Category: Arts and Cultural Diversity NYC

In Solidarity with our AAPI Communities

Published on March 18, 2021


Dear Arts Education Community,

Violence is being done in New York City and around the country to our Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander neighbors, from children to adults to elders. We recognize that these acts stem from our systems of white supremacy, which is embedded in our country’s founding. The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable is compelled to speak out on behalf of all these innocent victims.  

The Roundtable stands for equity in learning and creative expression, and for the right of all our artists and organizations to thrive. As artists and educators we condemn the senseless harm of anti-Asian violence and harassment, and the misinformation motivating recent attacks.  

All of us need to stand together for healing and to act against repression. We urge artists and educators to speak up against anti-Asian attacks.  For those looking to learn more, better understand how to be an ally, and help the AAPI community fight Anti-Asian Racism, we offer the following resources:

Information & Additional Reading

Toolkits & Allyship Resources

If you’re able, please join us in learning from and donating to the following organizations who are working towards racial justice:

Thank you to the Roundtable’s Non-Black POC Affinity Group who helped gather many of these resources.  The Roundtable will be holding space for communal care and support for AAPI arts educators and accomplices who desire to work towards systemic change. Registration information and event details will be shared next week. 


Sobha Kavanakudiyil, Board Co-Chair
Jennifer DiBella, Board Co-Chair
Gary Padmore, Board Vice Chair
Ted Wiprud, Acting Board Treasurer & Chair Emeritus
Erika Atkins, Board Secretary
Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director
NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

Meet Melissa Parke of Black Teaching Artist Lab

By Melissa Parke
Published on February 26, 2021

My name is Melissa Parke (she/her), and as Black Teaching Artist Lab (BTAL) Founder and Program Director, my sincerest hope is that by using art— one of the most powerful tools we have for human expression— Pan-African artists will be able to share their individual stories of the lived Black experience with Black students everywhere.

I am a Brooklyn-based artist and first began developing BTAL in the beginning of 2019. During that time, I was working as a community manager for the Brooklyn Creative League (BCL), a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York. Surrounded by social entrepreneurs at BCL, I was inspired to turn my big ideas into a tangible, new reality.

It was really great to be able to have a job to create a community for this demographic. It was cool to interact and build friendships with folks at BCL. They really encouraged me to pursue BTAL and offered great entrepreneurial insight. I am so fortunate to have had that opportunity.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was ultimately laid off from BCL in early 2020. And that’s when I decided it was time to truly focus my energy on building BTAL.

At first, BTAL was called Black Teaching Exchange, and the premise of the program was to bring African American teaching artists to Ghana, in order to explore what American Black culture was. But with the onset of COVID, traveling abroad was no longer an option. So I had to think of ways in which I could bring something more localized to folks. During this time there were so many riots and conversations about race here in America that were happening and I felt that I needed to use this programming that I was developing in order to help move this conversation forward.

Black Teaching Artist Lab, LLC’s (BTAL) mission is to provide Black teaching artists with professional development and travel opportunities in order to become better equipped to teach Black learners and to better understand their own Black identities.

In response to the unmet needs of Black learners here in the United States, I also developed the Afrocentric Social-Emotional Learning framework in the early part of 2020. This framework seeks to help Black learners better understand their own Black identity, the emotions that are associated with being Black in America, and how to manage those emotions through art. The central tenet of the Afrocentric Social-Emotional Learning framework is best described by BTAL’s program associate, Abby Faires:

“We believe Afrocentric Social-Emotional Learning in the arts is a pedagogical framework that will equip Black learners and Black teaching artists to discover who they are (individually, culturally, spiritually); to express their own unique talents; and to uncover how they can serve humanity through their work.”

BTAL’s Afrocentric Social-Emotional Learning workshops are currently being conducted through Zoom and are led by either myself or lead facilitators of color who have been trained to utilize the framework.

Another major aspect of BTAL’s programming is the travel abroad experience (safely launching after the resolution of the global COVID-19 pandemic). The goal here is to have Black teaching artists from the U.S. (as of now) travel to other parts of the African Diaspora, in order to partake in an arts-based cultural exchange, using art to share the experiences of being Black in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.

Being Black in America is an experience that is met with multifaceted hurdles. In some regards, the history and current state of the treatment of Black people in the U.S. makes it difficult to be proud to be an American. However, despite the treatment we have faced, we have contributed to our country’s greatest achievements, both in and out of the arts. It is interesting to explore the Black experience outside of the U.S. and to discover the similarities and differences we share with individuals and cultures in other parts of the Diaspora. What I have found to be most profound is the rich, deep-rootedness to West African culture and tradition that imbues the Diaspora.

Currently, BTAL is working on traveling to Puerto Rico in 2022, with a mission to uplift the Afro-Boricua and community voices on the main island through art workshops.

So, why am I choosing teaching artists to carry out this work?

I believe that Black teaching artists are the social, emotional, and cultural responders for Black learners in the classroom. And by providing these teaching artists with a framework that helps them to better understand their Black identity and culture, as well as the Black identity of their learners through art, I believe we can begin to unlock a vital universal truth: we are all human beings, connected through the human experience.

Black Teaching Artist Lab, LLC (BTAL) strives to provide opportunities for Black teaching artists who are interested in using their own Black experience, identity, and art medium to help shape a more understanding world. To learn more about BTAL, please follow the organization on Instagram @blackteachingartistlab and on the BTAL website:

About Melissa
Melissa Parke is a Brooklyn-based creative that is making waves in the arts-education world. Parke initially developed her concept for Black Teaching Artist Lab, LLC at the beginning of 2019, while working as a community manager at Brooklyn Creative League—a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York. Surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and immersed in the social changes that were underway in America, Parke was inspired to turn her big ideas into a tangible, new reality.

Can’t Stop the Hustle: 4+ Ways for Teaching Artists to get Financial Relief

By Michelle Cole
Published on October 28, 2020

Covid-19 is messing with the Teaching Artist hustle.

Our profession thrives on togetherness and community. But right now, traveling artist-educators are considered safety risks solely because of the ubiquitous nature of our work. How are we supposed to do what we do during a time when separation is mandated? How can we hustle when it feels like our whole profession is on pause? It makes me wonder, are other Teaching Artists doing ok? Because I’m not. How will we survive this financially? I have suggestions.

Teaching Artists in all disciplines have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic. The range of pandemic adjustments varies for each artist, from reduced hours to course conversion to furloughs. Teaching Artists have had to find ways to pivot to make ends meet. For some, this may have amounted to a career change. For others, it may look like a reconfiguration of teaching practice to remain relevant and adapt to this changing world. No matter the situation, we must remember who we are. We are adaptable, flexible, resilient, and creative in more ways than one. Knowing to pivot when necessary is a part of our job description. Despite the many challenges, teaching artistry is still alive and it is even more vital than ever. What we provide for communities is invaluable. Now, more than ever, it is time to utilize this virtual realm to take advantage of the available financial resources to supplement reduced or lost income so we can continue to provide for our communities.

Money isn’t the only way we’re being affected. Our physical, mental, and emotional health are also negatively impacted. I lost over 75% of my income. I work out – I’ll say – less (does walking back and forth from the kitchen in my pajamas count?). And I am feeling much more isolated- as many people can attest to experiencing. Teaching Artists know how isolating this profession can be, so having gatherings halted, reduced, or completely shut down can be that much more of a strain on both our mental and emotional well-being. We’re going through national ongoing extended trauma that has seen people slipping in and out of depressions and experiencing both anxiety and rising stress levels. Couple that with financial strain to get a recipe for a full breakdown.

But, before the spiral begins, there are solutions! I know the struggle; I experienced it firsthand. If you’re like me and happen to be an artist parent, then your pockets are probably quickly depleting from ravenous children incessantly eating/snacking at home. Times are hard with kids in the house 24/7, curing their boredom with food. So, I asked for help, I sought assistance, and I looked through so many websites to find solutions. These kids have to eat. I am allowing myself to be more vulnerable than I have ever been because this is not the time for pride and ego trips.

Allow me to share what I gathered and please take advantage. There are many funds, grants, and microgrants out there to provide financial relief for artists to help us navigate this unprecedented time. Below you will find a compiled list of the most current and applicable opportunities for teaching artists. This list is not comprehensive of all available emergency funds, nor is this a cure-all. But this may be able to hold us over until we can figure out how to recreate some semblance of stability.


Financial Resources for Teaching Artists

(October 2020: List reflects resources available as of October 28, 2020)

Artist Relief Fund

This fund has gone through seven (7) cycles of funding for artists. Two cycles remain. See the dates below.

One time, $5000 unrestricted grant for artists in need of financial assistance due to Covid-19’s impact.
There are two more rounds of applications in 2020:
Cycle VIII: October 22 – November 18 (closes 11:59pm ET)
Cycle IX: November 19 – December 10 (closes 11:59pm ET)
Apply Here
Tip: During the application process, be sure to provide as much detail as possible regarding the impact of Covid-19 on your financial struggles. Save your answers to the questions in a separate document or an e-mail so you can apply again for the next round, in case you don’t get it.

Arts Administrators of Color Network (AAC)

This microgrant is ongoing. No specified end date.

$200 microgrant for US-based BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists and administrators

Apply Here
Tip: If you have a website, update it. If not, be sure to have a web link for your CV/résumé or a contract to show artistic engagement.

Red Bull Arts Microgrant

This application is open on a rolling basis. No specified end date.

$1000 microgrant for artists (and groups) 18+
Award is given to two (2) individuals each month.

Apply Here
Tip: Be detailed about both your ‘artist statement’ and ‘statement of purpose.’ Why do you need this grant money? How will you use it? Distinguish yourself from others. NYC is jam-packed with dope struggling artists.

Max’s Emergency Relief & Resource Fund

This application is open on a rolling basis. No specified end date.

A one-time grant of between $500-$1000 for a specific bill (housing, legal, medical)
Applicants should be self-employed artists who have a steady work history but experiencing a temporary financial setback.
Money is sent directly to the third party, not the individual.

Apply Here (Download Application)
Tip: Be specific about how you will use the awarded money. It is a requirement to send applications by snail mail. This application process is extensive.

Other Resources

The Arts in Education Roundtable has plenty of resources for artists such as financial assistance, professional development, emotional and mental well-being, and more. Click here to find out more about it on their resource page.

Also, check out the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), and Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+) for additional resources and other compiled lists.

I hope this helps to alleviate some of the financial stress. We may be experiencing financial hardship, but we’ll get through this together. Hopefully, this will further ignite Teaching Artists to advocacy so we can establish a union and better protect ourselves in the future. In the meantime, apply for what you can and share this with an artist friend-in-need. Many of these funds are also accepting donations, so if you are someone or know someone that has the means, please consider donating to a fund that supports Teaching Artists right now. We can really use it. Take care of yourself and remember who we are. The hustle will return.

Michelle smiles with reddish short sleeve shirt, close-cropped hair

Michelle Cole, is an educator, choreographer, and dancer. She received her Master’s degree in Dance Education from New York University, Steinhardt and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Florida International University’s Honors College. In 2019, she began her own dance teaching company, Dance Culture LLC, to conduct independent dance residencies at universities, public, private, and independent schools throughout NYC. Michelle became an adjunct faculty member of NYU in 2015, she currently teaches Afro-Caribbean and Hip-Hop Dance. As a choreographer and performer, Michelle has presented and performed in New York, Chicago, Miami, Martha’s Vineyard, Kampala, Uganda and more. She is a member of the Teaching Artist Affairs committee through the Arts in Education Roundtable and an advocate for dance education, social justice, dances of the African diaspora and culturally integrated dance pedagogy.


Resources from Day of Learning on Equity & Inclusion (February 2020)

On February 26, 2020, the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable hosted its annual Day of Learning on Equity and Inclusion. This year’s learning exchange focused on Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Pedagogy. Attendees explored how our roles as arts educators and administrators can support a student centered learning space that honors cultural identities and promotes social-emotional well-being in the classroom. To align and sustain our practice with the values of this pedagogy, we invited young people from our arts community to join us as presenters and co-learners for this special event.

Keynote Address

Poet, Writer, & Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

Fireside Chat: “Creating Entry Points into Professional Theater for Young Women of Color”

Suggested Readings

  • Culturally Responsive Education in the Classroom: An Equity Framework for Pedagogy by Adeyemi Stembridge
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

National Dance Institute

Echoes of Incarceration

NYC Department of Education Office of Arts & Special Projects

Follow us on social media (Facebook @nycaier; Twitter @nycaier; or Instagram @nycaieroundtable) to view photos from the event!

From Here to Diversity: where do we go from here? By Sobha Kavanakudiyil

This issue of Diversity has been a hot topic discussed a lot in our field this year. I’ve heard it everywhere. Questions like: how do we diversify arts education leadership? How do we support the diversity of those working in schools to better represent the children we serve? What do these words mean: diversity, equality, equity, inclusivity?

I grew up in Armonk, NY, in Westchester County, raised by parents of Indian descent in a very “white” area.  My parents immigrated here in the 1960’s.  At that time most Indian people were trying to assimilate as best they could and be “American.”   My parents spoke to us in English.

I had really great friends growing up, but none of whom were Indian. In fact, the only Indian people in my life were family. But things at my home were different compared to my friends. I couldn’t really pinpoint what, didn’t have the space to talk about it, and I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Last year at Face to Face 2015, I presented a session with Michael Wiggins, James Miles, and Courtney J. Boddie called Diversity in Leadership. The conversations that came out of the session were the first steps toward discussion about this topic of diversity – sometimes uncomfortable, but always honest and questioning.When my parents’ siblings came to the country in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s things were different. There were Indian schools, more Indian churches, and my cousins were raised a little differently than I was. I started to feel “different” sometimes even with my family. I didn’t fit in completely at home or in the circles in which I ran. I had an identity crisis really.  Who was I? I am a woman of color but had a lot of privilege growing up. I started to question – what is the lens that I approach this work from?

This year, the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable started the Diversity Task Force, spearheaded by board member Piper Anderson. Our first meeting was an exploration of terms such as equity, equality, inclusion, and diversity. What did they mean and were we all on the same page? A simple question and one that created such rich dialogue.

The Diversity Task Force has since pioneered a survey to explore information on this topic from Teaching Artists, Arts Administrators, and Practitioners in the field of Arts Educators; started a reading resource list which is now posted in the Diversity Reading Room on the Roundtable website, and in collaboration with the Programming Committee, presented the Day of Learning: Equity and Access for All on January 22, 2016.

It was an inspiring day that had registration at full capacity. We had exciting presenters: Piper Anderson, Jennifer Katona, Michael Wiggins, Tatyana Kleyn and Farah Said and Antonio Alarcon, and Alex Santiago-Jirau; and powerful speakers: Bo Young Lee and Dr. Aaron Flagg.

Here’s what I learned:

Immigration status is dynamic, not static! (People can move from one status to another and the only safe status is citizenship)

When working with young people think about Preferred Gender Pronoun and Gender Identity

I should check myself and think about these questions: what is my privilege, what does that mean, and how does that impact the work I do?

It is important to make the comfortable uncomfortable and be in that space to really have deep conversations about diversity

We all have Unconscious Bias

Don’t run from the work, stay there, do it, fail at it, and then start learning

As an arts educator, create art that represents the diversity of all humanity

We ALL have to be agents of that dialogue

So I continue to think about what this all means, both my experiences and what I gained from a thought provoking day.  How does this all impact what I do as an Arts Educator?

I will leave you with this quote from Jimmy Carter, “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

How do I explain what I do? By Yusef Miller for the Roundtable Teaching Artists Affairs Committee


            Um, I teach.

            Um, I’m a teacher. But not really?

            I’m an Actor. I work for Arts Education Organizations….What do I DO?

            Um, I’m called a Teaching Artist. A Theatre Teaching Artist.

Okay, I’ll give you the CV one-sentence summary.

I am an advocate for programming that utilizes theatre arts to help achieve literacy and educational objectives within youth populations.

But, that doesn’t really explain what I do. The truth is – I am finding my way. From this finding-my-way place, I have found myself in a system. This system claims to educate young people. This education is supposed to give them direction – school to college to career. But from street to class – they are harassed – presumed to be criminally minded – as they are bagged-checked and body frisked and in some case, manhandled by security – this is their entry to learning. Meanwhile, their Black and Latino families are stretched so far and so thin on a nation’s apathy. To come to school and be mishandled and unheard, students are like,

“Let me express myself, Ms. Let me take the whole class time for you to explore why I walk in late, why I’m eating in class, why I’m yelling back, why I’m speaking without raising my hand, why I need to take a break – to get out of your face, Ms. because you don’t understand that I don’t care what you know; I want to know if you CARE.”

I….I teach theatre as a tool of expression. I’m finding a way to connect to their content and modes of expression. It’s listening without judgment; it’s avoiding the urge to culturally critique. I’m finding a way to apply a theatrical lens to who they are and where they come from, FIRST. It’s like pulling teeth to ask them to tell a non-violent story or to imagine a delivery beyond the World Star videos. But, I’m finding a way to facilitate as community member, ally. Some times who I am appears to be an affront. I’m Black. Male. Educated. An Artist. I have expectations. AND I CARE. I’m never afraid to let them know I care. I’m never afraid to show them I care. I’m never afraid to speak to them frankly, familiarly, like nieces and nephews. I’m never afraid to buck the generational distance. I’m finding my way to impact using the skills I have. They reject what I know on some days. I’m finding varied ways to model the imagination at work. I want them to see the freedom one could gain from developing a character, a world, or rearticulating their circumstances for whatever purpose THEY choose.

I take a breath before delivering a monologue – I give them a thumb – one, two, three, the young audience is in no one’s syncopation. But I get it. I get them. I swallow. I begin my monologue. I hope I’m free enough to quell the side chatter – to ignite their risk taking. I am finding my way, knowing there is a way.

As flawed as that, I am a Theatre Teaching Artist and this is what I do. What do you do?







Teaching Artist Unity: Teaming Up to Move Forward

By Beth Cooperman, Teaching Artist and member of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Teaching Artists Affairs Committee.

Is teaching artistry a profession? What would it take to unite the teaching artists of New York City? How can a union for teaching artists be created? Are there resources to compare various teaching artist organizations’ values, pay rates, or rate of hire?

These were just a few of the questions that were considered when a group of teaching artists got together to discuss the topic of summer employment. The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable TA Affairs Committee hosted a Teaching Artist Meet-up event at Urban Arts Partnership on March 5th for the purpose of unifying NYC teaching artists. Through the sharing of resources, experiences, and support, teaching artists explored how they can move forward as a profession. Despite the harsh weather conditions and subway disruptions, a group of dedicated teaching artists turned up to discuss the topics most important to them. Although many attendees were meeting for the first time, it was not long before everyone felt comfortable expressing their views.

In the first Roundtable Teaching Artist Meet-up, the participants yearned to create a tangible product where teaching artists can collaborate and educate one another.  Social media is always a great start. A private Facebook group was created during the meeting as a place for teaching artists to share opportunities, thoughts, and support. This is definitely a step in the right direction to improve networking in the teaching artist field.

The use of the internet and social media has created many opportunities for artists of every discipline. One case in point for actors is Audition Update, an innovative website that invites theatre artists in New York City to do something that was once considered taboo – to help out and support other actors. This website allows actors to post information and ask/answer questions about specific auditions throughout the city. Also appearing in the website is a “Gig & Tell” section where actors review theatre companies with which they have had experience and a “Bitching Post” where actors can share frustrations. Audition culture has changed considerably since the creation of this website. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a similar resource for teaching artists?

In order to move teaching artistry forward, whether you believe that it is an actual profession or not, it is important to continue collaborating with others that hold the same passions and intentions. The TA Affairs committee plans to host one or two more meet-ups before the end of the school year with different topics of focus. In the near future, we hope to create monthly meet-ups. With the help of New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, we hope to move teaching artistry forward and enhance opportunities for teaching artists in the NYC area.

Click here to see full article

Beth Cooperman is currently a teaching artist at Urban Arts Partnership, NYC Children’s Theatre, and Wingspan Arts. She is also participating in the advanced track of the Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program (TATIP) through CommunityWord Project.

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs – Discussing Diversity

This week, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs took the first step in a new initiative to examine diversity in the City’s arts and cultural sector. DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl invited executive leaders of the City’s major institutions and smaller organizations to participate in a discussion about why diversity matters in our sector, hosted by the Ford Foundation.

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker framed the discussion by emphasizing that diversity should be viewed not as a sacrifice but as a way to build excellence, strength, energy, and renewal. “Diversity,” said Walker, “is a way to broaden networks and links, expand political connections, and increase legitimacy in a broad-based way.”

Commissioner Finkelpearl continued the discussion by saying that while the conversation on diversity was beginning with race, all areas are important, including sexual orientation, and disability. He talked about the need to create a plan for change, beginning with a goal for expanding staff and board diversity and developing a strategy for achieving the goal within a given timeframe. And in order to make a plan, we need more data, adding that a privately-funded survey will be distributed to the sector with the expectation of full participation. He emphasized that while accomplishing the goal may take time, there is real urgency to start the work now. Organizations need to create a pipeline where people of color have points of entry into our organizations as professional staff, decision-makers, board members, and audiences.

The Roundtable constituency – teaching artists and administrators conducting the arts education programs on behalf of New York’s arts and cultural sector – is engaged in the most diverse arts activities in the field. Thousands of arts professionals work in schools and communities every day, helping tens of thousands students of color achieve in and through the arts. An important question is how to more effectively integrate participants in the arts in education and community-based arts programs happening out in communities with the arts institutions that put them there. How can these vibrant and relevant programs be part of the pipeline that brings young people of color and the diverse teaching artists working with them into the heart of arts organizations – offices, board rooms, concert halls, theatres, and museums – adding to the excellence, relevance, and innovation of our sector?

The discussion on diversity in the arts sector is one that the Roundtable will continue to engage in. A session at our 2015 Face to Face conference (April 7 & 8, 2015), developed by arts administrators of color who work for organization members of the Roundtable, is a good example of the need to put this issue firmly on the table. In this interactive panel, entitled “In Full Color” three veteran arts administrators of color will share their professional journeys, identifying the challenges and supports they have encountered on the pathway to managerial and leadership positions in the field of arts education.

The DCA discussion this week has given the sector notice that change is needed to make our field more broadly accessible and representative of the interests of all New Yorkers.

What can you do to help change the culture and create opportunities for more diverse participation in all aspects of the arts sector in NYC?