Friday, July 28, 2017

How exploring New York inspires Ariel

Today I visited the NYC Aids Memorial structure and square located in the West Village on 7 Av south between 12th and Greenwich Ave. I first took in the structure itself. The smaller triangles with off center vertical lines across made up seven larger triangles. Three of the grey triangles are touching the ground while the other four form a top. I began to associate the image with many things. With each line and negative space in between I reflected on the lives and loss of those effected by the epidemic. The triangular shape of the square the memorial sits on. The symbol used to ostracize gay men and woman during the holocaust. The deep history of this neighborhood and its commitment to preserving the history of the LGBTQ community is inspiring. The Stonewall Inn, Christopher St and the Pride flags all around are reminders of the importance of upholding inclusivity. The park is full of people sitting around the sculpture, on benches and in the grass. I’m inspired by the diversity of age, gender, race, dress, shape and sexuality represented by the crowd. Are they aware of the monument? A woman with orange flowers in her hair receives a private hula lesson from her instructor on the green. He demonstrates the sway of the hips and she follows finishing through to complete a twirl. What else brought the others to the square today? Some are in pairs or alone reading, listening to music, one man is taking on his phone. A young boy runs and hops along a pattern of curvy lights in the pavement. He reminds me to be inquisitive and appreciate each small detail that come together to form the beautiful park around me. This public space is small but mighty. It supports the local community and those passing through. The memorial sculpture is a constant reminder of the history of the area. It provokes thought amongst those who engage it with or without that context in mind. It is a reminder of the aspect of theatre I so deeply enjoy: a group of people engaging amongst one another who may have not been brought together otherwise.

Ariel's Reflection on Phase I

TA Development/Summer Forum is underway and it is wonderful to witness the fruits of our office labors! Greeting all the smiling faces on their way into the workshops each day have been the highlight of my mornings this week. Similar to the experience I had making observations during our site exercise I love taking in the diversity of all the participants. Some have come from so far away and I find myself wondering what path led each of them here to LCE. I am excited to participate in the AE Immersion workshop in a couple weeks, not only to learn but to get to know some of the participants more closely in addition to our reception gatherings. What I have seen from outside the classrooms looks incredibly exciting and eye opening.

The LCE principal of noticing deeply is such a wonderful tool for me as an actor and human being. I’ve connected that way of thinking to what I’ve read and practiced concerning Mindfulness or Mindful Meditation (make connections - another principal). If I have free time or feeling anxious in particular observing my breath or the people, places and things around me brings me back to a calm state of mind. It also brings a level of respect and admiration back into my awareness. I begin to feel more simply grateful to be where I am in my life. Healthy and happy enjoying this wonderful opportunity I’ve been given.

Its an excellent reminder, especially as I navigate the balance between my responsibilities here, taking care of my personal life/wellness and auditioning here in the city. I have had two in person television auditions so far since the fellowship began and I find having this meaningful arena to delve into keeps my mind of off professional worries over which I have no control. I tend to get lost in spirals concerning the outcome of those auditions and the nagging desire to excel quickly in a field that requires an enormous amount of PATIENCE.

I am looking forward to the audition boot camp coming up in August and to all the opportunities that will present themselves in the coming months. Until next time!

How Exploring New York inspires Dylan

The first location I explored in depth once I arrived to the New York was none other than the place which will serve as my work base for the next six months: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. I arrived early on my first day of the Kenan Fellowship and made a point to take a moment to reflect upon my surroundings. Gray monuments representing some of the country's most cherished cultural institutions dwarfed my presence as I strolled across the plaza. I felt so small in comparison to these massive structures, while simultaneously feeling an immediate warmth and connection to all of the artists who have passed through that same plaza. This was reinforced further by the scores of young dancers and instrumentalists whom I observed during my first day. Beyond the sheer caliber of artistic excellence which Lincoln Center has become synonymous with, I found myself inspired further by standing on the campus where the term “teaching artist” was first coined so many years ago. Lincoln Center is not only a world leader in artistic programming and performance, but has clearly established itself as a leader in arts education. This dedication to outreach and engagement inspires me because it serves as a continuous reminder of why the arts are relevant in the first place. Joseph Polisi writes extensively about the subject in his book “The Artist as Citizen” which champions classical music as a vehicle for social change and implores musicians to invest in the communities they serve beyond just playing their instrument at the highest standard. The idea that the President of the country’s leading conservatory could put forth such an ambitious vision speaks to the unified spirit which permeates throughout the whole of Lincoln Center, which I find refreshing and invigorating. The second location I explored in depth was Prospect Park, located in Brooklyn. This is a short walk from my apartment and I spent the afternoon of my first day escaping from the concrete jungle of Manhattan. My first observation was the sudden openness of space which existed in the park. I watched as children played in large fields and as adults found themselves in quiet spots underneath trees in the shade. What struck me most was the celebration of simplicity by all who inhabited the park, offering an opportunity to enjoy the small things in life away from the conference calls and deadlines which await them back in the city. This location inspired me artistically because it reminded me that it is crucial to keep in mind the inspiration which fuels artistic creation. Real artistic expression comes from a creative depiction of the human experience and it is important to always consider our humanism in the artistic process. By doing this we can present a voice which is distinct artistically and goes about the business of reaching others.

Dylan's Reflection on Phase I

The second week of the Kenan Fellowship at Lincoln Center Education has just wrapped up and all of the fellows have had a successful time prepping for Summer Forum. There has been a whirlwind of activity which has gone into preparing for these workshops, as teachers from all across the world have traveled to participate. Enthusiasm is contagious across the campus of Lincoln Center as teaching artists lead workshops designed to develop arts based lesson plans and aesthetic immersion experiences. During our first week we were assigned readings by Maxine Greene and Madeline Holzer, two giants in the field of arts and education. These readings outlined the basic philosophy behind Lincoln Center Education’s unique pedagogic approach and led to discussions about the way we observe and interact with our surroundings. This heightened state of awareness fosters an environment from which imaginative and creative thought can flow freely. I applied these principles to my everyday routine and was surprised by the quality of “noticings” which emerged from seemingly mundane situations. My commute from Brooklyn was transformed from a mindless subway ride to field research consisting of new sights, sounds and smells. By taking in my surroundings and noticing what there was to be noticed, I was illuminated to a deeper understanding of relationships and dynamics between passengers on the train. This level of awareness gets to one of the main points that Greene and Holzer make, in terms of being able to empathize with people from various backgrounds and perspectives. The effect of this deeper understanding then leads to an opportunity to create unified social change and progress for the betterment of the entire community, which is one of the many wonderful effects of aesthetic education and exposure to the arts. In short, the first two weeks of Phase 1 have been jam packed with new faces, new information and new routines. I’ve very much enjoyed the initial exposure to aesthetic education and look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the subject in the Aesthetic Immersion workshops which are taking place next week.
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Nia's Reflection on Phase I

First of all, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a 2017 Kenan Fellow at Lincoln Center Education (LCE). It has only been two weeks, and it is going by extremely quick! The first week I personally felt like a celebrity here at LCE. Everyone was warm, kind, and complimentary, so I could not help but appreciate the extraordinary welcome that was given to my colleagues and I. Even though this fellowship only lasts six months, I am confident I will have lasting connections and memories with LCE.



What I have enjoyed most about LCE so far is helping prepare for Summer Forum. Summer Forum is a three-week program where educators will learn to expand their thinking and teaching skills through workshops that focus on the arts. I am so happy to be a small part of a team who is focused, driven, and passionate. Next week when Summer Forum kicks off, I will make sure to take in everything I can. This program is world renowned, and I am thrilled to start an exciting 3 weeks engaging and participating in the events!

How exploring New York inspires Nia

The Juilliard School
I can recall when I first realized how big of a deal Juilliard is. I was teetering between enrolling in two of the top universities in North Carolina for music composition, while a friend of mine was headed for New York City to study. As I matriculated through East Carolina, I would hear people in the music department there make references to Juilliard and just how prestigious and renowned this seemingly mythical institution was. I then developed an aspiration to attend Juilliard based largely on stories I heard such as it being the alma mater of my favorite opera singer the incomparable Leontyne Price and the indomitable and versatile Audra McDonald.
            As I stood in the shadow of the edifice of Juilliard, I felt drawn to enter. What exactly is it about this place that is so special? Would it make me a better artist and set me up for success if I, too, attended? These are questions that provoked me. I am no longer in a place of indecisiveness about The Juilliard School; it is the only university I aspire to obtain my doctorate of music composition.  

Central Park
Central Park reminds me of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden." Although Walden explores personal declaration of independence, social experimentation and other concepts, for me it means something different. The commonality I see between Central Park and "Walden" is that of heightened spiritual discovery. To me it is a place of solace and quietude amid the hustle and bustle of quintessential urban life. It is important for me to have somewhere to go to and feel a part of nature. I am a North Carolina native, and there are trees everywhere. Sometimes you may see a deer dart out of nowhere - especially in the winter during mating season. We have opossums, red foxes, deer, box turtles, black snakes, and of course the blue jay and cardinal. North Carolina is still an agrarian state. One of my most recent compositions "Burgundy in Autumn" has a pastoral energy to it which I wrote to evoke the feeling of a warm fall day in the countryside. Who knows? Maybe Central Park will inspire me to write another bucolic tune.

Tony's Reflection on Phase 1

     I've had the real benefit of seeing more and more of the aesthetic education 'techniques' in
practice by being in the room/a part of the Fundamentals workshop.  I'm not surprised how many
of the scenarios and exercises the teachers implement are so similar to many odds and ends of
my time at UNCSA.  Movement improvisation and exploration, lots of self reflection, a
heightened awareness or listening and so on.  And of course it's become clearer and clearer to me
how I funnel my experiences of life and learning through my training at school.  Even that vague
description of what they've done so far is in a language that is mostly terms I haven't heard at all
in the room.  I spent so much time in focused study in college that now when I'm in a classroom I
can't help but find myself in the moment of, 'Oh! That's just like what So and so said,' or 'I hear
*Russian acting teacher* in that. 

      I have been willing myself to spin the sculpture around, to see the underside of something.  To
turn over and upend my preconceived notions.  What has been most surprising are the moments
when I find myself totally reframing a lesson I thought I learned or hearing something truly for
the first time because of the fresh articulation by the instructor or one of the many teaching
artist-students.  And while all these new things are happening, I'm also appreciating how
valuable my teaching experience has been in the formation of me as a person, as an artist, as a
teacher for the future.  A worthwhile past meeting the true blue present for an ever unfolding
future.  

     When we talk about practical skills and discuss philosophy of teaching artistry, I feel like I have
a leg to stand on.  Many legs, in fact, some stronger than others.  I have a wealth of victories and
huge disappointments trying to activate the artistry of young people of trying to maintain my
humble-student-self in collaboration with them.  Even with these few days at LCE, I already feel
myself lasering in on my biggest lessons yet to learn as a teacher.  How to show up and be
flexible, and effective, and seen.

     Outside of the Fellowship, walking down the New York streets, I feel the sharp edge of new
questions and the dull hum of old and familiar ones rattle down my bones.  Foot traffic and old
wounds.  I keep finding myself reflected clearly in this famously large and unknowable
place.  Broken down into small and painfully present crosswalks and high rises.  I see plays and
wonder about how, HOW, to get in the rooms where the deep and meaningful work is
happening!  Do I have to make those rooms myself?  When should I soften into the still awe of
transitioning up here and when to take hold of NYC and it's many complications and say 'Hey,
this is mine.  Here I am and these are my dreams and I'm ready for them. Please and thank you.'  
When am I an artist here and when am I another tiny-body in the vastness?  Am I ever not an
artist?  If I weren't one, what would I be doing here?  There so much opportunity here, so much
potential energy; how do I cultivate the relationships and experiences I want/need when there are
so many to be had?  How many hours a day can I ask questions like this and still get things
done?

     I had a very large day recently, and by that I mean a day filled with the a full body awareness
that I, Tony Jenkins, young wide eyed wonder-full southern grown import art seeker kid, had
graduated college and moved to a new home and took leaps towards fulfilling life-long dreams
and did not take one moment to say ‘wow.’  The wow was Gratitude.  It was a small acceptance. 
It was a burst of hopeful joy.  And most wonderfully, after a talk with a  friend/ teacher, the wow
became a place to mourn.  Mourning the places I left and the things I threw away so I could fit
everything I needed into two suitcases.  Mourning the idea that a new setting would completely
reboot who I am and all my problems would go away.  That all  my doubts and fears would
evaporate in an instant.  Finding a container for my mourning and the acknowledgment that I am
living one of the biggest transitions I will ever experience.  That was a big thing.

In bigness,
Tony