Interview with Program Associate, Nigel Finley, Director of Marketing and Development at Aurway Repertory Theatre

Interviewed by Joanna Calhoun, ARAD ’23

What is your current role at Aurway Repertory Theater, and what led you to this position?

I was originally brought onto the Aurway team by way of company Co-founder, Lawrence Dandridge, who for many years prior had been building the foundation of Aurway with his network of friends and artists from the greater Newark area. A lot of us either grew up performing together or have met through his artistic nucleus.  Based on my interests and skills in arts administration he asked me to be a part of the founding team and help propel his and Co-founder, Veronica Gonmiah’s vision for the organization.

Where is Aurway Repertory Theater located, and how long have you worked there?

We are based out of Newark, New Jersey. We currently don’t have a physical location at the but through rentals, and community partnerships are able to utilize various spaces in the greater Newark area. Officially as a company, we incorporated in 2020 however as a collective and a group, many have been performing together for over 10 years. I’ve joined in with them in the last 5 years.

What are your main responsibilities?

As the Director of Marketing and Development, I’m charged with driving the fundraising strategy as well as the business operations of the company. This leads me to write email communications, create and layout website content, manage the company database, write grant proposals, communicate with patrons and donors, and curate fundraising events. I am also an active company member participating in the cast of many of our original works.

Can you tell us about Aurway Repertory Theater and its mission and goals as an organization?

Aurway was birthed out of the idea of creating a platform for black and brown artists and voices. Through community partnerships, educational workshops, and public performances we create space for artists and viewers alike to engage in a dialogue on pressing social issues impacting our community while experiencing an unconventional approach to artmaking and theatrical performance. With that, we also recognize that our art is not just a form of entertainment but a tool that to be used for impact. We challenge all our members to be not just performers but ARTISTs geared to make a lasting change in and out of our community.

Activists

Revolutionaries

Thinkers

Innovators

Storytellers

Teachers

Our official mission states “Aurway is a network of emerging and professional artists dedicated to the pursuit, presentation, and creation of culturally relevant art, highlighting the experiences of black and brown people.”

What kinds of programming has Aurway done this past season?

This past season Aurway has been working our way back into the world with some live events. In September we were featured in the Newark Arts Festival with, “An Evening with Aurway”, where we performed a few of our favorite original Aurway tunes. In addition, we continued our concert series, “Musicals in Concert”, with a virtual presentation of our newest work Life Through My Eyes as well as a live presentation and reunion of Wishlist, an original work by playwright, Kathy D. Harrison. We also have a bi-monthly play reading series called, PlayTime, where we read and explore works by black and brown playwrights.

We also got in the studio this past season to record the official cast album of Something Like a Fairytale, another original work written and composed by Aurway Co-founder and Artistic Director, Lawrence Dandridge. Available for pre-order now!

How has COVID-19 affected your work and Aurway?

Last year right before COVID, we were revved up to do a lot of new things in 2020. This included a residency at a local arts high school as well as a few live programs and workshops. So, as many artists and organizations had to do, we adjusted to virtual programming. We created a virtual series called “Staying Home” where we had interviews and discussions with the workshop cast of Coming Home, an Aurway original musical. In addition, for woman’s history month, we had our first virtual “Musicals in Concert” with a presentation of What Comes Next, another original Aurway work. We also held our first annual Kwanzaa fundraiser and celebration, uJAMaa, which was our first look at putting on a live-streamed event. Through the pandemic, we have learned to try new things and think outside of the box in the ways in which we reach audiences. I now believe more organizations should and will continue to incorporate a virtual aspect to their performance and increase access.

On the sadder note, however, Aurway experienced a huge loss this year with the passing of our dear friend and fellow team member, Jeremiah Trusty. Jeremiah was quintessential to building the foundation of this company. He was also a genuinely wonderful soul and a blessing to those he came in contact with. He is greatly missed. ❤

Can you tell us more about Aurway’s newest work, Life Through My Eyes, and what it is about?

Life Through My Eyes is a short musical, that follows the story of Tony, a young teen riddled with depression and anxiety. Through a series of journal entries, a group of his peers read through his experiences. Set to music and monologues, the group explores Tony’s inner thoughts in hopes that he will avoid the same devasting end that claimed his mother. This piece explores suicide awareness and the realities that face many urban teenagers.

This show was originally set to have its stage debut this past July as a part of the New York SummerFest 2021, however with continuing pandemic restrictions the production was postponed until this Fall. We are now gearing up for performances in the next two weeks! Come check us out! Click the image for more information.

Purchase tickets now!

Life Through My Eyes

Wednesday, December 8th, 4:00pm,

Friday, December 10th, 6:30pm,

Sunday, December 12th, 1:00pm

Teatro Latea

107 Suffolk St.,

New York, NY 10002

We are also adapting this show into a feature-length film set to be released sometime in summer 2022. Check out our trailer!!

Can you tell us more about the annual fundraiser and Kwanzaa celebration, uJAMaa?

So uJAMaa is our annual Kwanzaa celebration and fundraiser to support our programming and operations for the next year. It only started last year, but we’d love for this program to grow into a huge annual event. We chose Kwanzaa specifically because of the intention and history that the holiday was built in. Created back in 1966, as the first African American holiday, I believe Kwanza founder, Maulana Karenga, wanted to redirect the mindset of African-American people and give us something to help redefine our identity, purpose, and direction as people in America. Through the use of 7 communitarian principles (the “Ngozu Saba”), Kwanzaa seeks to reconnect people of African descent to cultural and historical heritage. Similarly, Aurway was created as a space for us to reconnect and promote artistry that is genuinely steeped in our culture and experiences. Giving us the power to discover and express our identity, purpose, and direction as artists of color.

It’s going to be a night of songs, poetry, dance, and conversation as we raise funds for 2022.

If you would like to support visit our page at www.aurway.org

What is the most rewarding part about working with Aurway Repertory Theatre?

I think the most rewarding part about Aurway is getting to publicly promote and tell these stories. I know how they make me feel after being a part of them and it’s exciting to know that an audience member may see these pieces and immediately connect to the work in a way that they never have with musical theatre. It’s a nuanced twist on a traditional art form. It’s a seat at the table we built. I think people underestimate the power of inclusion and representation and what that can do for another’s intrinsic motivation. I look forward to the fires that Aurway will continue to ignite.  

Meet Grace J. Choi, ARAD’s new Program Manager

ARAD is delighted to welcome Grace J. Choi as our new Program Manager. Learn more about Grace, her goals for her new role, and what she does outside of TC.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was your undergraduate degree focused on?

Bay Area woman here! I grew up mainly in Palo Alto, California but also was partially raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where my Korean parents immigrated to as children before moving to the US as adults. After growing as an artist and writer at NYU (I majored in sculpture in the Studio Art program in Steinhardt), my interest in the intersection of the arts and technology developed upon revisiting where I “come from” and how different facets of my experience and upbringing could also be applied to designing learning experiences for others, particularly in cultural institutions.

What previous experiences have led you to your current role? 

Prior to coming to TC as the secretary for the Program in Social Studies at TC, I worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a few years in a specialized team within their Member and Visitor Services Department working closely with VIPs and corporate sponsors, education groups (K-12 and higher ed), and third-party tourism companies as my main three circles of clientele. I then had the pleasure of working with the faculty and staff in the Social Studies program for two and a half years, which really broadened my perspective on higher education settings, the challenges presented to faculty, staff and students alike in an academic structure, and the ongoing question of how to best support students so that they, in turn, can be best equipped to support their own communities.

How have those experiences informed your current professional path?

Leading up to this particular opportunity to work with ARAD as its new Program Manager, I have on multiple occasions revisited what it means to be a part of an ideal academic community. What does a program in that community look, act, and move like? What spaces and opportunities does it provide for students and staff? How are faculty supported in providing their students a robust, challenging and growth-oriented learning experience? In essence, what makes that program unique?

When we consider more community-based aspects of the spaces we inhabit– be they academic, professional, cultural, of any kind– I find that each person brings in such valuable insight because they genuinely care about belonging. Not only as professionals, but also as people and as global citizens. Having worked at a museum and as well as another program at TC beforehand, I find this uplifting– because who are we if we don’t take care of each other and those around us? 

What are you looking forward to in taking on this role?

The people! I consider myself extremely fortunate to join this community of burgeoning interdisciplinary professionals and leaders in the arts. Looking forward to meeting the students and supporting them through their journeys in ARAD and TC!

What do you do outside of your time at TC?

I wish I spent more time painting and drawing (continuing sculpture is just a little hard to do without a studio space), especially in the past year of staying in one place, but in the meantime I’ve also found pockets of peace in fishing in various quiet spots around NYC. I also really enjoy a good book– I’ve been reading Dr. Ruha Benjamin’s Race After Technology after wanting to get my hands on it for a long while, and can’t recommend it enough!

Meet Nigel Finley, ARAD’s new Program Associate

ARAD is delighted to welcome Nigel Finley as our new Program Associate. Learn more about Nigel, his goals for his new role, and what he does outside of TC.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was your undergraduate degree focused on?

I am originally from South Orange, New Jersey and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. I earned my undergraduate degree at Rider University in Arts Administration with a theatre emphasis. 

What previous experiences have led you to your current role? 

Prior to Columbia University, I have worked at a multitude of arts and cultural institutions including the Harlem School of the Arts, State Theatre New Jersey, Artworks Trenton, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. In my most recent role as the Development Associate of the Harlem School of the Arts, I was a primary administrative support and frontline fundraiser working directly with senior staff to implement institutional fundraising strategy and goals.

How have those experiences informed your current professional path?

I actually originally entered my college career as a musical theatre major, however, after taking an Intro to Arts Administration class my freshman year, I decided I wanted to broaden my focus and learn how to make an impact both on and off the stage. In that class that I realized how entrenched my life had been in arts and cultural nonprofits and their essential influence on my educational growth. If it wasn’t for the many arts advocates, teachers, and particularly fundraisers in my community working to create access and diverse programming, than I would have missed out on a multitude of formative experiences. For that, I have found a passion for the support and advocacy of arts institutions and their programming.

What are you looking forward to in taking on this role?

I am most excited to be back in a collegiate setting! I think there is something special about the campus atmosphere that sparks inspiration, curiosity, and then discovery. I am excited to be a part of stewarding that experience for the current students at TC’s Arts Administration program. 

What do you do outside of your time at TC?

My interests span from walks in nature or reading random psychology articles, to creating an art piece or performing on stage. However, a large labor of love has been my participation as a founding team member of Aurway Repertory Theatre. Aurway is a network of emerging and professional ARTISTs based out of Newark, NJ, dedicated to the pursuit, presentation, and creation of culturally relevant art through the lens of black and brown people. Through community partnerships, educational workshops, and public performances we create a space for artists and viewers alike to engage in a dialogue on pressing social issues while experiencing an unconventional approach to artmaking and theatrical performance. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!

Nigel Finley is a Harlem-based artist and arts administrator with a background in fundraising and marketing for major NYC and NJ arts and cultural organizations including the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA), State Theatre NJ, Artworks Trenton, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). He is also a founding team member at Aurway Inc., a Newark-based repertory theatre company. Nigel graduated from Rider University with a B.A. in Arts Administration with a Theatre emphasis.

Meet Joanna Calhoun, ARAD’s new Social Media Coordinator

ARAD is delighted to welcome Joanna Calhoun (ARAD ’23) as our new Social Media Manager. Learn more about Joanna, her goals for her new role, and what she does outside of TC.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was your undergraduate degree focused on?

I am from West Monroe, Louisiana and I earned my undergraduate degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Composition and a Minor in Business Management.

What previous experiences have led you to your current role?

At Tulane University, I took classes in performing arts, visual arts, and business management, and I desired to pursue a career path that allowed me to combine all of these passions. During my undergraduate career, I worked with several arts organizations in Louisiana such as the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council, Make Music NOLA, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Each one of these roles helped me discover my love for arts administration and social media management.

How have those experiences informed your current professional path?

During my internships, I gained experience in writing blog posts and articles, conducting interviews, photographing events, creating digital content, and managing social media. I believe these experiences have properly prepared me for the position of Social Media Coordinator. I look forward to further developing my current skills as I am interested in pursuing a career in management, marketing, and social media at an arts organization when I graduate.

What are you looking forward to in taking on this role?

As an incoming student to the ARAD Program, I am very excited to get to know my cohort and collaborate with faculty, staff, and alumni! I am looking forward to using my experience and knowledge towards promoting and strengthening the ARAD program and community.

What do you do outside of your time at TC?

I have been a musician my entire life, and my primary instrument is the violin. You can most often find me playing the violin whether it be as a soloist, in a band, or in a symphony orchestra. My other hobbies include drawing and painting, thrifting, and photography. I also love exploring the city and going to new restaurants, museums, and concerts!

Joanna Calhoun is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Teachers College, Columbia University. She graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2021 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Composition and a minor in Business Management. At Tulane University, she was a classical violinist in the Tulane Symphony Orchestra throughout all her semesters. Joanna’s professional interests center around marketing, communications, social media management, event programming, and arts education.

Lonnie Woods III on Transitioning to Faculty Position Leading ARAD’s Practicum in Arts Administration and Internship Courses

ARAD’s beloved Professional Development Coordinator, Lonnie Woods III, is transitioning to a new and exciting faculty position leading the Practicum in Arts Administration and then the Internship course. We spoke to Lonnie about the Practicum class that first-year ARAD students will be taking with him, including his vision for the course and the lessons he’d like students to walk away with. You can also learn more about Lonnie here!

What makes you passionate about professional development? 

Believe it or not, editing resumes for myself and my friends in college sparked my love for professional development. As a trained visual artist, I see constructive critique, creating, editing and formatting as an artform; those same principles apply to professional development. I am passionate about professional development because so much of it is about discovering who you are and making room for new versions of yourself. The professional work that we do is often a reflection of who we are (at least I think it should be that way). Each time we make a career change, we are making a life change, which translates to this exciting opportunity to curate and repackage yourself. I find the repackaging process exhilarating but I realize that it makes many people nervous. I get to be the person who helps students to calm those nerves and put their dreams into a plan.

What can students expect from the 8-session practicum they’ll be taking with you in their first semester of the program?

Students can expect to learn the tools and resources needed to create and execute a personal career plan in the arts. Students can expect to learn about essential career related topics such as professional relationship building, negotiation, job search techniques, personal branding, and career options within the arts field.

How does your class dovetail with the internship component of the ARAD curriculum?

In this course, students apply what they learn in their other ARAD courses to their individual career goals. Practicum in Arts Administration will prepare students for the internship search and hiring process as well as give them the tools and resources needed to equip and empower them to choose the internship and career path that will best align with their goals. 

What are you most looking forward to in starting this position?

I am looking forward to meeting the new students! The main reason that I work in academia is because I genuinely enjoy supporting students. I also look forward to sharing space with the future generation of folks who will go on to impact the arts industry in a powerful way. I look forward to helping students streamline their visions and dreams into a plan that they can execute and update throughout their time in the program and beyond.

What are the biggest lessons you’d like students to take away from your class?

  1. Choose collaboration over competition; network across as well as up. Your success does not always surround your ability to climb the ladder. Your success partner may be sitting right next to you in class.
  2. Your career plan is your own. You have the ability to edit, re-write or completely change your career story at any given time.

BIO

Professor Lonnie Woods III is a student affairs administrator, educator, and professional development practitioner whose research examines the career competencies of college students studying arts related majors. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Fine Art Photography from Towson University and a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs from New York University (NYU).  Lonnie serves as an Arts Career Consultant, College Readiness Specialist and Teaching Artist  and has collaborated with world renowned arts organizations such as: The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Whitney Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Museum of American History, The Studio Museum of Harlem and Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

Meet Melissa Weisberg, ARAD’s New Social Media Manager

ARAD is delighted to welcome Melissa Weisberg (ARAD ’20) as our new Social Media Manager. Learn more about Melissa, her goals for her new role, and what she’s been up to since graduation.

Continue reading “Meet Melissa Weisberg, ARAD’s New Social Media Manager”

An interview with Lonnie Woods III, the ARAD Professional Development Coordinator

 

Lonnie Woods III is an artist, educator and student affairs professional who is dedicated to the professional and academic development of art students. Lonnie brings extensive experience in art student advising, professional development coaching and program facilitation. Lonnie has held academic and career advising roles at NYU and The George Washington University in Washington D.C. Lonnie currently serves as lead instructor for the Brooklyn Arts and Culture Program which is an emerging arts administrator internship program for high school students hosted at the Brooklyn Academy of Art (BAM). Lonnie received a B.S. in Fine Art Photography from Towson University and holds a MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs from NYU.

Continue reading “An interview with Lonnie Woods III, the ARAD Professional Development Coordinator”

An Interview with Tia Dorsey, ARAD’s new Social Coordinator

Headshot (Dorsey)

Atiya Dorsey graduated from the Heavener School of Business at the University of Florida in 2017. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration (Marketing) with minors in Dance and Entrepreneurship. As an African American curator and photographer, Atiya’s work examines the lens through which we view black bodies in the artsespecially within dance and film. More specifically, she strives to create strong, visual images through black & white photography in order to address pertinent issues that are plaguing Black communities such as gentrification and displacement. Atiya looks forward to continuing this work in Washington, DC after graduating from Teachers College.  Continue reading “An Interview with Tia Dorsey, ARAD’s new Social Coordinator”

An Interview with ARAD’s new Social Media Coordinator, Isabella Rivera

Isabella.jpg

 

Isabella Rivera is currently pursuing her Master’s in Arts Administration at Teachers College and is ARAD’s Social Media Coordinator. She recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez with a B.B.A. in Marketing and a Minor in Fine Arts. She also studied at UMass Amherst and Cornell University. Her passions lie in contemporary and feminist art, photography, and nonprofit work. Last year, her volunteer experience at the Museum of Art at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (MUSA)—as well as her aunt Carmen Fishler Ruiz—inspired her to further explore the art field as a career path, which she says “happily brought her to ARAD.”

What is your role as social media coordinator?

As social media coordinator, I oversee ARAD’s Facebook and Twitter social media platforms. My work involves creating content, researching and coordinating social media posts in collaboration with ARAD’s staff and faculty on a daily basis.

What do you look forward to within this position?

Now that I am Social Media Coordinator, one of the things I’m looking forward to is having the opportunity to meet more ARAD alumni and assist with my photography and editing skills during special events. I’m also very humbly excited to just be part of the team, learn, and grow closer to this amazing program at TC.

Why is ARAD’s social media important?

ARAD’s social media is important because we have the responsibility to inform and provide essential opportunities to alumni, prospective and current students.  Keeping an active presence on Facebook and Twitter is a critical way to connect with our audience and develop the best marketing efforts for ARAD’s community and individuals interested in our program.

What past experiences help you with this job?

For most of my undergrad years, I was lucky enough to work in two part-time jobs that required creating ongoing original content and intensive digital marketing efforts, which have prepared me to work with ARAD’s platforms now. I love the flexibility and creative independence that goes into managing social media, and ARAD has given me the chance to explore that further more.

What else are you up to this semester?

This semester I’m taking courses at TC such as Cultural Policy, Organizational Psychology, P&P Visual Arts and Marketing for the Arts that will essentially help in my strategic planning when it comes to ARAD’s social media. I’ve also been wanting to broaden my skills and professional development further more within the Arts Administration field and have recently accepted an internship at Independent Curators International (ICI) in the development department for the Spring 2020 semester.

Welcome Isabella!

An Interview with ARAD Professional Development Coordinator, Kamra (Kamila) Hakim

By Jessie Mordine Young, The ARAD Program Coordinator at Teachers College.

I had the opportunity to sit down and interview my fairly new colleague, Kamra (Kamila) Hakim, who started her role as the Professional Development Coordinator at TC this past August. I enjoyed learning about her professional path as well as gaining some insight on her role at TC.

Continue reading “An Interview with ARAD Professional Development Coordinator, Kamra (Kamila) Hakim”