#ArtsEdWeek Spotlight on Women’s Studio Workshop

For #artsedweek, we asked some of our Arts Education Program grantees to tell us more about how they bring literature, music, visual art, architecture, theater, film, and dance to students throughout the state. Check our blog or Facebook to find out what they had to say!

To learn more about how students are learning through the visual arts, we spoke with Ann Kalmbach, Executive Director of the Women’s Studio Workshop.

The Women’s Studio Workshop’s mission is to operate and maintain an artists’ work space that encourages the voice and vision of individual women artists, to provide professional opportunities and employment for artists at all stages of their careers, and to promote programs designed to stimulate public involvement, awareness and support for the visual arts.

The organization works with high school, middle school and fifth grade students of the Kingston School District in a school- and studio-based art-in-education program. Students work as artists, with artists over multiple full school days in WSW’s professional studios for printmaking, papermaking & book arts.


What do you think are the most important ways that the arts contribute to a child’s education?

The most important benefit of arts education in this day and age is encouraging young people to think. So much of what students do is rote –get the facts, learn the facts. Thinking, problem solving and exploring can be kind of off the radar unless they exist in the arts context. We can certainly enhance that and we can celebrate young folks for whom the rote part is challenging, for themselves and in relation to themselves and their peers.

Are there any particular contributions you see as unique to visual art?

Kids are comfortable with visual art. They’ve been with Crayolas and markers practically since birth. We translate that to pencil and paper or a print or the 3D object or the making of a book. We expand their inherent capacity to draw into new forms and into new ways of thinking.

Each time we prepare a program, we’re working with classroom teachers to determine what we can do to enhance the classroom work. We’re teaching on a skills basis. Students are going to learn how to make paper, how to make a print. We facilitate that on a close one-to-one basis.

What do you consider the priority goals of Women’s Studio Workshop’s arts education programs?

It’s the immersion. Kids come here for five hours at a time. It is about thinking about and making something over a chunk of time, so you can come up with an idea, change it, embellish it, or throw it out and start over.

Students come from the schools to the workshop, when they come in we say, “You are going to work as artists with artists.” That’s the whole underlying theme. Of our staff of teaching artists, we almost always have one from another culture, another country, so there’s another layer of cultural enhancement.

We also have fulltime interns, 22-year-olds working alongside kids who are 18. They can see someone working in the arts as a peer. And they can watch an artist over the span of time that they’re with us develop a project, how a project an artist may be working on for 10 weeks changes and evolves.

With elementary and middle school, we meet with principal and primary teachers, find out what the kids are reading, what their science projects are, what they just studied in History. We think of projects, and we try them out see what’s going to work, so when kids come, we’re ready. Then we go and explain who we are.

For example, we do one program with chemistry and art developed with a school district. Art and science students work in the art studio to process fiber and learn about the chemistry of that. They also learn the chemistry of etching that happens with a metal plate. We work with acid and it connects with what they’re learning in school.

What do you find most inspiring about your work with students?

At Women’s Studio Workshop, we’re in the business of supporting women artists in particular and providing opportunities. I believe our work with young people is the richest opportunity we offer to the general public. It makes a deep community impact and that’s important for us. We are making that program as rich as we can so that folks recognize that the depth of the work that we do is important.

How has NYSCA support helped you?

NYSCA support has been crucial. NYSCA was an early supporter and has continued to be a stable supporter. There is really no local funding of any kind. There’s no foundation, there’s no corporation. I don’t think we could replicate this program without NYSCA support.


#ArtsEdWeek Spotlight on Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company leads an Arts in Education workshop, Courtesy of ESDC



For #artsedweek, we’ve asked some of our Arts Education Program grantees to tell us more about how they bring literature, music, visual art, architecture, theater, film, and dance to students throughout the state. Check our blog or Facebook through September 16 to find out what they had to say!

To learn more about how students are learning a vital variety of skills through dance, we spoke with Ellen Sinopoli, Artistic Director of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company.

In its 25th Anniversary Season, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (ESDC) is a professional modern dance company based in New York State’s Capital Region and has been the resident company at The Egg in Albany for 24 years. ESDC presents the choreography of Artistic Director Ellen Sinopoli. Its commitment to “create, collaborate, educate and partner” remains in the forefront as it shares its work with diverse audiences through concerts, showcases, residencies, and workshops. Its performances at professional, regional, and college theatres as well as community centers, art galleries, public playgrounds, public schools, libraries, museums, historic sites and storefronts include venues in MA, NYC and throughout 17 New York State counties.

How and why is arts education is such an important part of what you do?

The company is now in its 26th year. Initially the primary component was concert dance and we always did a small amount of arts education. Now, we have reached a point in our development that the company is three-pronged: concert, arts-in-education, and outreach. That includes working with special needs populations. I really believe that it’s the responsibility of artists to introduce dance to people and one of the ways to do that is through arts in education. Most schools do not have any instructors in dance on their faculty, especially elementary schools. The only way for most schools to have children experience dance is to bring people in.

What I feel very strongly about is the quality of work brought into schools and what it is we’re trying to accomplish. We have multiple programs, we can design residencies for schools, sometimes one day and some multi-year. We try to really reach out to meet the individual needs of a particular school. We have a strong mentoring program within our own company, we have lead teaching artists and assisting teaching artists, who usually go through a two-year training process. It’s really about developing an aesthetic appreciation versus teaching a dance class. Often students will do a type of informal showing but it’s not a performance per se. We want them to be able to demonstrate their knowledge to other students in their school.

Are there certain ways dance uniquely influences students’ personal and educational growth?

People learn in very different ways. The dance experience is a visceral one, a muscular one, and an intellectual one, but I also feel it’s a very visual one. A lot of people are visual learners. An extensive number of times teachers have said “this student was so creative during the dance class. I’m never able to get him to sit still.” It’s about giving him the tools to do that. I have great difficulty reading instructions, and math and science do not come easily to me. Being able to learn in another way has been very helpful to me.

We created a relationship with a University at Albany physics professor called Choreophysics, looking at physics from a movement orientation. We present that to high school science kids and do movement workshops related to the performance they have seen us do. That physicist approached us because students learn differently through dance. To look at a law on paper versus experiencing it from a muscular sense is a very different learning experience. There are multiple layers in the process of learning.

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, Photo by Gary Gold


You have a story hour program, which seems like an unusual way to teach dance. How did that get started?

We would get calls from public libraries because they would have story hours. Over the years, I have found books that are not necessarily dance books, but we can move to help tell a story so they experience the story not just through hearing it but through movement. Right now we have probably more than 50 books my dancers choose from. Usually that’s the range of preschool through 2nd grade. We use it as a literacy tool as well. I use a book called The Human Alphabet by Pilobolus. They do the whole alphabet and then create images of things related to the particular letter. B is a butterfly shape. We have them by themselves or with partners or with grownups joining them at the library or in the park, making letters with their bodies. They’re going to remember that. In a school, the alphabet is on the wall, and we can point and have them make that letter and then make a shape that begins with that letter, or make the first letter of their first name. It’s enhancing their literacy component.

We are just finishing part of a residency we have NYSCA funding for [where] we work with third graders and expand on lessons about different countries they’re learning about. One is Norway, so we meet with the teachers, they give us vocabulary they are working on, and we come up with the movement vocabulary we want for the elements of dance. There’s a whole section on fjords. A glaciers move slowly towards the mountains and when it reaches the mountains it slowly carves out the mountains. The glacier retreats back into the sea and the sea fills the carved out space between the mountains, creating a fjord. The children become the glaciers (slow, cracking movement), the sea (fluid, curvy, low-level movement), mountains (pointy, jagged, angular shapes).

Our workshops might have a curricular or literacy base but they all are introducing children to the concept of creating movement, specifically modern dance. Children gain the ability to make creative choices as they choose from their “toolkit” of knowledge about the elements of dance that we have helped them learn and experience. They can be learning about fjords or the Japanese subway system or the Brazilian rainforest. It really does expand their sense of understanding through movement.

Undercover Playground, a spontaneous public performance initiative, Courtesy of Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company


What do you think are the most significant challenges facing arts education programs today?

A lot of that is monetary. Also, very few schools have an Arts-In-Education coordinator. Some do but that may be also a teacher, there’s not always a separate position for this. It could be a PTA member or a principal that understands the importance of bringing arts into schools. There’s no codified approach. That’s one of the reasons we’re brought in for a dance component. Having the budget to bring companies in and having the willingness to plan for what a residency entails, [is a lot to ask when] teachers are overloaded as it is as far as time constraints. You have to be very careful how you ask teachers to take on this extra load. They need to understand what the advantage to the students is going to be. If they come to our workshops they’re being taken away from something in the classroom. Teachers have to be willing to make that sacrifice. We require the teacher stay with us and we try to incorporate them into the process as much as possible. That’s a big commitment on the part of the teacher and the school. It’s important to us to remind them why arts are vital to keep in schools. We want to develop an entire person and the arts need to be part of that.

What do you find most inspiring about your work with students?

Particularly in our society, the sense of movement is not necessarily encouraged aesthetically. It might be from a sports perspective, but culturally, it’s okay for people to do music, to act, but it’s not always okay for people to dance. We try to have students discover just how exciting that can be, and enjoyable and rewarding. They might see us perform so they can see where this all goes at some point – it doesn’t always just stay in the classroom or the studio. Every time we do a performance for a school, I have dancers introduce themselves. They come from very different places in the U.S. or abroad, they have college, even masters’ educations. I think it’s very important for students to understand that this is a possible, legitimate profession. We’re not trying to train people to become professionals, but we do want them to know that exists as part of our culture.

#ArtsEdWeek Spotlight on Salvadori Center

Courtesy of Salvadori Center


For #artsedweek, we’ve asked some of our Arts Education Program grantees to tell us more about how they bring literature, music, visual art, architecture, theater, film, and dance to students throughout the state. Check our blog or Facebook through September 16 to find out what they had to say!

To learn more about how students are learning math, science, and art through architecture, we spoke with Kenneth Jones, Executive Director of the Salvadori Center.

Located in Manhattan, the Salvadori Center uses the built environment as a vehicle for student learning, individual creativity, and the development of 21st century skills. Residencies celebrate a collaborative, hands-on, project-based approach with programs that teach students design, architecture, science, technology, engineering and math. All Salvadori curricula link to The New York City Department of Education’s Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, and grade-specific learning objectives. After participating in our programs, students see the beauty and logic of the built environment in their local communities, and understand how art, design, math, and science are relevant to their lives.

salvadori-blog-post-3Courtesy of Salvadori Center

How and why does the Salvadori Center use architecture and design concepts to focus on arts education?

In the late 70s, our founder and a prominent civil engineer, Mario Salvadori, was in a meeting with the New York Academy of Sciences and they were talking about how to improve the teaching of math, science and the arts in middle school. He said, “Architecture and engineering is all around these kids. It’s in the buildings and parks they enter, and the bridges they cross.” He thought one of the best ways to show students the relevance of their education and value of the arts –what we now call STEAM – was to have them explore concepts for themselves through hands-on projects.

Over the last 40 years we’ve modernized the curriculum. We have a variety of programs that are grade-specific. They’re tied to educational standards including the New York City Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Visual Arts. So we not only model best practices for teachers, we also show the teachers how everyday curricula can be linked to national standards that support the arts.

Architecture has a complex skill set and vocabulary. How do you make it approachable?

Most of our staff are professional architects, engineers, designers, and built environment professionals. What we do is integrate the arts into science, math, and social studies curricula. For instance, as second graders look at facades, they draw and learn about the geometric compositions embedded in those facades. They’re learning fundamental art concepts, and the teachers think it’s great because they’re getting the arts and sciences in one class. It’s not just how a building stands up and functions; it’s also about the building’s proportions, responsiveness to the surrounding community, and its beauty. If you’re going to create STEAM programs, architecture is one of the most natural ways to do so because it’s always been a practice that marries art and science.

Our process is project-based. Every class has two to three activities where kids build their own experiments. If two groups are learning how arches work in a Roman aqueduct, one group’s arch might last a little longer. This gives us a reason to talk about craftsmanship and planning. The students have workbooks with vocabulary lists and images in the classroom with vocabulary words attached. The projects they build reinforce new vocabulary. If you’re going to teach a new vocabulary word and a kid builds something that represents that word, they’re going to hold on to it a lot longer.

salvadori-blog-post-1Courtesy of Salvadori Center

How do particular programs connect to school curricula?

We have a great curriculum called Landmarks, Monuments and Memorials. Students have to design community-based monuments and memorials for a specific purpose. If I’m designing a monument it could be about celebration, tragedy, communing. What material is it? Is it shiny, metallic, cold, soft, organic, reflective? Something to touch and feel warm? A contemplative private space or grand public gesture? Students learn about the psychological, social, and cultural elements that go into designing a public memorial. Getting kids to think in a bigger way is what arts education is all about. Also, there are kids who learn by reading, hearing, doing – arts education does all that in one project, especially if it’s collaborative and project-based.

We have another curriculum where kids design a skate park. They learn fundamental principles that urban planners use to design cities and control how people move around public space. They not only learn about the science behind skate parks – friction, slope, and inclined planes – they also learn about design concepts such as organizational methods, how to control traffic patterns and flow, about vista, views, surprise, and pageantry or process from one point to another.

Building Green is our newest curriculum. It was developed for 9th graders; we now have adaptations for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades as well. They design a building from start to finish located in Central Park. They measure the retention and release of heat in materials and learn about insulation properties. They learn natural ventilation techniques. The final project is a public use building like the restaurant Tavern on the Green that has a kitchen, service area and public room. They build a model and present it. They have to show all the intellectual decisions they made and what they learned. What’s the floor material? Why? How is that energy efficient? How are passive and active solar energy used? Where are the windows? It’s not just creating a fantasy building. It’s really incorporating all the green design an architect would.

Every year, we have a Student Design Charrette where students have to design a structure, incorporating math and science. This year it was a community water tower in an area where there were earthquakes. We had 7 schools come, and more than 100 kids. In the morning, they’re assigned to teams with other kids they’ve never met before and professional designers, planners, engineers and architects from major firms. The teams get their challenge when they arrive. They have six hours to brainstorm, come up with a design, go through the design development and construction phases and test the project. The structures are made out of spaghetti – it’s a really fragile material! We successively added weight while testing until each project failed. While adding weight we were also applying earthquake force, so it was moving laterally. The two winning teams lasted just over 160 seconds each, and the winning structure held 8.5 times its own weight!

salvadori-blog-post-2Courtesy of Salvadori Center

What do you consider the most pressing challenges facing arts education programs today – and how do you work to solve them?

There seems to be a growing view – almost a societal stigma –that the arts are a luxury that kids or families should do out of school. We need to do a better job communicating the value of the arts in helping kids learn. I’m constantly talking about how kids that go through our program are learning 21st century career skills that every employer wants. They’re learning how to think critically, they’re learning how to come up with creative solutions to tough problems, and they’re learning how to collaborate. Knowing how to think critically and how to work with other people to develop creative solutions to tough problems is the key to success in any career.

Another barrier is money. It’s hard for schools and non-profits. We want to keep our programs affordable but we also have to make payroll, pay rent, electricity and utilities, and make sure employees have health care. At Salvadori, we keep programs affordable by underwriting a large percentage of the costs. Our operating budget is divided into three parts: approximately 1/3 is covered by grants, 1/3 is covered by board-driven fundraising, and 1/3 is generated by program fees.

How has NYSCA support helped you?

Probably the most important way is it truly is the “Good Housekeeping seal of approval.” The state’s leading arts funder values and approves us and we’re very proud to put that stamp on everything we send out. Also valuable is the financial support that comes from the grant, which helps us to underwrite 75% of the costs. This makes our programs affordable for a lot of schools who wouldn’t otherwise have access to arts education.

#ArtsEdWeek: Spotlight on Just Buffalo

For #artsedweek, we’ve asked some of our Arts Education Program grantees to tell us more about how they bring literature, music, visual art, architecture, theater, film, and dance to students throughout the state. Check back here or on Facebook September 13-16 to find out what they had to say!

noah-at-wordplay-releaseNoah Falck at Wordplay release at Just Buffalo

First, we spoke with Noah Falck, Education Director of Just Buffalo.

Established in 1975, Just Buffalo serves Western New York with author readings and conversations, literary events, writing workshops, interdisciplinary performances, and publications. Its signature author series BABEL has been recognized as“…the most exciting literary series Buffalo has ever seen” and its newest program, the Just Buffalo Writing Center, offers after-school writing workshops, mentoring, and a year-round writer in residence to teens in downtown Buffalo. The organization’s programs serve more than 150,000 individuals and 1,000 students each year. NYSCA supports the organization through our Arts Education and Literature Programs.

How and why is arts education central to Just Buffalo?

It’s important to us because our mission is creating and building community through the literary arts and we feel that young people are an essential part of the community. We feel bringing literature and creative writing to them as often as possible will give them a chance to participate in that community and voice their imaginations and their thoughts. It’s giving them a platform to share their hopes and dreams and their lives with the rest of the world.

Students have vastly different reading and language abilities and tastes. How does Just Buffalo engage at different levels?

Our teaching artists are equipped with the history of poetry at their fingertips, particularly living in the digital age. We have a lot of conversations about what poems and pieces of literature are easy to engage with on any level and can be interpreted across the board. A William Carlos Williams poem, for instance, can look very simple and be interpreted at a very concrete level but also has opportunity to shift thinking in terms of how it relates to their own lives, how it is a poem, how it isn’t. We also select poems that fit the populations they’re working with. Giving them the opportunity to engage from their own perspective really offers a chance for success. It’s not like a pass/fail situation. It’s more up to the student to decide if it’s something they want to engage with.

The biggest thing is creating that space where everybody has some success. That’s challenged in our education culture [with] the overtesting of these kids. What our teaching artists do in the classroom is give students a chance to step out of that testing culture, and engage with literature in a more playful, yet intentional manner. We’re taking away the pressures so they can use their imaginations and think differently about literature.

What do you think makes a successful teaching artist?

We’ve been fortunate enough to have writers like Sherry Robbins who has been working with us for 25-30 years, since the beginning. It’s like an act of magic when Sherry goes into the classroom, what she is able to inspire in students. It’s amazing. So can I say a successful teaching artist is proficient in magic?

[In terms of qualities we look for,] flexibility is a huge one, compassion, particularly, is a big one, and a sense of joy in what they’re doing there. The students will be able to pick that joy up if the teaching artist is able to convey, “I really love this poem, you will love this poem too,” by showing that in how they read it to the class or how they respond to a student who’s reading it for the first time. It’s a really difficult thing to do well.

You recently opened a new Writing Center. How has that expanded your arts education programs?

Our Writing Center has been open for a little over two years. Right now it’s serving students between the ages of 12 to 18-year-olds and we put a cap on 14 kids being at the center to make it feel more like a workshop than a classroom. We use it as a testing ground for teaching artists, and also for volunteers from local colleges, mostly creative writers or students in English departments.

This is an opportunity to extend what we’re doing in the schools, to invite students to this free afterschool space and continue working on whatever kind of writing they’re interested in. It happened very organically and I was quite worried at the beginning – are people going to come? We’re downtown, we’re not going out and picking kids up, they have to get here on their own. After a few weeks, it started becoming a known place, kids started telling their friends.

The setup is 3:30-6 Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 3:30-4:30, it’s an open writing time. We often have prompts of some kind – we’ve been having volunteers create mini-lessons, where students read and respond to a poem or watch and respond to a short film. Just the other day, a volunteer helped a student work on the introduction for a school essay about Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen.” At 4:30, we have an hour-and-a-half workshop –taught by a gamut of teaching artists – playwrights, media artists, filmmakers, painters, sculptors. All different art forms come in, and whatever the background the teaching artist is coming from, they know the kids are going to be using it as a vessel to write through. It’s been fun and experimental and we’re figuring out the next steps, how we’re going to analyze their growth. We have a lot of kids who come every week and some who come once or twice a month.

Every year, you collect student work into an anthology. What’s been most rewarding, and most surprising, about the process?

Our annual anthology is called Wordplay and it features the best of student work that’s hand-selected by teaching artists from that academic year. It ranges from third graders to seniors in high school and the work in there is as different as the age of the kids, you’ll have a poem about petting a dog and then you’ll have a poem about Shakespeare. It’s really cool to flip through the pages and see the huge jumps in style and ability and what they think a poem be.

The most rewarding part is having a release reading to celebrate the work in Wordplay. We invite all the students to the Writing Center, and they bring their families. It’s a big celebration. It’s celebrating not only them as people, them as writers them, but also as the future of Buffalo. You see the parents and teacher who come light up. It changes how people think about these kids. They’ve never stood up in front of 50-60 people and read a poem before. It’s about giving them that space, valuing what they do, giving them a stage, saying there’s value in everything they’re writing, and thinking. People are crying; there are standing ovations, it moves me every time.

NYSCA REDC Program Open, Up to $5M Available

Regional Economic Development Council Program Now Accepting Applications and Hosting Workshops

On May 2, 2016, Round VI of NY state’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) program launched. This year the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) will invest up to $5 million in initiatives across the state’s 10 regions to enhance, transform and increase the cultural and economic vitality of New York State communities. Applications will be accepted from eligible organizations through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) until 4pm, July 29, 2016. For detailed information on the state’s REDC program, please review the CFA Resource Manual (NYSCA funding is featured on pages 32-45). The contract and work period for all REDC grant categories is January-December 2017. NYSCA support is available in three categories:

  1. Arts, Culture and Heritage New Initiatives – Planning

Planning is critical to successful development and implementation of any project and requires collaborative commitment and participation from cross-sector leaders and stakeholders.   Support for planning initiatives is available in the following areas:

  • Comprehensive Arts and Cultural Mapping
  • Arts and Cultural Master Plan
  • Arts and Culture Branding or Marketing Plan

Planning Awards:

  • $10,000 – $49,500
  • No match is required
  • Partnership applications are strongly encouraged
  • MUST encompass a specific neighborhood municipality, county, region or designated cultural or business district

2. Arts, Culture and Heritage New Initiatives – Implementation

Support is provided for new programming initiatives designed to have a tangible economic and community development impact in a community or region.     Support for implementation initiatives is available in the following areas:

  • Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration
  • Women’s Suffrage Commemoration
  • Past NYSCA REDC Planning Grant Recipients

Implementation Awards:

  • $10,000 – $75,000
  • 50% cash match is required (In-kind services are not permitted)
  • Partnership applications are strongly encouraged.

3. Workforce Investment

Support is designed to expand the capacity of New York State’s arts, culture and heritage organizations. Workforce Investment grants will only support:

  • Wages to increase a current part-time employee’s hours
  • Wages to hire a new full or part-time employee

Support for Workforce Investment initiatives is available in the following areas:

  • Administrative Positions
  • Artistic Positions
  • Arts Career Development Fellowships for Underrepresented Communities
  • Resident Artist Positions

Workforce Investment Awards:

  • Range from $25,000 – $49,500
  • 25% cash match required
  • Cash match may only include a combination of additional salary, fringe benefits and employer paid payroll taxes
  • The applicant’s overall operational budget may not exceed $750,000.
    • Exception: There is no limit on the organizational budget size for applications submitted for the NYSCA Arts Career Development Fellowships for Underrepresented Communities focus area.

REDC CFA Application Workshops From early May through late June, NYSCA staff, along with staff from ten other participating agencies, will present detailed information on its programs to the public at workshops across the state. Please click here for the complete schedule of upcoming workshops. The Regional Economic Development Council’s workshops will provide an overview of the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process and how to access up to $750 million in economic development funding from agency programs through one application. Additionally, there will be informational breakout sessions on specific categories of funding available for economic and community development projects. The workshops are open to local economic development officials, municipalities, non-profits, businesses and members of the public.


For more information on NYSCA’s REDC program, please visit our NYSCA REDC information page.

Diversifying Orchestral Music in New York State: Convening #2

Last week, NYSCA reconvened with leaders in the orchestral and music education fields from all over the state for the second iteration of our discussion, Diversifying Orchestral Music in New York State: New Approaches and Strategies. The meeting was intended to address and rectify the underrepresentation of groups such as African-Americans and Latinos in the field, through education, mentoring, career development and professional opportunities. Also in attendance was Anna Brown, Special Attorney/Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion at the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, who shared with us insights about the inclusion of historically underrepresented groups into long established fields. Below are some of the key points we discussed – and stayed tuned for more information about measures NYSCA will be taking to ensure diversity in New York State arts organizations.

Practices and ideas from the corporate law world that we can incorporate:

  • Where to start: Approach different levels at the same time – representation at the board and executive staff level matters, so does what and whom we see onstage. Engagement with audiences, including young people, is essential.
  • It’s the right thing to do and it’s good business. Increasing diversity not only brings a greater wealth of perspectives to the workplace. It can also ensure that your work and your brand reflect your audiences, and that people will identify with your work and want to be involved with you, whether as clients, partners or audience members.
  • Examine where minority groups are dropping out of the profession. Use exit interviews, ideally conducted by an outside party, as a tool.
  • Begin cultivating future employees early – mentorship opportunities in law begin in middle school.
  • The largest impediment, and the most difficult to address, is unconscious bias. As much as possible, we should be examining how and why we form the work relationships that we do – and do not.
  • People want: respect, opportunities to progress, feedback, sponsorship and reinforcement.
  • Look outside of your organizations and industries for new ideas and perspectives.

The following additional points were brought up:

  • The American League of Orchestras provides demographic information that can give all of us in the field an understanding of where we stand collectively and measure up individually.
  • For funders evaluating grant applicants actively working towards inclusion, it may be useful to look closely at the commitment expressed within applications: Why pursue this? Why now? How long have you been having these conversations?
  • Fellowships can be an effective way to nurture talent – but only if they’re created and administered effectively. Make sure fellows are truly integrated into a work culture, that everyone knows who they are and why they are there, that they have someone to talk to, that they are socially and intellectually engaged.

Questions for continued discussion:

  • Resistance to classical music particular to certain communities and universally provides a challenge: what do we do about class associations and unfamiliarity of repertoire and ritual?
  • How can we work collaboratively to: provide progressive opportunities for promising students to become professionally involved and make community concerts meaningful for engagement? One proposal: large organizations conducting outreach may want to look to local organizations who have already built relationships in a community as partners.

Thanks to all who joined us!



Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the designation of Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel as Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts, where she currently serves as Vice Chair.

“Barbaralee has dedicated her career to preserving and enriching cultural life across the state and across the nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “She is a leader whose knowledge, wide experience and energy will help shape our vision for cultural development and advance the future of the arts in New York.”

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve as Chair of NYSCA,” said Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. “The arts are integral to enhancing New York’s environment and values. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to move forward as we build on our past, and continue to develop all of the arts statewide.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel has served as a leading voice on civic and cultural engagement, having demonstrated a strong commitment to the arts, architecture, design, and public policy across New York City, New York State, and the country.

A former White House staff assistant, in 1966, she became the first Director of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. She later served as the longest-term Commissioner of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1972 until 1987, and from 1987 to 1995, served as Chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Foundation. She has served as a member of the New York City Art Commission (now the Public Design Commission) and the New York City Commission of Cultural Affairs for more than a decade.

In 1987, she was appointed by President Reagan to the Board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and in 1996 was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, where she later became the first woman to be elected as Vice Chair. In 2009, President Obama appointed her to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel has served on the boards of a variety of educational, visual, literary, and performing arts institutions, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Visiting Committee for Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Collection Committee of the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum; the PEN American Center; the New York State Historic Archives Partnership Trust; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She is the founder and chair of the New York City Landmarks50 Alliance, and a founding member of the Highline, New York City, the Trust for the National Mall and the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the author of 23 books and the curator of eight international museum exhibitions. She earned her doctorate with high honors from New York University, and received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Longwood University, and the Pratt Institute.

The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York’s citizens. The Council believes in supporting artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure, the rights of all New Yorkers to access and experience the power of the arts and culture, and the vital contribution the arts make to the quality of life in New York communities. NYSCA, serving all 62 counties, strives to achieve its mission through its core grant-making activity and by convening field leaders, providing information and advisory support, and working with partners on special initiatives to achieve mutual goals.