Throughout the semester, we will feature highlights and insights from Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione’s time in Palestine last summer. Please stay tuned to our blog and social media channels for more #ARADPalestine.
This past summer, ARAD Program Director, Dr. Jennifer Lena, and Lecturer, Dr. Gemma Mangione visited Palestine to lead an intensive arts administration program for staff from arts organizations in the West Bank. In addition to teaching, Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione sought out cultural experiences that informed their understanding of the area and created indelible memories. Dr. Lena shared photos from her travels around the West Bank and her visits toYad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center,the Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union, andBanksy’s Walled Off Hotel (keep an eye out for a future posts describing these visits and what they meant to her).
ARAD’s Fall microgrant helped Jordan Carter attend the International Association of Blacks In Dance (IABD) 50th Annual Conference and Festival. Jordan shares with us how the experience brought to life what he’s been learning in the classroom.
First-year student Mari Takeda (ARAD ‘20) started her position as Social Media Coordinator for ARAD this month! She is thrilled to share her thoughts about the job and the different skills she hopes to bring to the position.
Arts Administration alumnus Eric Oberstein (’09) is a GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning producer, arts administrator, musician, educator, and consultant. Oberstein currently serves as Associate Director of Duke Performances, the professional performing arts presenting organization at his undergraduate alma mater, Duke University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member in Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, where he teaches a course, Introduction to Performing Arts Management & Entrepreneurship, for Duke undergraduates. Oberstein is currently collaborating with Cuban drummer, composer, educator, and MacArthur Fellow Dafnis Prieto on the Dafnis Prieto Big Band, serving as Producer on a debut album, Back to the Sunset, released in April 2018 on Prieto’s label, Dafnison Music, and nominated for a Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. The Latin GRAMMYs will air on November 15.
We talked with Eric about his experiences as a music producer, professor, and arts administrator:
By Melissa Weisberg ’20
ARAD was pleased to host its Fall Distinguished Speaker Series on Tuesday, October 16 with ARAD alumna Danielle King (‘11), Director of Programming at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). King’s talk Making Space, explored the many meanings of space and the ways in which LMCC supports New York artists and engages the public through the use of non-traditional physical spaces. In the spirit of making space, King began by opening the conversation to the audience by asking, “When I make space, I want the space to be…” A list ranging from inclusive, welcoming, safe, and flexible to transformative, super queer, fair, and spontaneous filled the whiteboard. She then compelled the audience to observe the lecture room and amend it in ways that reflected words on the board. King’s point quickly surfaced by the time everyone was settled into the new configuration: space is a vessel that can frame expression and dialogue.
King went on to explain the programs she oversees at LMCC including Workspace, the organization’s longest running residency program, and the River to River Festival, an annual arts festival with events in Lower Manhattan. Both programs challenge the ways in which we experience space: Workspace by providing and occupying existing but nontraditional spaces for their artists to work in and the River to River Festival by activating and transforming public outdoor space. King made it clear that unconventional spaces offer room for experimentation, professional development, and dialogue.
King shared how her background and Columbia’s Arts Administration program has informed her work at LMCC in an interview conducted by first year student, Melissa Weisberg (ARAD ’20):
Ty Cooperman is a first year Arts Administration graduate student from New York. He co-founded and manages Anti-Renaissance, a queer art collective. Ty earned his BA in Art History with high honors from NYU. Ty’s scholarship generally focuses on queer art and artists as well as the complexities of exhibiting controversial and/or previously censored works of art. His larger goal in graduate school is to learn how to make the digital age maximally profitable for visual artists.
Ty’s work is currently on view in The Violators, a group exhibition of queer artists whose works have been targeted by censorship on social media on view at Leslie-Lohman Project Space this weekend.
Congratulations on the exhibition—how have you continued your artistic practice and work with artists while starting grad school?
Thank you! Honestly it requires a lot of work and planning to do both. I’ve been fortunate to have a class schedule that is concentrated during the first half of the week, which makes managing my sort-of dual identities a bit more manageable. That being said, it’s definitely a balancing act.
The Violators is a group exhibition of queer artists whose works have been targeted for censorship on social media. Can you describe your work in the show? What do you hope visitors take away from the exhibition?
My work in the exhibition comes from my instant photographs (Polaroid and Instax film) many of which are of sexualized situations.
I hope people leave the show with an augmented understanding of – or at least willingness to consider – the ways in which art can involve sex and still, at the very least, be worthy of art object status.
How do you see social media impacting the arts and/or artists? Specifically for queer artists?
This show is about queer artists whose work has been censored on social media. Social media is an important part of how contemporary artists are becoming and remain financially viable. Censorship towards queer art can take many forms: homophobia from other users, implicit discrimination coded into computer programs responsible for policing content (as on Instagram), the inadvertent structural discrimination faced by organizations trying to buy targeted ads on Facebook’s advertising platform, etc. Hopefully these issues will become more readily discussed and the Silicon Valley tech overlords will become more open to engaging all the various communities that fall under the umbrella of queer.
You co-founded Anti-Renaissance, a queer arts collective—can you tell us more about the collective? What’s the backstory for the name?
The name comes from my co-founder’s (Desmond Sam) old photoblog called “you are the renaissance.” When we were brainstorming names I told him I liked the notion of talking about The Renaissance, and the nuances that come with the established connotations of “The Renaissance” in art history, but that it would be more fitting (and provocative) for us to be ‘against’ any claim made by cultural elites about the quality of our work: We are a queer art collective that represents a group excluded by elites from notions of ‘good’ art. We ran with it.
The name also is part of our house, Haus of Anti-. Houses are an important element of NYC queer culture (think Paris is Burning, except our house is an artist house, not a vogueing/ballroom scene house). As Anti-Renaissance, we work within the queer community to find opportunities to showcase world-class queer art and artists to the world at large. At our core we seek to empower queer artists with the skills, resources, and opportunities necessary to flourish and find financial viability.
How does your experience in the classroom relate to what you are experiencing in the field?
The reality is that the world of art is a business and we live in a late-stage capitalist society. If I want to be a maximally useful advocate for artists today, I need skillsets that enable me to think both through the lens of an art critic and historian and also from the perspective of a shrewd capitalist. To invoke Bourdieu, for me, it’s about trying to maximize artists’ economic and cultural capital.
What are your hopes for your next steps in your career?
I’d like to enter the business of art logistics. I know from my own experiences and those of my friends in the field that there is a lot of room for improvement in these areas. At the same time, I can also see myself becoming an artist agent or consultant to businesses involved in the art market.
The Arts Administration Program (ARAD) at Teachers College, Columbia University is pleased to announce recipients of the Fall 2018 Microgrants for Student Professionalization.
Through the Microgrant Program and with generous support from the Arts and Humanities Department at Teachers College, ARAD proudly supports student professionalization activities on campus and beyond. This award champions special projects proposed by Teachers College student groups (with ARAD student membership), as well as professional development for individual students in the ARAD program. Applications were invited through an open call process, and selected by ARAD faculty.
Sunny 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.
Allason Leitz is in her second year of her masters in Arts Administration at Columbia University. She has worked for the last seven years with the Congo International Film Festival (CIFF) most recently as the assistant to the Artistic Director where she primarily gathered (and occasionally curated) films. Since beginning at CIFF, she has worked on a number of projects that seek to connect Congo and the western world, primarily through her work with the web series Kinshasa Collection and the women-owned startup Tulizeni.
Allason shared her reflections on her most recent trip to Goma with us:
This summer I went back to Goma, D.R. Congo to be part of the Congo International Film Festival which I’ve been helping out with for the past seven years. Two things were a bit different this year than in the past: 1) I was coming off of an incredible first year in the ARAD program and 2) the festival was transitioning from a founder-run festival to one run by a successor. As we learned in our course “Principles and Practices in Arts Administration,” this sort of organizational shift can affect every defining aspect of an organization. Yet as with most experiences that push your limits, the things I took away from being there in person far exceeded what I imagined when I sent out the countless emails and messages for the GoFundMe campaign I was relying on.
Taking part in a film festival in a war zone comes with its fair share of challenges, ones that inevitably go outside the scope of the Arts Administration challenges we speak about regularly in our program. On more than one occasion I wondered if getting there was even going to be a reality. The festival depended on me, so I had to get there–I was responsible for the tablets we needed for an exhibition, and I had the only copy of EVERY single film for the festival. Despite whatever happened, these items had to make it there.
My journey was complicated by a short planning time frame and a complicated visa process. Getting a visa to the D. R. Congo has become more complex based on new international agreements between the U.S. and the D. R. Congo—it is a process that can take ten days and subject to quirks in the system. Sitting in desperation on Connecticut Ave in Washington, D.C. with no visa the day before my already postponed flight, I wound up resorting to the absolute last option to make it to Goma in time. Instead of flying from D.C. to Goma directly, I changed my flight to fly to Kigali, Rwanda. Changing my travel route, enabled me to be eligible for a different visa which I could get at the border, though it was unfortunately a much more expensive option. In Kigali I got on a TINY propeller plane to Kamembe (a southern Rwandese border town to Congo) at the crack of dawn and crossed the border on foot to the D.R. Congo. Then, despite a mis-dated visa, I made it onto an overnight boat to Goma (a twelve hour journey instead of the normal three) and arrived six days after I had left my apartment in NYC.
I could write a small book about all of the mix ups, as well as the amazing people who saved me time and time again and restored my faith in humanity. Yet when everything was going wrong for a while, I was reminded by a friend of mine from ARAD who was texting with me that this would probably make a pretty good story for my grandchildren. In the moment it was riddled with anxiety, triumph, peace, doubt, anger, confusion, euphoria, you name it, the emotions were all there: tell-tale signs of any adventure.
I learned a valuable lesson at the end of an epic journey and an incredible festival with the realities of an unstable warzone ever present. I saw that we in much of the Western world have become dangerously defined by an expectation of ease.
Working at CIFF has in many ways tested my will and my desire. I’ve also learned to trust those inclinations that push me to believe in my values and myself. My journey to Goma was a pale version of the tests many people in Goma face daily, but my greatest privilege is that I have chosen to be a part of this festival every year instead of the innumerable festivals in the U.S., because this festival brings more to the table than any festival I have ever been a part of in the U.S. There is an ease in the U.S. that we take for granted: the electricity working when we have a screening, ready access to internet fast enough to download films, and internet that works and doesn’t cost a fortune.But, CIFF celebrates the triumphant glee of self-expression in a way that accepting ‘ease’ has made routine. It accentuates the bliss and vulnerability that comes from sharing your thoughts with the world and is truly a celebration of us as individuals and community. The heroes of this festival are my colleagues on the ground who dare to create a festival that can run in in the D. R. Congo as well as in other places around the world. Being in the D. R. Congo constantly reminds me that such deep celebration is best not forgotten.