark of success.

“Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear,” musician Rosanne Cash, and many other Twitter users along with her, began as the pandemic was actualized in the states. Thomas Nashe wrote Summers’ Last Will and Testament and Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron during historical plagues. Isaac Newton invented his theory of gravity while quarantined and Edvard Munch continued to paint even when he contracted the Spanish Flu.

One could argue that none of these people had access to Hulu or Netflix, but that’s not what’s important. These singular, historical creators are being upheld as the pinnacle example of optimism, goodness and, let’s face it, profit coming from our immediate times of uncertainty and hardship during Covid-19. Can you imagine a cultural standard that drives us, even during an outbreak, to think of how our own pandemics can look successful? Allow me to take the pressure off. Take a breath, unclench your shoulders, and release. You are not going to write King Lear. You probably aren’t even going to write King Lear 2. And that’s more than okay.

Let me pose a different question: when is the last time you created without the idea of product, success or audience in mind? At the start of my social distancing and isolation, I painted for the first time since I was a teenager. As a writer, I can’t explain what drew me to create this way, but as I took to the page with color and made something imperfect, I felt free. I video chatted with friends and colleagues this week and found them answering in the midst of baking recipes from their childhoods, learning guitar for the first time, and taking online dance classes. Lack of time may not have been stopping us from writing a Nobel-worthy novel, but it has kept us from the liberating nature of creating for fun, for experimentation, for solace and, most importantly, for ourselves.

In a time when the hustle is pushing down upon us, when everything remains uncertain, I wonder what our communities would look like if we could take a moment together in solace to start this artistic revolution without the expectation of volume, quality or driving a profit, but by the nature of creation itself? When I video called my friend the other night, she answered in the middle of cooking a harrowing recipe she’d been trying to get right for almost two hours. I laughed and marveled why she was putting herself through it. She just shrugged. “Why not? What else are we supposed to do?”

*****

Chelsea Asher is a writer and educator, living in Queens, NY. She received her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence college and her work has been featured in Lunch Ticket, Dark Moon Digest and more.

Improvising in Quarantine

Teaching Artists Speak Out_ Blogs from Quarantine Post by Dana Shulman. Background: NYC apartment buildings looking up at the sky.

By Dana Shulman

Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

This blog is a part of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s new blog series, “Teaching Artists Speak Out: Blogs from Quarantine.” As schools remain closed, we’ve invited some “Teaching Artists of the Roundtable” to help us curate a series of blog posts written for and by NYC teaching artists. We’ll be posting new blogs each Tuesday and Thursday for the next several weeks. To view other blogs in the series, please click here.

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You can make sure you are stocked up on hand sanitizer, canned food, and toilet paper, but you can never be completely prepared for going into quarantine during a pandemic. Sure, I have enough to eat in my house. We are very fortunate and we planned ahead; however, I had no idea what my brain and my heart and my soul were going to need during this intense time.

On Thursday, March 12th I was in the middle of teaching an improv class for The Peoples Improv Theater when we got word there would be no more classes for a while. My students looked at me. I looked at them. I didn’t know what to say, but I talked anyway.

I’m an improviser, that’s what we do.

I told everyone I had no idea what was going on or when we’d be back, but I knew that we all needed to set one quantifiable and attainable mini-goal for however long we would be quarantined. I told them I would check in the next week and see how the goals went. I offered up my goal first.

I decided that I would finally get myself to drink 10 glasses of water a day.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could even accomplish this one small goal. It seemed like a lot. Quarantining seemed like a lot. Everything seemed like a lot.

Every week after class we all swing by the bar and then head to an after class improv jam; however there was no jam. Everything was cancelled. The situation was getting real and scary really fast.

We all looked at each other and not knowing what else to do, we started our own makeshift improv jam at the bar. Someone grabbed my phone and we put it on Facebook Live. We all laughed and tried not to touch each other. People at home were happy to see that some of us were still together. This improv jam and the silly video meant a lot to a lot of people.

That was our last night out.

I went home scared and unprepared emotionally for what life would be like in the coming days/weeks/months. I imagined myself laying in bed and crying and feeling lost for a long time, missing my students, missing my people, missing laughter and art and creativity and the stage. I wondered what good all the hand sanitizer, canned food, and toilet paper could do without the things that I knew I needed to survive.

I woke up on March 13th and a few of us decided to record some two person improv sets since we were each quarantined with another improviser. That sounded fun and would make my mom pleased to get to see me perform so we did it. We knew we could all stream from our personal accounts; however it felt more powerful if we all streamed from one account. I quickly made a new Instagram account.

Socially Distant Improv.

Sounds good.

Instagram account made.

Show scheduled.

My friend Kim made a graphic advertising our show.

It gave me something to look forward to. It gave us all something to look forward to.

I have not stopped working from March 13th until now at the time of this publication. We’ve been working around the clock.

Socially Distant Improv is now a fully functioning channel on Instagram Live.

We stream 75+ weekly shows.

We successfully ran a 25 hour international comedy festival this past weekend.

It’s 3 weeks in and we have over 1300 followers.

It’s modest, but it’s growing.

Every single day Kim and I get some sort of note from someone telling us why Socially Distant Improv is important to them. Performers are thankful for the encouragement to create and perform and to have a show their far away family and friends can finally see. Our viewers are thankful to laugh and to have shows they look forward to catching. Everyone seems thankful for a continuation of something normal and for something that stays on a schedule in this time of uncertainty.

I have never worked this hard in my life. It’s early mornings to late nights for no pay; however, I’ve never been more fulfilled. I am performing new characters and improvising with new people every single day. I get to reconnect with my current teammates and we are learning to listen and play with each other on a whole new, deeper level. I am making new friends and teammates all over the world. My new friend Rafa who is an improviser in Mexico City will come visit NYC as soon as he can, and I know that we will perform at The PIT together. We are breaking down the walls of theaters and connecting like never before.

This virtual improv theater we created has meant more to my family than I ever could have imagined. At 11AM every day I do improv with my niece and nephew in Boston. They love getting to perform for the world and I love getting to guide them through it. It’s absolutely priceless. Yesterday was a tough one for me, and I didn’t feel like doing anything today, but I knew I had to get up for those kids…so I did and it was beautiful and exactly what I needed.

I have not stopped working from March 13th until now at the time of this publication because when I stop, even for a minute, I feel lost and I cry.

A huge part of my new “job” has been reaching out to performers to ask them to grace our “stage” with their talents since March 13th.  Most were not in the right place to do that on March 13th and we completely understood; however, we kept building Socially Distant Improv. We knew that when and if these performers became ready to get back in front of a “crowd” we’d be ready to make it happen for them.   Most eventually find it comforting and rewarding to get back out there and perform in this new virtual format.

Nobody was emotionally prepared for going into quarantine during a pandemic. Most people I talked to in the first week were laying in bed and crying and feeling lost…AND THAT IS OK. That is great. That is surviving. THAT IS OUR ONLY JOB RIGHT NOW.

So cry, laugh, lay around, get super buff, eat a cake, write a novel, call a friend, take a vow of silence, do anything…JUST SURVIVE. If you survive, that helps me survive and then we’re getting through this together. That is the only way.

Last week a show was cancelled because one of our performers was suddenly feeling sick, and I lost it. What am I doing? People are sick. People are dying. I’m facilitating playtime and laughter. It felt wrong.   I was angry and sad and confused, but I wanted to cover the show so I logged on to Socially Distant Improv and went live. I improvised for 20 minutes with an old friend. It was some of the best improv I’ve done in a long time, and I needed that. My scene partner needed that. Maybe one of the people who witnessed the improvised magic needed that too. So I guess that’s another reason to keep going.

On that note, my thoughts here are done and it’s time for me to take a break and have a good cry. Afterwards, it’s back to work for me because I have a job to do. My job is to survive and this is how I’m doing it.

None of us were prepared for going into quarantine during a pandemic, and we are all just improvising as we go along.    

I’m still not drinking enough water.   I’m working on it.

*****
Dana Shulman is an actor, improviser, teacher, coach, and silly long distance runner originally from Boston and currently in a long term relationship with New York City. She is a long time faculty member, producer, and performer at The Peoples Improv Theater and is a founding member of independent improv team Student Driver (est. 2010) who headlines and produces one of The PIT’s longest running show Indie Road (every Sunday) and their longest longest running festival Indie-Pendence Day (every Fourth of July). Dana teaches improv, stand up, & coaches running through Opening Act & Manhattan Youth, two organizations which do amazing work to support NYC public school students. You can also find Dana playing with ComedySportz NYC and she was a member of the first main stage cast of Improv Asylum NYC. She is a recent graduate of Freestyle Love Supreme Academy and would like to believe she is getting better at rapping. Dana is a co-founder of the brand new and thriving Socially Distant Improv which streams 75+ live comedy shows a week on Instagram Live.  You can follow that adventure at www.sociallydistantimprov.com or @sociallydistantimprov on Instagram. Please check out her regular shenanigans on Instagram at @onedanaatatime, her running adventures at @followthatfannypack, her cat at @murphyburger, and her slightly more professional self, www.danashulman.com.

Grief of the Grounded Gig Artist

By Dianna Garten

Written: Monday, March 30, 2020 (quarantine day 10… or 17… or 63… I’m not sure anymore)

This blog is a part of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s new blog series, “Teaching Artists Speak Out: Blogs from Quarantine.” As schools remain closed, we’ve invited some “Teaching Artists of the Roundtable” to help us curate a series of blog posts written for and by NYC teaching artists. We’ll be posting new blogs each Tuesday and Thursday for the next several weeks. To view other blogs in the series, please click here.

—–

I was so excited for March and April. Twenty-nineteen had been a rough year for me; dealing with health issues had made many other things in my life take a back seat. It wasn’t all bad, but I was eager to start 2020 with a fresh outlook and attitude, and by late February, 2020 was going great! I was working on several student shows and had another contract lined up to start  soon, I was in the process of producing my first short film that was set to shoot at the end of March, I was training for my first half-marathon, I was prepping for a large gala, and I had just locked in a plan to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe! I was feeling immensely hopeful about 2020 and was ready to hustle as hard as I could going into the spring to see all these things to fruition. It felt like I was taking my life back. I was following the news and hearing the updates about Coronavirus, but it seemed far away and possibly many months down the road. By the end of February, it felt closer, but still not imminent.

Then, the week of March 9th, everything changed very quickly.

March 8th: I had finished my last long run, clocking 11 miles and feeling excited for the half- marathon the following Sunday. I joked on social media with another runner about the race getting cancelled, but still felt certain that it wouldn’t happen.
March 10th: Then on Tuesday it did. And the wave of cancellations began.
March 11th: On Wednesday the gala I was prepping for was cancelled.
March 12th: On Thursday the church I attend cancelled services through the end of April, and the bombshell announcement: Broadway closed.
March 13th: Friday. I was working in a school and could sense the uneasiness in the air; the adults were doing the best they could, but everyone was wearing gloves and recoiling from the five-year-olds when they coughed.
I received emails from every off-Broadway theater I had ever attended announcing early closures.
March 14th: Saturday. Many of my friends discussed leaving the city indefinitely.
March 15th: Sunday. Public school closed.

I had been saying all week “If schools are open I have work”, and then suddenly they weren’t and my financial footing became very uncertain.

I quickly began working for a family that reached out to me for help with the kids since private schools were closed and very frank about being unlikely to reopen. This lasted for just a week as the following Friday, March 20th , the limitations on movements of non-essential workers was announced. I had spent a week commuting in a ghost town, struggling to come to terms with being primarily a child care provider again and by the end of the week I didn’t even have that.

One of my many jobs, the one that I have loved the most and poured the most into, had announced early in that week that they wouldn’t be able to pay out contracts with the school closure, the company had lost too much revenue, so all Teaching Artists were out of work a month and half early. Another company promised to pay out accrued sick pay and sent us links and guides to file for unemployment. I was reeling. One of my best friends expressed gratitude for the chance to slow down. In contrast, I was not grateful for any of it. I felt like everything good I had planned and worked towards had been ripped from my hands in a matter of days (the Edinburgh cancellation didn’t come until later, but the end of March brought that too). I had been taking back my life, and it felt like my life had been taken from me instead.

Despite my immense feeling of loss, betrayal, and frustration, I was, and still am, taking this crisis very seriously. I do not doubt any of the measures being taken and after a few days for each cancellation respectively I knew the decision was right. However, I still was deeply disheartened; saddened by all that had changed in a matter of days and uncertain what the next months ahead would hold.

“I had a voice in my head saying that creative inspiration often comes out of trials, so why wasn’t I feeling inspired? Why did my creativity feel sapped?”

Every time I went to social media or my news app I would see a variety of amazing stories about people finding exciting and creative ways to deal with the closures next to analyses and reports that would completely terrify me. I had a voice in my head saying that creative inspiration often comes out of trials, so why wasn’t I feeling inspired? Why did my creativity feel sapped? I was seeing others seemingly using the time to sit down and write, or draw, or sing, or read, or in some other way create what could come to be their magnum opus. Why couldn’t I start?

Despite the feelings of internal and external pressure, I know I am not the only one who has lost something. Many people are facing much more serious losses than me right now. I count myself lucky to have a warm safe home, a family that doesn’t have to go to the front lines, and devices that can keep me connected while inside. Still, I feel the pain of my community around me; closed shows, cancelled residencies, delayed shoot dates, lost jobs. The impact on the arts community has been profound and the future remains uncertain. When your art form is all about bringing people together in a space, what does it mean when gatherings are prohibited? What is theater in the solitary? And what is community when we lack the space to commune? Now, after one full week of working from home, hustling to transform my side chess tutoring job into a more substantial one edging on my main source of income, engaging in zoom call after zoom call, watching the people who held by financial fate in their hands get defensive about questions, I am less inspired than when the crises started. Each day seems to bring new bad news, fears, and disappointments and the time stretches out before us for time unknown.

Yet, I have come to accept one thing which has helped immensely: I do not need to force productivity.

I will continue to work and try tp find ways to keep income coming in, but I needn’t immediately have creative inspiration or feel like a failure. Inspiration is different for everyone. For some these first two weeks may have been the perfect opportunity to get your creativity going. For others like me, it is ok to take time and grieve the things that have been lost whether they were opportunities, plans, shows, or anything else.

It’s ok to be sad and feel the hurt of the dreams that were becoming tangible and now cannot.
You can feel this and still be fully committed to #flattenthecurve.
It is ok to rest and breathe and be wherever you are.
As an artist, I trust that as I adapt to the new temporary normal the creativity will come back.
The theater community and the arts-ed community are adaptive, it’s what we do.
We are only human and our hurt is part of our humanity; we don’t have to worship at the idol of productivity.
This stop has been forced upon us, creativity will not inherently come back when exerted on with that same force.
Be gentle with yourself, give yourself what you need, feel the pain and fear and grief; you are still an artist and your spark will come back. (And if you know any young children who might be interested in chess, put me in touch with their parents, it’s my main gig now.)

*****

Dianna Garten is an NYC based theater director and teaching artist. Her directing credits include The Divorcee ShowerBossa Nova and BeesA FatimaSpinoza’s Ethics, Who am I? and I am Cecil, among many additional staged readings. She has assistant directed Not A GiftPainting His WingsAbortion: A Race Redux, and Skin Deep. Dianna specializes in devising with students and she has partnered with students to create over twenty original plays. She is deeply committed to lifting students’ voices through the vehicle of theater. Her theatrical experience also includes performing and stage-managing. She has worked with youth throughout New York City and internationally in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Kigali, Rwanda. She earned her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and my MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. diannagarten.com

Teaching Artist COVID-19 Community Conversation

Published on Sunday, March 15, 2020

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, Association of Teaching Artists, Teaching Artists Guild, Creative Generation, National Guild for Community Arts Education, and Teaching Artists of the Mid-Atlantic hosted a free webinar of almost 500 teaching artists to address how the COVID-19 health crisis is affecting the field of arts in education and the unique profession of teaching artistry. The guiding questions of this webinar included:

  • How does employment status impact organizational support?
  • How can artists advocate for themselves?
  • How can teaching artists build community in times of crisis?
  • How can we connect our community to talk about how the virus is impacting the work we do?
  • How can we leverage the shared knowledge of our community to offer plans and procedures in response to COVID-19?

Thank you to the panelists who helped facilitate this conversation:

  • Erika Atkins – Deputy Director, Opening Act (New York, NY)
  • Justin Daniel – Teaching Artist/Associate Director of Programs, Opening Act (New York, NY)
  • Heleya de Barros – Executive Director, Association of Teaching Artists / Director of Arts Education, Arts Corps (Seattle, WA)
  • John Holyoke – Lead Instructional Specialist, Lincoln Center Education (New York, NY)
  • Jean Johnstone – Executive Director, Teaching Artists Guild (San Francisco, CA)
  • James Miles – Executive Director, Arts Corps (Seattle, WA)
  • Kimberly Olsen – Managing Director, NYC Arts in Education Roundtable (New York, NY)
  • David Wright, Partner, Kahn, Smith & Collins (Baltimore, MD)
  • and Kenny Allen (Teaching Artist Guild) & Kinsey Keck (New York City Arts in Education Roundtable) as Chat Box Moderators

Note: At the time of the webinar, 240 participants reported a loss as a direct result of COVID-19.

Click here for an extensive list of resources complied by the NYC Art in Education Roundtable, Teaching Artist Guild, and Association for Teaching Artists!

Click here to access a transcript of the conversation: TA COVID 19 Call Transcript

Click here to access the audio file of the conversation: Teaching Artist COVID-19 Audio.m4a

Click here to access the transcript of the chat box discussion: Teaching Artist COVID-19 Chat Box

*****

List of Questions to Ask Your Organization Regarding Compensation:

  • In what capacity are you employed as a teaching artist? Employee? Independent Contractor?
  • Am I eligible for paid sick time? If so, how much do I have accrued and where do I find that information?
  • What is this organization’s cancellation policy?
  • When and how can I use paid sick time?
    • If my children are sick?
    • If I have to care for a loved one?
    • If schools close due to a pandemic
    • If I don’t want to go to work due to safety concern
    • What is your class cancelation policy for pay for teaching artists?
    • Are you putting into place any emergency pay measures?

For updates from the NYC Department of Education, please visit: https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/coronavirus-update

Arts Administrators: To access video and audio recordings of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Community Conversation on COVID-19 (March 10, 2020), please click here.