Tag: COVID-19

New York City Arts in Education Roundtable Receives Grant to Provide Critical Assistance to Arts Education Community Amid COVID-19

New York Community Trust logo in red and black.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 29, 2020
CONTACT: Kimberly Olsen, kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org

Published on July 29, 2020

 

NEW YORK, NY – The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable (NYCAIER) is pleased to announce that it has received $465,000 in grant awards from the New York Community Trust (NYCT), including funding from the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in the New York Community Trust, to continue providing critical assistance to New York City’s arts education community which has been among the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable has always responded quickly and decisively to the needs of New York’s arts education field,” said Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of NYCAIER. “As arts education funding and programming are often among the first to be cut during times of sudden economic strife, we are grateful to NYCT for providing us with this important support so that we can continue to offer our community relief and resources to ensure field-wide sustainability through this pandemic.”

This grant will allow NYCAIER to establish an “Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund” to award at least 300 grants of up to $1,000 to arts educators who are facing serious financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. Both teaching artists and arts education administrators will be eligible to apply with an application opening the week of August 10, 2020. Additional details and application questions will be announced the week of August 3, 2020.

NYCT funding will also enable NYCAIER to continue supporting the sustainability of arts education in New York City through free professional development workshops designed to help arts groups and individuals navigate and respond to rapid changes in the delivery of arts education in New York City. NYCAIER will also utilize newly funded resources to expand its advocacy efforts for the integration of arts education into the New York City Department of Education’s contingency planning for the 2020-2021 school year, including through targeted outreach to public officials and the media, among other programs.

NYCAIER has a longstanding history of preserving and advancing the arts education community in New York City as one of the cultural pillars of the city. This summer, NYCAIER is hosting a seven-week Summer School learning series for arts in education practitioners supported in part by the award from NYCT. The free series will feature weekly professional development sessions focused on digital skills-building, self-care, and collaborative art-making for educators, administrators, and artists.

NYCT’s NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund was created to aid nonprofit service providers struggling with the initial health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The funding allowed nonprofits to transition to online contact with clients and audiences, as well as purchase protective supplies, among other needs. Grants and loans also helped groups facing a loss of operational revenue from facility closings, cancelled programs, and events. Learn more about the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund.

 

About the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable improves, advances, and advocates for arts education in New York City. NYCAIER is a community of cultural organizations and educators that shares resources, provides professional development, and advocates for the needs of our constituents and the communities they serve. Founded in 1992, NYCAIER builds our efforts around the value that arts education is a right for all NYC students. NYCAIER produces a major annual arts in education conference, Face to Face; monthly professional development programs;  in addition to ongoing advocacy and communications efforts for cultural organizations and teaching artists in every discipline.

For more information please visit: www.nycaieroundtable.org.

Click here to access a PDF version of this press release.

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The Lost Art of Boredom

By Melissa Shaw

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 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.

Novelists are geniuses at staying still and seeing what comes next. I am most likely to be engaged in is staring. If staring ever becomes an Olympic event I am bringing home the gold. While other people go to work, I stare out the window, and then for a while I stare at my dog. I stare at blank pieces of paper and paragraphs and I stare at sentences and a buzzing computer screen. While others are doing things with their lives, hours and hours of my days are spent with my eyes glazed over, waiting, trying to figure things out. 

– Ann Patchett

 

When I was younger it was a lot easier to have nothing to do. There was less to watch on TV, fewer places to go, FOMO didn’t have a name yet, and although there was a rudimentary Internet around in the 90’s, I was not from a family that ever had a computer and the ear splitting dial-up connection of yore. AOL chat rooms, one of the only ways to chat on the internet then, was a stolen pleasure in other people’s homes. Through all of this, I was given a gift that is so much harder to find and embrace these days: boredom. 

 

For many of us, through Quarantine, there is a new air of and potential for boredom around us. Most of us are in our homes wondering what’s next? What do I do now? In this time to have an opportunity you should not miss- to do nothing for a while and see what comes of it. 

 

Think back to when you were a kid. I know when I think back to having a lack of things to do, my sister and friends and I would come up with original games, and fantastical romps through made-up worlds of our own devising. We were monsters and fairies and ran off of storm doors pretending we could fly. Even through high school, when I went to the haven of my room and shut the door I would listen to music, lip sync, dance alone, collage, journal, play dress up and dream of what might come in my future. This was a fertile time for my mind and creativity. If only we had Tik Tok then, I would have been a star. 

 

My personal space to create was born from these nighttimes and weekends unfilled with school, or other people’s voices, or demands on my time. 

 

To this day, I come up with my best plans or ideas when I stare off into space or when I’m stuck in my car singing to whatever song comes on the radio. 

 

Your boredom can be a gift -you just have to let it be. From the Void of Boredom will come your great idea, invention, piece of writing, drawing, or video.  You just have to open the space to let it in. 

 

The problem with most of us these days is that at the very hint of boredom, we move to strike too quickly to fill the void. We check our phones and wonder what other people are doing or thinking. Don’t worry about it sweetheart. You’re where the party is, always.

My advice. Be bored. Be with yourself. Sit on that mountain and the lightning bolt will come. Give it a try. 

 

Think, if you will, of a pimple (stay with me). When you first get a pimple, you are most likely bummed. Drat. This is inconvenient. This is not what I want! I do not want a pimple. You don’t, but there is nothing you can do. You must wait. That pimple is your boredom.  Oh sure you can try. You can fuss, and muss, and apply creams, and wash your face a million times, but you know the rules of a pimple quite well by now. You can’t rush a pimple, you have to give it time, because you know there is going to come the Great Pimple Moment. Slowly, surely, the moment to pop the pimple will arrive. The ugly pimple of boredom will be ready, and so will you. You will get the satisfying moment of release (don’t pretend there aren’t entire youtube channels dedicated to this.) This Great Pimple Moment holds the release to the next phase of healing and the inspiration that something good (the pimple fading!) is at hand. From your angsty patience will come the revelation. 

 

 A lot of research has been done about boredom and creativity. In this article, Clive Thompson writes for Wired that “Boredom might spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation. Maybe traversing an expanse of tedium creates a sort of cognitive forward motion. “Boredom becomes a seeking state,” says Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Lench. “What you’re doing now is not satisfying. So you’re seeking, you’re engaged.” A bored mind moves into a “daydreaming” state, says Sandi Mann, the psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire who ran the experiment with the cups. Parents will tell you that kids with “nothing to do” will eventually invent some weird, fun game to play—with a cardboard box, a light switch, whatever. Philosophers have intuited this for centuries; Kierkegaard described boredom as a prequel to creation: “The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.” 

 

Pace around your room, listen to songs and fall in love with the images in the lyrics, flip through magazines, put down your phone, stare into space. Give your brain time to rewire. 

 

 

As Ann Patchett says in her graduation speech from Sarah Lawrence College the year I received my MFA in Theatre, Say still. See what comes next.

 

*****

Melissa Shaw is a writer, theater artist, and facilitator living in Brooklyn.  Her work has appeared in Hey Alma, Litrony, The Writer’s Rock Quarterly, and in the forthcoming Lyrics, Lit and Liquor anthology. Melissa was a member of the 2018 Writers in-Performance Lab at Tribeca Performing Arts Center in 2018 and is an associate artist with Falconworks Artist Group. She holds an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College.

Screenshots from Quarantine

By Chaya Babu

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 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.

The days are all the same but I’ve never been good at time any way. I take walks around the neighborhood to punctuate things, stopping sometimes to sit on the grassy medium along Albermarle under the trees. Yesterday I journaled about how the leaves look translucent when the sunlight pierces them — distinct from the glassy look of a fish, more like gossamer, ready to come apart at the slightest touch. The day before that, about Venus stationing retrograde in Gemini. This is my universe right now: the ten-block radius around my apartment and, in turns, a more galactic drawing of my borders. 

 

“All I learn on Zoom is pig latin.”

 

And a new rhythm of conversation with my almost-nine-year-old nephew. The days have this now too. His face bright with his bad homemade haircut on a screen in my Brooklyn studio, sometimes right after the school day ends too but always for a bedtime story. Between 6:30 and 7pm he FaceTimes me. 

He has on occasion given me the courtesy of informing me that he’s about to do so. It’s not a heads-up as he doesn’t leave time in between the message and the call for me to let him know if I’m free; it’s more just an announcement of himself.

 

“Abu-bay,” he says. “That’s what your last name would be in pig latin.” As if I wasn’t well versed myself thirty years ago. I let him teach me. 

 

 

Vihan is my sister’s child. I always thought he would be 11 or 12 before he had his own device with messaging capabilities. Like so many other changes, COVID-19 sped that up. I’ve relished this development. He’s old enough now for us to laugh at the same jokes (sometimes), and to agree on whether a story is actually scary or not (yes I have cultivated in him a strong inclination toward art about ghosts and maybe killers and baby spiders crawling out of human faces). When I got that first “hey” two weeks ago from an email address that was his first and last name plus a 2011 tacked onto the end, I felt a soft heart-blooming that is so much more palpable now that the earth is quiet. A minute later, he was blowing up my FaceTime. We haven’t missed a story night yet. 

 

I’m reading Dear Mr. Henshaw to him. I never read it as a girl, but a friend gifted it to me recently with his own fanmail in the form of a note tucked into the front cover about his high hopes for my book publishing future. Vihan is taken with Leigh Botts’ transition from writing letters to Mr. Henshaw to writing in a diary with each entry addressed to Mr. Pretend Henshaw. He tells me from his little rectangle world on my iPhone that he can understand why it’s hard to write in a diary because he likes to write but doesn’t always see the point in writing to himself.

 

 

I’m not writing at all. Not beyond my slips of noticing the light, catching the way an ant crawls across my knee, the way my hair has grown wild or my whether my breath goes in deep or shallow. As my brain tries to make sense of what’s happening around us, even as I don’t think about it consciously, it feels that it has nothing left to make sense of anything else. It has nothing else to make sense of through language. I think about stories I might like to tell, essays ideas that had been swirling before, my manuscript draft that is waiting for my discernment and hand with red pen, and the fact that I now have all the free, open, boundless time an artist could have dreamed of. But the days blur together in a way that collapses the clock, and I can’t remember why I once believed there was a purpose in putting these thoughts on paper. I can’t remember why I once believed I knew how. 

 

 

I get good morning and what are you doing now? messages from him at 7am. I’m still asleep then. His good morning emoji game is on point though.  

Sometimes he sends me dispatches from the middle of his day.  

If I tell Vihan I’ll call him back in five minutes but I take seven minutes instead, I get back to my phone with three missed FaceTime calls and a message asking why I’m not picking up. I have to explain to him that if a grownup says five minutes, they usually mean fifteen or twenty. He thinks about that and decides it’s absolutely true. 

 

 

Vihan knows that I’m “a writer,” but only in the abstract. Sometimes he asks me questions about the publication process, but he doesn’t know what kinds of pieces I write, about what, why I do it as my work when it means I live in inside a 500 square foot perimeter while his life happens in the expanse between an Upper East Side townhouse and five acres of green and shadow and crisp air in Westchester. Usually he’s only up north on the weekends but now he’s been there for two months. One day on our FaceTime, after we read a few entries from The Diary of Leigh Botts, I show him my quarantine journal. 

 

“You wrote ALL that just since quarantine started?” he asks. 

 

It’s a soft bound book with a white cover. A gold bee is etched into the front. Vihan requests that I read a page to him. This feels hard. I open to lines and lines documenting my emotional state and the roots of my tendency toward somatic dispersion; somewhere there’s a missive about the direction the dandelion seeds danced in the wind on Ocean Parkway, somewhere else a bulleted list of numbers counting death. 

 

I find something remotely legible and not entirely inappropriate, even if beyond his level of reading comprehension. It’s dated May 5. I read: 

 

“I have lost my way and I know it. I used to know, just from the pulsing within, what came now, and next, and next. Now I trust nothing, always monitoring the okayness, measured by — not me. It has been so sad. This place. Thinking that the current and flow of my own body could be so wrong. An error. Carved into the bed of my feelings place. I’m wondering now if something about now is taking me back. I hope so. I need this time to hold a return. It seems so desperate and urgent a need. And yet, the urgency requires a sustaining force of slowness. Once it was true that the writing came easily. It did. I know it. I was there, that was me. Now it feels like I know nothing, think nothing, without stopping to check for the making sense to the gaze of some other. It never does. What happened? Who said I was such an aberration, and why did they matter?”

Vihan thinks about that. 

 

“Does that mean you think you’re getting less smart?”

 

“Yeah…” I say. “Yeah, it does.”

 

“Me too,” he offers. 

 

“Really? Why? Because you’re not getting much from remote learning?” 

 

And then he explains that all he learns on Zoom is pig latin. 

 

I laugh. 

 

 

The days are marked by our chats. 

A ritual that repeats, but nonetheless allows me to plot the passage of days and ephemeral shifts aside from my own regression. 

 

 

On a pretend Monday, February 5, Leigh Botts writes:

 

Dear Mr. Henshaw, 

I don’t have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of a paper. 

 

 

On a real Thursday, May 14, Vihan writes: 

 

(Because I’m annoying and I asked him to think about ways he might be growing that are not exactly related to what he’s learning academically. I decide after receiving the message that it wasn’t the worst exercise.)

 

 

I’ve been thinking about pig latin. How there is a point in our young lives when we are unburdened by whether or not we are understood beyond the scope of those whom we have let in. How having a secret language is sometimes what makes us feel safe. I think about how there are going to be moments, and they may stretch on in a way that causes time to fold in on itself and spiral out and back again, when talking only to ourselves and to those who intuitively grasp the words we use when we’re separating out the strands of our thoughts is what we need to get through the unraveling weeks of unknowing, whole. 

 

 

It’s the first day that I feel a hopeful warmth on my skin outdoors and I can mark the seasons turning, at last. The leaves are glowing everywhere; I try to figure out the name of a fragrant purple flower on a Stratford Road bush. It’s Friday — I know that much because Vihan goes to bed later and so I haven’t heard from him yet even as the 7pm hour creeps to its halfway point. Then my phone buzzes.

 

 

It’s story time.

*****

Chaya Babu is a South Asian American writer, journalist, artist, and educator based in Brooklyn. Her work focuses on power and oppression, cities, the body, foolishness, individual and collective healing, and more, and has been featured in or at The Margins, BuzzFeed, VICE, Open City, the Porter Gulch Review, GO HOME!, and Project for Empty Space, amongst others. She teaches classes on personal narrative, poetry, and reporting through Community Word Project and the School of the New York Times while she works on her first book, a memoir about the intergenerational trauma of exile and the impossibility of return post diaspora. For more, visit www.fobbysnob.com.

 

The Importance of Art in Trying Times

By Topaz Rodriguez

Posted on Friday, June 5, 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.

Hello there! I see you’ve landed here from your journey, and I’m glad to see you alive and well in these changing times my good friend. Now that I have the privilege of your time and attention; I’d like to talk to you about an observation, or rather a perspective that has been around longer than you can imagine. This perspective is the flippant conversation of pursuing, creating, and dissecting art- society seems to have with artists of all mediums- claiming that our careers are phases, or they’re gaudy precursors to what we are ‘supposed’ to do. This conversation leads in with condescending tones, then follows up with the pressure of living in a capitalist society where if your work doesn’t bring in money it shouldn’t exist. If you’re lucky it ends there, but most times you’re not so lucky and the person or group of people ask you what you’re going to do with your life, why do a career that leaves you in poverty, etc. One of the best examples I can show you of this attitude seeping into an artist’s life, or how pervasive this attitude can be comes from the late Kurt Vonnegut, writer of Slaughterhouse Five, and A Man Without a Country. In this book (A Man Without a Country) Vonnegut (or his character)- is shown to have said:


If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”  

 

This observation itself speaks volumes of the attitude towards art both in the times of Walt Whitman’s journey as a writer (some may even argue as a person) and to today’s 21st century.  To many people of the past and the audiences of the present, art is a waste of time- it doesn’t do much, and pursuing it is a disappointment to both you and the people before you.  To some it may be hard to believe nowadays – artists of many mediums have sprung from all walks of life.  We even have  more representation (of people who are marganlized or left in the background) in media such as Black Panther (2018), Steven Universe & it’s epilogue Steven Universe Future, to even revived specials such as Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling where one of the main characters is transgender.  However it is hard to keep art alive where one is in a society where it is neglected, disengaged, or even destroyed for capitalistic gains in it’s society. Below this are my two main arguments, and some advice for your troubles, dear reader.


1 (One): Capitalism is (More) Insidious than you think.

I know what you’re thinking: “Gee, next you’re gonna tell us water isn’t wet, and moonlight is technically still sunlight, wowee” but sarcasm aside it just seems I’m stating what you know to be your reality. However, I’d like you to take a moment, and think of the last film, t.v show, or even youtube series you’ve binged at 2 am and ask yourself if there were any jabs, commentary, at the providers of the show, or the network companies. Now add any implications of characters without a job being portrayed as annoying, antagonistic, etc. Once you’ve got those two ruminating in your brainspace, ask yourself: “How come (insert character name here) is seen as a useless person if they don’t work? How did that jab at (Insert network provider/company) fly past the executives?” Isn’t a little weird that you may feel odd for thinking that’s not fair to the character, or that you might bite a nail, inhale a sharp breath, or even laugh at the creators jabbing at the people that left them behind? Now, I’d like to direct your attention to the idea that people are inherently good but capitalism prevents actual good being done. I know, it sounds a bit radical (and pro-communism if you want to bring in the ideologies of economic systems) but hear me out for a second. I’d like to introduce you to a show title I hold dear and near to my heart called One Day at A Time (2017). This series was inspired by the 1975 sitcom with the same name, but this version follows a Cuban-American  family led by Penelope who starts the series off as a newly single veteran who divorced her partner who was also in the military, and she takes care of her two children and her mother in an apartment owned by a white landlord who’s a really really rich and aloof hipster. Already, this is a major field of representation for people who immigrate to America from Latino, and Hispanic countries, for those who are veterans, and for those who may have the same familial setup or culture- where there’s a matriarch in charge or in the picture. This series is both light-hearted, sweet, and also heart-wrenching at times from the days the family goes through, from Penelope’s daughter coming out as lesbian, to Penelope dealing with the seperation of her marriage, and her youngest son dealing with bigotry from the groups around him at school. To many people’s dismay, the show was dropped by Netflix after it’s 3rd season but was saved by Pop TV, another streaming tv service. In the 4th season’s premiere, there’s a jab done at Netflix where there’s nothing good on it anymore since they cancelled the show itself before. This series brings the inherent goodness idea to light by the representation the show gives, but since Netflix was not gaining the viewership it wanted it was dropped outright. Due to the influence of needing to see profit, cultural growth in television/media was stunted, and many creators that we need may have just given up. We also constantly see characters (in other shows) who don’t have jobs being portrayed as annoying to the main characters who do have jobs, an example would be Jack McFarland from Will and Grace (both the 1993 version, and the 2020 epilogue season) where in the beginning seasons he’s seen as a hindrance/annoyance to Will (his best friend) since he doesn’t work and is often asking for Will to spend some money on him or get him some services- and Will is patted on the back for being a good friend, or he just exchanges jabs to get Jack to quit. This may be a small facet into how capitalism can show it’s ugly rear in art but it’s important to spot it- since it’s a good foundation to bring up the debate or theorization of capitalism’s evil nature, and that it changes the way art is made in the 21st century, and how art will continue to be made in the 21st century. Final point-Keep your eyes open for shows being cancelled even when they do social good, or shows being threatened to be shut down due to its international viewership not sharing the same ideologies as the shows creator/s, money is paper but it affects us like poetry.

2 (Two): Culture is also at Fault.

Now, before you throw me out of a window or commit defenestration, please listen for just a second. I am not blaming any cultures who are at the short end of the stick ie: those who need the money to live, and survive/ need the bread and milk before they can buy the flowers to keep their soul alive. I am specifically coming for the culture in charge of artistic prowess, development, and survival, and I’ll be addressing them directly for this portion so please be prepared…

 

 HI! Are you a white upper-middle class to high- middle class individual who cares about art as a concept, and as a way of life? Do you enjoy seeing really cool things made by people not like you?  Do you go outside and interact with people who are not like you? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, I’d like to introduce you to the state of the art, first of its kind, just for you-brand new tool to make sure art survives, and continues to thrive so we can all have the things we want if you want us to contribute to your wealth. For just a small price of donating to centers, donating to systematic organizations, to cities, and local towns, villages frequently and consistently – you can acquire the tool of understanding that Art should be treated and supported as a necessary part of a capitalistic society that prides itself on earning the right to live, and  just maybe-live happily.

 

People need art to live- we don’t just live for clean food and water, or just shelter, we need things to sustain our minds, our hearts, and our way of knowing each other- including ourselves. People who work get through it through music or videos, or writing or drawing, etc if we’re going to have to work the rest of our lives we have to make it worth something besides material things. Because of you all, we have to work more than you do,  and the things we enjoy come at a price. We can’t work without pay, and we shouldn’t have to work without pay, and representation if you want to enjoy what we’ve made for ourselves. When you give us money we make great things happen. People grow and change, there’s hope for newcomers from the next generations, or those who look for solace here from worlds of tragedy beyond where we are now. 

Treating artists as people who do work for monetary gain is not only a good thing to do, it’s an insurance of humanity. If you feel isolated from what you have, you can start getting to be w/ people if you support the things they love, not just once but consistently- the love will always be there, you just gotta water it from time to time. Be a person with money who cares and the world will thank you for it. Thanks for tuning in.

 

3 (Three): “Art is the revolution that keeps reviving.”


Heya, you’ve reached the epilogue of your journey with me, thank you for sticking with me, here’s the advice you were promised. Art is a reaction to change, a lack of change. It flows through many, changes worlds, changes hearts, it survives, it is the inertia of humanity when it’s at its most powerful, and it is the small shimmer of light in the darkness of uncertainty, war, famine, and times where death seems to be a neighbor- rather than a force. It is what it means to be human, and find humanity again. When this is over, artists will have to seize the limelight of being a foundation of sanity when we were all locked down from the inaction of the government until it was to/too late, and having what I said in mind can be the difference between us as artists, creators, and supporters being lifted into higher places from now and us biting the dust. If we win, then know that art will be the reason we rise day after day, after day. If we lose, art will never die so long as we live to see tomorrow. Remember that in every human the ability to change, or react is instilled in us- art will follow suit. Thank you for making it to the end, for taking the time to read all of this, for creating, supporting the creativity, and for existing as yourself. Best Wishes- Topaz.

 

*****

Topaz Rodriguez is a Trans and Queer poet from NYC who’s writing starts from different mediums of poetry, to original stories that will be published in the near future! User of He/Him and They/Them pronouns, Topaz is also an advocate for Trans Rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and the right for teachers, educators, and non-profits across the nation to continue their pay for the right price. Feel free to follow their instagram or tumblr under the handle: honeygemtrashbag

Risk Factors: Being Black During a Pandemic  

By Javan Howard

Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 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.

As a black man in America, I’m used to being followed. It happens everywhere, especially in NYC. I’m not sure which part is more sad: As a black man the things that I’m used to, or how what I’m used to hits differently during these times? Racism, police brutality, the inequalities, the list becoming an endless black pit. I expect it, I accept it. The innate history of racism that travels around us. Yet I still walk. Not just to get from place to place, I walk not just for comfort or a form of exercise. It’s a safe haven. An unfolding process that revitalizes my soul. For years, it’s been one of the ways I’ve dealt with my depression.

I can’t count the times that I’ve been stopped, followed, or harassed by police throughout my 32 years. It has happened all over. Luckily, I’ve been conditioned through the stop and frisk era. When I was 15 growing up in the Bronx, I spent 90 minutes in handcuffs being lectured then “Let go” for being in the park after dark. They didn’t care that I left basketball practice, walked from the #2 train and the park was the only way to get to my apartment building. I was followed from the train, but only stopped when I got to the park. That didn’t bother me. 

I was 21 in Pennsylvania, a year from my own graduation when I went to court against a PA state trooper who cited and charged me for disorderly conduct. My friends and I were asked to leave by this officer for being too loud at a local diner near my school during graduation weekend. The waiter never asked us to quiet down, no one in the restaurant even complained. Our only crime was being in a restaurant at the same time as this officer who felt his break was being disturbed. Or maybe it was being the only black table in his empty section. We were escorted out, embarrassed, lectured and degraded for over an hour. We found out later this same officer had several complaints against his dealings with people of color in the community. I was emotionally and financially supported by my college throughout the trial and charges were eventually dismissed. 

I was 25 in Long Island, when I was stopped with groceries in both hands by an officer drawing his weapon because I “fit the description” of a suspect who robbed a gas station. I admit my life froze. However, I was just as concerned about what would happen to me in that moment, as much as my eggs if I dropped my bags. So still, that didn’t bother me. Maybe it should, but on most days it doesn’t: It’s just a regular day in America. 

 

To be black in America is a risk itself. Am I ok with the inequality that exists? The disproportionate numbers that correlate with people of color being harassed and arrested? No, I will never be. My soul hurts. We all know about the inhumanity of police brutality. It’s written across our history. But what about during a pandemic? Are we not supposed to be more human? I ask where are we safe? As the protest increases, riots spark for a government shutdown, I walk afraid of having my life being shut down by the government.  

I assess the risk factors of being black while going out during Covid-19. I could mention many, but my worst fears are captured by the two black customers kicked out of walmart for wearing a protective mask. I feel some kind of way by going out without an “appropriate” mask. My skin doesn’t allow me the same protective privileges as others. I think about how threatening I look when I leave my home. Does my homemade scarf or mask look gang related? Will I be allowed in the store or followed for wearing it? Why do I even have to think about this? 

I’m used to walking daily for my own health. However, due to Covid-19 and our NY Pause, I walk less and less. I feel like I suffer because of it. I’m at a loss now more than ever. I ignored walks entirely the first few weeks of lockdown. Now, I try to average about 2 walks a week. The way I process my emotions is at risk. I went out this past weekend and almost immediately regretted it. It’s those additional risk factors the government neglects to mention associated with proper social distancing and being black in a pandemic. I had gloves, and an appropriate mask. I wanted to do my usual route which would take about one hour to complete walking over Bayshore. 

I had my music and was in peak spirit when I passed the LIRR Bayshore station and saw a cop car and thought nothing of it. I made it towards Main Street when I noticed the same cop car near my updated location: let’s call it a coincidence. (By default, I picked up a habit of memorizing cop cars that pass me.)  After starting to reverse my course, the same car was parked across the College and slowly trotted out when I passed the car. I made it to the corner, but the light was green and cars roared across the crosswalk. I could still see what awaited me across the street. I admittledy panicked upon seeing 3 cop cars at the corner Seven 11 (directly across from the Bayshore LIRR) now windows down and that officer talking to them. 

I’ve been here before, too many times. Like many of you, I just wanted to be left alone and get home but could feel the pressure forming in the pit of my stomach. The light was red. They dispersed many ways. One kept straight, one turned left, the other went right but crept slow. They waited to see what I was doing. I wanted to stay straight but didn’t. After some hesitation, I took a sharp right off the path. I saw lights and the cop car making a u-turn, Luckily the family dollar was open. I went in. They didn’t follow. Due to social distancing, I was in the store for 40 mins waiting in line. I spent $20. I didn’t plan on spending the money, but thought it was a worthwhile investment in my own safety.

I’m writing this as I’m questioning a lot of things. The blatant murder of George Floyd, the unnecessary death of Ahmaud Arbery and why it took so long to arrest his murderers, all while another black man Dreasjon “Sean” Reed streamed his death live on facebook, as he feared for his own life. I fear for my own life, but have long ago normalized the atrocities of inequities that exist for people of color: police brutality, educational gaps and inequality, guilty until proven innocent. I fear for my safety from the virus and take protections and precautions against a supposed “invisible enemy” (Covid-19) that is killing people still disproportionately in communities of color. But how do we take protections and precautions against racism, the real “invisible enemy” that has been killing my people for years? Although I haven’t accepted it, I can definitely say I’ve normalized a lot of things when it comes to being black in america. However, I didn’t think we would have to normalize those same issues during a pandemic. 

 

Will we ever take the next step? I find myself answering the same questions as I walk back through the events of the past few weeks. It’s the same questions traveling throughout my blood and my history that my people have been asking in this country for years. Where can I be black, instead of just blackened out? Where can I be me? 

*****

Javan Howard is a poet and writer from Bronx, NY. He truly believes that the lived experience is the ultimate teaching tool and uses poetry as a social forum to foster discourse about love, culture, and identity. He has facilitated workshops across NYC with The New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Voices UnBroken, The GO Project and Wingspan Arts. He currently is a Teaching Artist for Teachers & Writers Collaborative and USDAN Camp For The Arts. He is also the Lead Mentor for Teaching Artist Project at Community Word Project.

To learn more about Howard’s work visit:

www.Javanjhoward.com

URGENT ADVOCACY ALERT: Submit Written Testimony to the New York City Council in Support of Arts Education

NYC Arts in Education Roundtable logo in black and orange.

Posted on May 19, 2020

The following letter was sent out to the Roundtable mailing list on Tuesday, May 19, 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.

Update (June 19, 2020): The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable recently launched the #ArtsAreEssential campaign to preserve arts education funding in the 2020/2021. For more information about the campaign, please click here. 

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On Curating Scenes and Monologues for Our Students

By Leah Reddy

Posted on Thursday, April 30, 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. 

My exposure to theatre had been a beloved VHS tape of Annie, the third grade play, and Sesame Street Live until I found the monologue books in my westside Cincinnati public when I was 12.

Those page-long excerpts of the hottest plays of the nineties contained a monologue from Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck. I was captivated and immediately memorized it, never mind that it included “the f-word” and I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I knew that character’s voice and I wanted to say her words. 

I want all my students, no matter their age, to experience a similar excitement of finding that connection, that part of themself, on the page. It may come from a character’s voice, background, circumstances, objectives, or something less name-able. Yet I often find students are working on the same tired scenes by a narrow list of playwrights, with dialogue that feels stilted rather than real or heightened. 

The New Play Exchange, The Lark, The Kilroys, and other efforts have significantly changed our access to new work. Women and playwrights of color are being produced a bit more often. The material is there, but it’s hard to find the time to digest it in the hustle of making and teaching theatre. 

I decided to use this time of quarantine and self-isolation to read plays and figure out what makes a scene worth bringing to class. The principles below offer my approach to choosing material that I hope hooks students and sets them up for success in building their theatrical skills.

What’s the goal?

I write down the skills I’d like students to gain, or the purpose of the work before I begin. Some examples:

  • If this is an agent showcase for college students, my goals might be to make the students likable, show their range, and keep the audience feeling joyful all night. No serial killer stories needed. 
  • If it’s a fifth grade theatre class, I might be looking for work that offers them a chance to make physical and vocal choices. 
  • If it’s a special education setting, I might look for something with several sound and light cues so the company can practice listening and sequencing tasks. 

Are the students able to engage imaginatively with the action of the scene?

I look for three things:

  • the characters in the scene have clear objectives and actions
  • those actions and objectives are something students can understand from a child/adolescent development perspective. Example: Jaclyn Backhaus’s Men in Boats works for middle school even though the characters are adults. Tweens understand the objectives of getting through the canyon, of surviving, of forming alliances. 
  • the writing being compelling enough that students can immediately imagine some aspect of it on stage

This holds true for scenes being used for design projects or analysis as well as performance. 

What’s the playwright’s intention and how can I bring in that context?

It’s our responsibility to consider issues of equity and Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education in every single space. My approach:

  • I talk about the dominant dynamics of race and culture in our city and country and how they manifest in the theatre 
  • Bring in scenes by writers of all identities (not just racial or cultural). If it’s not appropriate for students to perform the work, it can still be used as a basis for design or analysis projects.
  • Provide tailored context about the scene: a short biography of the playwright, their descriptions of the characters and their notes about casting, the time period in which it was created and set, and information about the rights to the script from the title page to raise the topic of ownership of the work and rights to perform
  • When appropriate, make questions around identity in casting and producing theatre part of the curriculum
  • Offer options for student scenes and, having had the conversation about identity in theatre-making, trust students’ choices

What are your go-to scenes, and how do you think about choosing material for your students? What questions do you ask yourself? Let us know here.

*****

Leah Reddy is a Cincinnati-born, NYC-based director and dramaturg focusing on engineering creative processes in community. Leah is a Master Teaching Artist with Roundabout Theatre Company, a video producer, and a mentor with the Arthur Miller Foundation. Work includes producing  the documentary theatre piece and podcast Justice for Sergio with Leadership High School students. www.leahreddy.com.

When the Hustle Halts

By Stephanie Anderson

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 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. 

Let’s go back to Tuesday before everything changed.  

I went from Brooklyn to a class in midtown
to a class on the upper west side
to the office in Herald Square
to a class on the upper east side
to a meeting in Harlem
to a rehearsal in FiDi
And then back to Brooklyn.  

Three days later absolutely everything in my schedule had been cancelled.  Sound familiar?

Before quarantine, I went to an improv show at the PIT, and the audience was asked to simultaneously yell a one-word suggestion, a word that summarized what we wanted most in life.  My roommate yelled, “Pizza!”  I yelled “STABILITY!”  I would like both, please.

There is no stability for a teaching artist.  Not really.  There is no predictable yearly income, no guaranteed residencies, no dependable student attendance, no consistent schedule, no complete ownership over curriculum, no reasonable commute, no power to be particularly picky when saying no to projects.  I am acutely aware of my lack of control, but still I try.  I hustle to get on teaching rosters, maximize my time, and color-coordinate my schedule with artistic precision.  

But then this virus halted my hustle and took away the illusion of control, and I hated it.  Grasping at any semblance of productivity, I signed up to write for this blog, and when asked to pitch topics, I was ready.  I was five days into quarantine, so I had obviously already completed the five stages of grief, and I was prepared to harness my newfound enlightenment to write “What We Can Control.”  You know, something along the lines, of… 

We can’t control this virus or our health or our livelihood, but we can control our attitudes!  
Our use of time!  
Be positive!  
Try Yoga!  
Exercise!  
Eat well!  
Call all your friends!  
Apply to all the jobs!  
Write that play!  
Learn that language!  
Make lemonade out of lemons and turn quarantine into opportunity because you can’t control the chaos in the world but you can control your response to it all! 

However, I soon realized I couldn’t control my response, my emotions, or my energy levels.  I woke up, and I didn’t want to do anything.  I was jaded and exhausted from pouring my heart into productions and residencies and relationships only for them to be taken away.  I saw other teaching artists somehow starting yoga channels, speaking on zoom panels, running a half-marathon in their backyard, organizing 24 hour play festivals, and starting Socially Distant Improv (shout out to Dana!).  

But I was just tired, deflated, unmotivated.  And this scared me because normally motivation is my superpower.  I am a resilient, scrappy, hard-working problem solver.  At least I was?  I felt such a loss of identity because I was no longer productive.  

I was supposed to make my official New York directing debut last weekend: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at The King’s College.  In Act I, Rosencrantz says, “We have no control…none at all.”  Tom Stoppard knew all along.  We have no control, and that’s my big take on day fifty-one.  As much as I try, I can’t control the world, my life, or my emotional responses from moment to moment.  

All I can do is choose where I put my focus, and that has been a constant learning process.  

On day one of quarantine, I started writing a daily list of gratitude, and this bedtime ritual has made a world of difference.  I choose to focus on my faith, the needs of others, and the good in the world.  I focus on my mental health rather than my productivity.  I focus on the times in my life when I have found income, opportunity, and human connection in the most surprising places, and I remember that this too will pass.  When I think upon these things as opposed to what I can’t control, I find a weird sort of quarantine peace, even joy (I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes). 

I have also found joy in redefining productivity.  I’ve played piano for hours with no intention of perfecting a piece, writing a musical, or sharing it with the world.  I’ve called my Aunt Sally.  I’ve made biscuits just because I wanted biscuits.  I’ve gone on walks to nowhere. Slow walks.  Sans podcast.  I’ve sat on the couch and watched three episodes of Gilmore Girls back to back without multi-tasking or feeling guilty.  All of this is so refreshingly “unproductive” because it will never go on my resume, but it has fed my soul and kept me sane.  

Thankfully, new opportunities continue to arise and bring back a semblance of a routine, and I’m slowly rebuilding my capacity to create art and listen to The Daily without letting it wreck me.  I’ve been feeling more like myself again with enough work to motivate me but not define me.  It has taken a global pandemic to make me slow down, but now I’m forced to embrace Dr. Wayne Dyer’s wisdom: “I am a human being, not a human doing.”  I like being.  I like having time to say yes to people.  It turns out, even without my old hustle, I am still loved, still valued, still capable of finding and spreading joy.  And so are you.    

 

*****

Stephanie Anderson is a director, actor and theatre educator with a MA in Educational Theatre from New York University. Stephanie spent five years teaching theatre at a public high school in China, where she built a theatre program from scratch, teaching multi-tiered classes and directing over a dozen showcases and productions. In New York, Stephanie teaches musical theatre, improv, and devising for programs including NYU’s Looking for Shakespeare, Opening Act, Ping Chong + Company, Uncommon Charter High School, Story Pirates, and TADA! Youth Theatre.  She can be seen acting with Verbatim Performance Lab which explores human behavior and implicit bias.  Directing credits include The Last 5 Years, Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty and the Beast, You Can’t Take It With You, Things I Had to Learn, and Hello, Dolly!  www.stephaniejanderson.com

The Calm During the Storm

By AnJu Hyppolite

Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 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. 

Dear Reader,

Last month, I posted a CALM OVER HYSTERIA piece on my Instagram (IG) page and thought a similar post would be good to share with this community. I wanted to express how I am coping with the loss of lives throughout the world, loved ones who have contracted COVID-19, the shelter-in-place, loss of work, physical distancing, and the 10 trillion other things that cross my mind as this issue persists, while offering hope to the teaching artist community and beyond. As I sit here today on Friday, April 17th, I am at a loss for words. So much has changed since I wrote that IG post on March 15th. At the time, our mayor announced that NYC schools, nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues would close, while restaurants and bars would be limited to takeout and delivery.1 An announcement about postponed court cases, a delay in the state’s presidential primary, and an early end to the collegiate academic semester also came across New York City residents’ news feeds.1 By March 20th, New York City’s governor signed an executive order, ordering all non-essential businesses to close and urging residents to stay home if possible.2 The shelter-in-place which at one time was effective through April 15th and then the end of April, has since been extended through May 15th. As government officials learn more about this pandemic, the updates are constant and things are rapidly changing. The incidence and mortality data, which I will not regurgitate, is appalling and saddening. Still, I want to extend hope.

 

When I scribed the IG post, I mentioned that I am choosing the calm during the storm. I wrote about what I planned to do during this time. Productivity was a huge part of that plan. While I have been productive, I realize that productivity is not a reality for everyone. Consistently seeing posts/memes that suggest you are lazy or undisciplined if you’re not writing that bestselling novel (or doing any other grand thing) can lead to feelings of unworthiness. While productivity may be feasible for one person, another individual may need to process feelings. Perhaps journaling may be ideal for that person. Perhaps being still could work for another or indoor gardening for someone else. Whatever you need to do to make sure you are taking care of yourself is exactly what you should be doing at this time, while taking the current climate into consideration and all of the precautionary measures. I am a firm believer that everyone has to do what is best for them—ALWAYS in ALL WAYS.

 

Whatever you take from this, please know that I am not telling you how you should or should not feel, or what to do or not do. I hope to offer beneficial fodder to help you and your loved ones cope during this pandemic.

 

First, a bop poem (bop style created by Afaa Michael Weaver).

 

You Are the Calm 

by AnJu Hyppolite

 

your inner child, a prisoner, looks through a shattered window

at a colorless sky—an offer of somber decay

poisonous smoke imbibed

intoxicatingly haunting a feverish embrace 

that coaxes you to dance

longing to return to the green of your heart

 

You are the calm during the storm

 

muffled voices dazzle you rhythmically

into the dark womb of seclusion

a fire that once burned nightly is doused

broken days come bearing ice

bringing mired morning dew

sinister laughter lingers in an echo

of ghostly reverberations haunting you back

here is the past you could never escape

 

You are the calm during the storm

 

remember you are magic

hold on to your peace 

grounded in rooted joy,

let it be your vast ocean of calm

celebrate your breath—it is sacred, 

a blossoming flower that stops you in your frenzy

 

You are the calm during the storm

 

There is so much in this life that is beyond our control. Our breath is something we can control. Because there is an involuntary aspect of breathing, it is easy to take it for granted. What makes breathing such an amazing capability is the duality of our respiratory muscles: voluntary and involuntary control. Additionally, breath is a sign of life and when voluntary control is underway, it can be used to ground oneself to eliminate stress and anxiety in the body. What a special ability we have!

 

My fervent wishes for you and your loved ones: Safety and health. 

 

My offer: Find what works for you and no matter what, go back to your breath. It will always ground you, bringing you to the present moment and yourself.

 

With calming hope and love,

 

AnJu 💚☥💚

 

1 New York City to Close Schools, Restaurants and Bars

2 Coronavirus in NY: Cuomo issues stay-at-home order for New Yorkers 

*****

AnJu Hyppolite is a Brooklyn-born award-winning actor, writer, and educator who works at the intersection of theater arts, literacy advocacy, and social equity. She is a Lakou NOU artist-in-residence with Haiti Cultural Exchange. AnJu uses meditation practices, yoga, and her spiritual beliefs to cultivate the life she wants and knows she deserves.