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.  

Catching Up With Alums Megan Zhang (ARAD ‘20) and Mari Takeda (ARAD ‘20)

Megan Zhang (ARAD ‘20) and Mari Takeda (ARAD ‘20) are recent TC graduates. Megan is currently the Administrative Manager at Juilliard Preparatory Division, and Mari Takeda is currently the Donor Relationships Manager at Baltimore Center Stage. For this blog, they caught up with each other on what they’ve been up to since graduation. 

Continue reading “Catching Up With Alums Megan Zhang (ARAD ‘20) and Mari Takeda (ARAD ‘20)”

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Dubin

IMG_8404
Dr. Dubin (far right) in Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dubin.

ARAD’s own Dr. Dubin took a moment to share with us what he’s been up to while on sabbatical this past year. Dr. Dubin spent time in South Africa, completed a one-month residency at Ucross (an artist/writer retreat in Clearmont, Wyoming), spent 5 weeks in Italy, and completed another one-month residency at the Rockefeller Foundation – sponsored retreat, Bellagio. Following the opening of his photography exhibition in early June, Dr. Dubin will finish his sabbatical with another trip to South Africa before returning to Teachers College for the Fall semester.

Continue reading “Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Dubin”

ARAD Works: “ART MUSEUM CAPITAL PROJECTS IN NEW YORK CITY”

Having recently completed her master’s thesis, Alexis Yuen shares some insight into her topic and her writing process.

ART MUSEUM CAPITAL PROJECTS IN NEW YORK CITY: THE DUAL ROLE OF ART MUSEUMS AS ECONOMIC DRIVERS AND COMMUNITY ANCHORS

By Alexis Yuen

Alexis Yuen Thesis Photo (The Whitney)
View from the roof of The Whitney Museum

Abstract: Following the success of Guggenheim Bilbao in northern Spain, cities around the world established new cultural centers as a means of economic improvement. Meanwhile, directors of New York City art museums invested in high-budget capital projects in order to accommodate to the changing role of museums and respond to increasing international competition. In this thesis, I will provide a comprehensive critique surrounding the capital projects of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Queens Museum; and Whitney Museum of American Art. Leaders of these museums have stated serving and engaging their communities as one of their capital projects’ goals. Through examining each museum’s stipulated goals, defined communities, level of engagement with their communities in relation to their capital projects, and project outcomes, I argue that there is an overall mismatch between the stipulated goals of art museum capital projects and their project outcomes. This mismatch illustrates the widening gap between the dual role of art museums as economic drivers and community anchors. As museum directors seek to manage the multiple and often conflicting roles of art museums, I make recommendations on how they can be more strategic in their goals, realistic in their outcomes, and creative in their funding and engagement models.

What is your thesis about? A comprehensive critique surrounding decisions made by leaders of the Cooper Hewitt Museum, Queens Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art during their capital projects from 2013-2015; and how these decisions reflect on art museums’ dual roles as economic drivers and community anchors today.

What inspired you to research and write about this topic? I’ve always been fascinated by museum architecture, particularly in the way it changes the art-seeing experience for museum visitors and non-visitors. When the new Whitney first opened in 2015, I was intrigued by the museum’s stipulated goals in community engagement in Meatpacking, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village. However, I was skeptical of the project’s effectiveness and therefore began speaking to community members to get their perspectives on the Whitney’s move.

How do you hope your research will contribute to the arts administration field? I hope that as arts administrators think about museum buildings creatively, they will also push boundaries in thinking about museum programming and funding models creatively to reflect the changing role of art museums.

What advice would you give to ARAD students just beginning the process of writing their theses? Conduct preliminary interviews and share your ideas before drafting your proposals.

For access to the full paper, please contact the ARAD program at aradassistant@tc.columbia.edu.

 

2nd Year Feature: Jennifer Patten

Jennifer_PattenDescribe your final semester as an ARAD student. My final semester has been an exciting blend of work and education as I have taken on more responsibility at my new position as Director of Education and Training at the Martha Graham School while wrapping up my studies in the Arts Administration Program.

Did you have a job this semester? I served as the Director of Education and Training at the Martha Graham School. In this capacity, I serve as the head of the School and oversee all administrative and faculty personnel while reporting to the Executive Director. I am responsible for budget, program coordination, student affairs, accreditation, fundraising and development, and collaborate with other departments, such as marketing, in the promotion of the School.

Did this opportunity come about as a result of your time at ARAD?

Continue reading “2nd Year Feature: Jennifer Patten”

Alumni Conversation: Daniel Gallant

By Gina Tribotti

Daniel Gallant Nuyorican Pic
Daniel Gallant Nuyorican Pic: photo by Samira Bouaou for Epoch Times

Daniel Gallant is a theatrical producer, playwright, director, teacher, actor, and executive director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Since 1973, the Cafe has operated as a multi-arts and multicultural non-profit organization, presenting poetry, music, hip hop, theater, and education events in New York City’s East Village. The Cafe’s history is chronicled in a new online exhibit from Google Cultural Institute.

Daniel has also recently been awarded a 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship for his work as an arts leader. Eisenhower Fellows travel abroad to meet with experts in their respective fields and deepen their engagement with a global network of leaders. In this interview, we speak with Daniel about the nimbleness of small organizations, the benefits of being an arts omnivore, and the delicate balancing act between artistic creation and arts management.

Continue reading “Alumni Conversation: Daniel Gallant”

Student Spotlight: Michael Carr

Michael CarrMichael David Carr – born and raised in Orlando, Florida – holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition from Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music. There, he studied voice and trumpet, alongside music composition and theory. He was introduced to venue operations as an assistant to the Operations Director of the school.

After graduating in May, 2013, Michael moved to Manhattan to begin work, first with Carnegie Hall’s Subscription Campaign.  Following the 2013-2014 Campaign, Michael decided to seek venues work, and a Graduate degree from Teachers College. In 2014, Michael was hired by Lincoln Center’s Concert Halls, where he now works as a Front-of-House Staff Coordinator.

Continue reading “Student Spotlight: Michael Carr”

Student Spotlight: Anne-Claire Morel

Photo of Anne-Claire MorelAnne-Claire Morel is a History of Art graduate (2014) from the University of Cambridge, UK. She obtained a B.A. (Hons) and did her thesis on Marina Abramovic’s presence and image in post-1970s performance art. In order to further develop her interest for the arts, Anne-Claire decided to carry out internships in various areas of the art world. She gained valuable insights into the art market when interning at Sotheby’s London in the Valuation Department (2012) and Gagosian Gallery, New York (2013). Following these two experiences, she assisted a leading New York-based art adviser during the Summer of 2015.

Anne-Claire has also kept a focus on art and artists at the very heart of her internships. In 2011 and 2013, she interned at Residency Unlimited, a Brooklyn based, non-profit artist residency. She also turned to museums and joined MoMA’s curatorial internship program (Media and Performance Art) in the Spring of 2015. She is currently interning at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the Corporate Development department.

Anne-Claire grew up between Paris, Barcelona, London, and New York, and has had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people. Her passion for art and the art world is fed by the many stories and cultures she gathered throughout the years. At the moment, she is exploring the opportunities and limits of branding strategies used to shape the image of historical private collections.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University? I was drawn to the program because of ARAD’s intrinsically diverse nature. Upon finishing my undergraduate degree, I had a strong background in history of art and critical theory, yet no understanding of the art world per se. ARAD has allowed me to explore new topics such as advertising, branding, and marketing, while also encouraged me to nurture and further topics such as philosophy. Should I wish to take a class about international conflicts and the role of culture tomorrow, I could too! ARAD’s strength lies in its diversity, and it challenges your own previous perceptions.

How are your studies helping to advance your career goals? The link between studies and career goals was not immediate for me. I came to the program straight out of undergrad and had never held a permanent position. It took a few months, a fair amount of discussions, and three internships for me to realize how I could relate career and studies. I realized that advertising and branding, along with corporate development and history of art, could be combined for the best and be used as a powerful strategy by art world entities.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community. The ARAD community is a support system. A group of wonderful, bright, and ambitious people that help each other out, in any possible way. I feel very confident about the future, of the arts and mine, thanks to the people I met in this program.

Student Spotlight: Aaron Novak

Aaron NovakAaron is interested in museums with a specific focus on ancient art, archaeology and history museums with a focus on marketing, development and exhibition development. Previously, he worked at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem where he acted as the Director of Special Projects. He is currently interning with Third Eye, an arts marketing, PR, and branding firm in New York City and spends whatever free time he has left exploring the endless landscape of arts that this city has to offer. Continue reading “Student Spotlight: Aaron Novak”