Student Spotlight: Sunny Leerasanthanah

Sunny- newSunny Leerasanthanah was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and lives in New York City, where she is completing her MA at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 2016, she received a BFA in Film, Photography, and Visual Arts at Ithaca College, New York. Sunny plans to work with non-profit visual arts organizations and institutions in the future, while balancing her work as a multidisciplinary artist. She has previously completed curatorial internships at the Brooklyn Museum, Public Art Fund, and most recently, Art21, where she contributed to their upcoming anthology book of interviews with international contemporary artists. In addition to work and graduate school, she enjoys working on different artistic projects.

Continue reading “Student Spotlight: Sunny Leerasanthanah”

Student Spotlight: Naomi Litman-Zelle ‘19

Naomi-Litman-Zelle-PictureNaomi Litman-Zelle is entering her second year in the Arts Administration program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology, and spent time after graduating working in the world of fundraising for an educational non-profit organization. Her interests include art museum education and community engagement with a focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives. While enrolled in ARAD, Naomi has interned at the Rubin Museum.


Naomi shared her reflections on life in ARAD with us (as well as a few of her cartoons!):

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?

I wanted to be in New York City, and after some research, I realized that TC would be a great fit for my interests. A lot of the faculty also have a social science background, which set the ARAD program here apart from other programs I was looking at. I also liked hearing at Admitted Student’s Day that the admissions committee carefully selected the cohorts so that there would be a broad range of interests and backgrounds. It’s been a real joy to learn so much from my fellow classmates.

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

I always carry an extra layer in my bag. In New York in general and especially at TC, you never know what the temperature in a room is going to be, so I always like to be prepared. Also, I usually have pens and a notebook with me for class and to doodle in on the train or during down time.

How are your studies helping to advance your career goals?

I think I’ve become more focused in what I want and I’ve made really great connections that will be useful to me when I graduate. Beyond just job opportunities, having contacts and doing informational interviews with some of the foremost leaders in the field are a tremendous asset.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.

I’ve loved befriending the folks in my cohort. It is a really positive and friendly group, and I think we’ve built a nice community. From happy hours to study sessions, it’s been nice having a group of people with such similar interests and schedules. Being a grad student also means my downtime differs from my 9-to-5 friends, so I definitely take advantage of being able to see a movie at 2 p.m. or going to an event on a weeknight!

What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences in New York City?

I think the theater I’ve seen is probably the highlight. I have been to some Broadway shows, but the most fun things I’ve seen have been either student shows or performances produced or performed by people I know.

naomi nochlin
Courtesy of Naomi Litman-Zelle.

What is one topic you have been discussing in Arts Administration classes this week?

It’s summer right now for me, so I’m not in classes, but something I’ve been thinking a lot about is the repatriation of art objects. I visited the art museum in my home state when I was visiting a couple weeks ago, and it houses the largest solid piece of jade outside of China. Having the Jade Mountain in the museum is really valuable from an educational standpoint, but I sometimes wonder what right the museum has to such a sacred object. I think about this with regards to the Temple of Dendur at the Met as well; this idea of ownership of objects from foreign countries and whether or not it makes sense to house them in American museums. It’s a complex issue, but fascinating and important.

In your view, who are some of the major influencers working in arts administration right now?

I think Kimberly Drew is someone who really inspires me. She’s a pop-culture icon that brings a really important voice to the museum and art history community, and she manages the social media for the Met. Also Annie Polland, the new VP of education and programming at the Tenement Museum. I recently heard her speak at the NYCMER conference hosted at TC, and she was really inspiring. She’s super invested in the community and using storytelling to connect the museum to the broader public, and I think that’s an amazing concept.

What is your professional ambition or dream?

I would love to be the director of programming/community engagement at an art museum or arts organization.

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

Courtesy of Naomi Litman-Zelle.

There are too many to list! I draw cartoons in my spare time, so some of my biggest inspirations are Gary Larson (The Far Side), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Roz Chast (The New Yorker) and Cathy Guisewite (Cathy). I love how they mix humor and art.

Learn more about our August Student Spotlight, Marina Piedade, ARAD ’18


Marina Piedade, ARAD ’18, was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She completed her Bachelor in Communications and Advertising from the University of São Paulo, and afterwards went on to live in London to study photography at the University of the Arts London. For the last ten years, she has worked as a full-time professional photographer and after moving to the US in 2015, graduated from ARAD program this past May. 

Get to know her through these rapid fire questions:

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?

I was looking for an Arts Administration program specifically. The Columbia program, beside being a very well esteemed program in a Ivy League University, had the most approachable students and faculty. I felt wanted there.

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

Phone charger, a bottle of water, and migraine pills.

How are your studies helping to advance your career goals?

My studies definitely helped me to get a better overall understanding of the area. Also, as we can tailor half of the credits to our own interests, it is possible to find classes to target specific flaws in your own knowledge.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.

As we have such a small program, we developed a “family like” environment, were everyone knew each other’s names. I have no doubt that I have made some friends for life during my two years at TC.

What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences?

My favorite cultural experiences were in fact visiting amazing museums and organization outside the city, and learning about what else happens in the tri-state area. These experiences can only happen when you are not a tourist focused only in New York City.

What is your professional ambition or dream?

Work as a ED of a large visual arts museum.

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

Van Gogh, William Kentridge, and Agnes Martin.


Following up with our Spring 2018 Microgrant Recipient, Beryl Ford.

Beryl Ford_Photo TC (1).JPG

Our Spring 2018 Microgrant Recipient, Beryl Ford shared her reflections on Black Portraitures– BP IV: The Color of Silence, a conference she attended in Cambridge, Massachusetts with help from funding by the ARAD Microgrant.


It was such a rewarding experience to be able to use my ARAD micro-grant to
attend the fourth iteration of Black Portraitures– BP IV: The Color of Silence. As a
budding arts administrator, I found it truly inspiring to convene with the major players–
influencers, scholars, museum professionals—in the black art world who are thinking
critically about visual expression. This year’s conference theme– The Color of Silence–
was particularly compelling because it focused on the increasingly Diasporic nature of
the artists and ideas of the Black Portraitures community– finding its intellectual roots in
the African Diaspora as it is expressed throughout Latin America. As Henry Louis Gates
Jr. explained in his opening remarks, “The Color of SIlence refers to the visual
expressions of the national imaginaries prevalent throughout the African Diaspora, in
which political ideologies that negate racial differences render black subjects invisible.”

Each panel was thoughtfully organized to respond to and navigate this question
of invisibility. During the conference, I attended the following panels: The Curator, the
Artist, the Art Historian, and the Critic, Black Agency, Black Freedom: Portraits of
Survival in Word and Image, Portraits of Power: The Aesthetics of Resistance, and
Queer Identities. From each of these nuanced conversations, I gained a better
understanding of how the visual arts work to support activism and are deployed to shed
light on the experiences that are purposefully ignored and shrouded in darkness. As an
arts administrator, I believe that it is my responsibility to be aware of the barriers
precluding certain groups access to the visual arts! Given this, attending the BP IV
conference was invigorating because I felt as if I was part of a larger collective endeavor
that is working toward and is concerned with a similar goal.


Thanks for sharing your reflections with us Beryl, we are so proud to be watching you bloom!



Student Spotlight: Nadia Kyne

Meet Nadia Kyne, Class of 2018Nadia Kyne New

Prior to joining the ARAD program, Nadia Kyne held the position of Assistant Principal Flute and Piccolo with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for six years. During her tenure with the orchestra, she served on a number of management-musician committees and was elected Chair of the Orchestra Committee, the musicians’ representative on the board of directors. Committed to bringing music education to underserved communities, she taught at an after-school outreach program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and worked as a teacher-participant in a collaborative study with the UBC Faculty of Education on the effects of music education on self-regulated learning outcomes. Nadia holds degrees in Flute Performance from The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music, and aims to pursue a career in orchestral management upon graduation from Columbia.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?

With the goal of transitioning from performing to a career in orchestral leadership in mind, I wanted to find a program that would complement the work experience that I’d already had, by providing me with the best practical skills to make me an effective administrator. For me, the ARAD program’s core curriculum offers the perfect mix of business, arts, and law classes, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to tailor my education with elective options throughout Columbia’s schools. The fact that the program is offered through Teachers College, a school with a strong social justice tradition, made it even more appealing for me.

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

Coffee, Spotify, and an unlimited metrocard.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.

I love being a part of this cohort. I’m surrounded by inspiring peers who bring an incredible diversity of experience in the visual and performing arts, and I get to learn from them every day. Our professors constantly challenge and motivate us to think more deeply and comprehensively about the issues facing the field, and students from the 2nd-year class have been a huge support, providing advice and mentorship along the way. And being in New York is a huge added bonus! There are always amazing things to see and do, and countless opportunities to learn from administrators who are working at the very top of the field.

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

It’s impossible to name just three! As a start: Gustav Mahler, Nina Simone, and Diana Vishneva.

Student Spotlight: Zamara Choudhary

Zamara Choudhary graduated summa cum laude zamara-picture
from CUNY Macaulay Honors College at  Hunter College in 2016, where she majored in History with minors in English and Arabic Studies. A native Brooklynite, Zamara enjoys exploring the diaspora of cultural organizations in New York City, and dreamed of working in a museum as a child. Zamara has interned at Studio in a School, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Museum of the Cityof New York, and the Brooklyn Museum. She hopes to use her unique background and passion for social justice to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and exchange through the arts.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?
I approached three forks in the road at the end of my undergraduate career: education; historical academia; and arts administration. I ultimately selected the Arts Administration program at Teachers College, Columbia University because I felt it combined all of my interests with its flexible, interdisciplinary curriculum and ability to cross-register into other schools at Columbia University. There is also no place more suitable to study the arts and its impact on diverse communities than New York City, where the numerous new shows and exhibitions enrich academic experience.Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.
When coming into this program, I did not expect to create such strong relationships with my incredible cohort. I have never been surrounded by such a supportive and close-knit community, who are so passionate about inciting change through the arts. My peers force me to think differently and critically about multiple issues, both in and outside the classroom, allowing me to come into my own as an arts administrator of the twenty-first century.
Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?
Only three? I would choose mangaka Junji Ito, mixed-media artist Faig Ahmed, and soul singer Sam Cooke.

Student Spotlight: Myriam Varjacques

Tell us about yourself.

Originally from Paris, France, Myriam Varjacques myriam-varjacquesis a 2014 graduate of Barnard College with a distinction in English and a minor in Dance. She has interned for American Ballet Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and The New 42nd Street, Inc, among others. From 2014-2016, Myriam was the Marketing Assistant for the Mark Morris Dance Group, where the collaborative environment allowed her to work with nearly every department of the organization on such projects as brochures, company programs, website content management, and audio and video archiving. Her ambitions lie in advocacy and fundraising for the performing arts.

What is your professional ambition or dream?

My dream is to be the executive director of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. I will be interning in the Public Programming department this January working on contracts for two summer festivals so I’m off to a good start!

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

My planner, my phone, and lipstick.

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

Too many to count but here are a few… Carrie Fisher Marcelo Gomes (principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre) Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Kingkiller Chronicles)

Thesis Feature: Blaire Townshend

Minding the Gap: Targeting Millennials to Ensure the Future of Opera 

Metropolitan Opera 1937. Photo from Wikimedia Commmons

My thesis explores supplemental operatic programming that is catered to the interests and needs of the Millennial demographic—a population that I argue is key to the survival of opera. As opera’s current audience ages out of attendance, a replacement audience is called for—and programming that encourages Millennials to engage with opera on their terms is a vital ingredient to this process of replacement.

 As an opera lover myself, I am deeply invested in the future of the art form—yet rarely see my peers represented in the audience when I attend performances. I have also attended supplemental operatic programming catered to the Millennial demographic, and have not only enjoyed these experiences myself, but have watched as people my age begin to engage with opera. This is something that I want to support and encourage, as I feel that the more that we do to introduce Millennials such as myself to these programs, the larger our numbers in future audiences will be.

My thesis is meant to act as a sort of best practices document for opera companies looking to further engage the Millennial demographic. The hope is that the research and interviews that I have compiled would serve as a resource for such efforts, and will help to shed light on the relationship between opera and young audiences.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people above and beyond the administrators that fit your requirements! I talked with someone who had been involved in the implementation of a Millennial-focused grant outside of the operatic world, and that conversation was very helpful in framing my thoughts. Cross-disciplinary discussion can be so useful, and is a nexus where we can learn a great deal about best practices. Additionally, I personally think it is important to focus on programs/organizations that are somewhat different from one another. Obviously, choosing programs that are entirely unrelated isn’t helpful, but it is in those points of difference that you can really make some headway in determining successful and unsuccessful models.

Millennials don’t always want something crazy and new! Often, they are looking for that classic, grand operatic experience—because that, in fact, is new to them. In other words, I learned not to assume that a certain demographic holds a particular interest. It is so very important to survey potential participants and audience members to determine their actual interests and needs, rather than projecting your assumptions onto them.

Opera is currently under threat—in the form of dwindling and increasingly aging audiences. Enticing a younger demographic—specifically Millennials—to become the next generation of operagoers is thus vital to the sustainability of opera as an art form. To achieve this, opera companies must look to the interests and needs of this demographic and craft their supplemental programming accordingly. Ensuring that such programming increases awareness, encourages relatability, and promotes accessibility will be key to transforming opera from a form that is often perceived as outdated to one that speaks directly to the Millennial demographic. With this in mind, what programs are opera companies implementing to attract Millennial audiences? What are the greatest challenges that administrators of these programs face? How do the administrators of these programs evaluate success? And finally, how are these programs integrated into the larger audience development initiatives of their respective companies? The answers to these questions will help to demystify opera’s current relationship with Millennial audiences and to determine where this relationship could be improved for the benefit of both Millennial operagoers and opera administrators alike.

Student Spotlight: Harris Cabrera


harriscabrera-aradHarris Cabrera graduated from Northwestern University cum laude in 2011 with a B.A. in Theatre and comes to the Arts Administration program after five years in Chicago as a freelance actress and musical performer. During her time in the Chicagoland area, she worked extensively with children, both as an artist and a caregiver. As an administrator, exposing young audiences and under-served communities to professional theatre and its educational potential are the focus of her pursuits as she continues her education and career at Teachers College.

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

Highlighters, my personal planner, and a water bottle.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.

The range of professional and academic backgrounds the members of my cohort bring to the program have given me the opportunity to learn so much about the arts world outside of the classroom, especially as we get to know each other while we explore the neighborhood for post-class drinks and dinner.

What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences in New York City?

I grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, about an hour outside the city, so my favorites are long-standing institutions: the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I recently had the chance to take my six-year-old niece to the the Museum of Natural History for the first time, and it was thrilling to see how excited she was by many of the same exhibits I remembered loving as a child, as well as new additions and experiences that have been added over the years.