Dear LCE Supporters,
Lincoln Center Education is thrilled to announce our six new Kenan Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year!
The William R. Kenan, Jr. Performing Arts Fellowship is in its 15th year of collaboration with LCE and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Each year, the fellowship selects six recent graduates of UNCSA and guides them on their emerging journeys as artists and educators in New York City. During their time here, the fellows are an integral part of LCE, mentored by our teaching artists and immersed in LCE’s classroom practice. Active artists often find fulfillment in bringing a love of their discipline to the next generation, and through hands-on work with LCE students and pedagogy, our Kenan Fellows acquire the necessary skills and capacities for impactful teaching artist careers. The fellowship also enables them to work on their crafts, prepare artistic presentations, and scout the city for its wealth of performance opportunities. This year, we welcome:
Graham Cole, Dance
Anne Friend, Music
Mason Hensley, Theater
Ethan Nienaber, Theater
Samaria Nixon-Fleming, Theater
Brandon Woods, Dance
Blog updates, written by the fellows themselves, will be posted here as Graham, Anne, Mason, Ethan, Samaria, and Brandon complete the different phases of the fellowship. Please follow along as they discover the city and what it means to be an artist and educator in New York. To view any of these past entries, including those of Kenan Fellow alumni, visit the Blog Archive section on the right side of this page.
Thank you for supporting our Kenan Fellows and LCE!
2015-2016 Kenan Fellow
Thursday, June 30, 2016
I have always wanted to live in a city, so I feel lucky that my first opportunity to do so is in one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve only been here a few days but I’ve already noticed the diversity and colorfulness of the city that everyone is always talking about. Every time I emerge from the subway I feel like I’m in a different town.
This has probably been thought of before, but I think the buildings of this city reflect the people. They are all distinctive shapes, sizes, and colors. They are also probably a little too close together because there are too many of them to count.
From what I’ve been told (a few states south of here), I expected New Yorkers to be abrasive and a bit rude. On the contrary, I think people here may be a bit too friendly. The other day I was sitting in Central Park and kept getting interrupted from writing in my planner by people, who were wondering what I was doing, asking for donations for their school basketball team, or just wanting to say hi. On the subway though, people do their best to make space where it isn’t and mainly focus on themselves as they make their daily commute. It’s interesting and encouraging how common respect is a social norm on the subway and in other areas of New York.
The people of New York are bold, driven, fairly shameless, and considerate. These are all qualities that I want to carry over into my life as an artist. I can practice and study art infinitely, but what’s the point if I do not share my own projects and other artist’s pieces and works? Just out of school, I am at a point in my career where I need to be proactive, like the people of New York, in order to create more opportunities for myself.
I have a large “bucket list" of things I want to see and do while I’m in the city. This includes the 9/11 Memorial, which I visited yesterday after the first day of the fellowship.
After getting off the subway at Chambers Street, I walked a little over 5 minutes and was amazed when I approached One World Trade Center. From there, I made my way over to the memorial. As I approached, I realized I had never seen pictures of the memorial after its construction. I came up to the first pool and was honestly overwhelmed with unexpected emotions.
The memorial is so simple (two pools with thirty foot waterfalls and the names of the victims inscribed around them) but so powerful. Simple but powerful. That is a type of art that I admire. It is relatable to the masses and portrays a message. The message received is exclusive to each person.
As an artist I’m still developing my “message” and what I want to contribute through music. Throughout my process of development, I want to be relatable to my audiences. I want the people in the audience to interpret the message in a way that is unique to them.
I’m excited for my time as a Kenan Fellow in New York City. I’m confident that what I learn and experience will help lead my development as an artist and adult.
I start with the view from my living room. My home base. My apartment is now my home, and it is in the heart of Central Harlem. Right across the street, I see the historic 1890’s built landmark “Striver’s Row” every morning when I first wake up and hit snooze. The red brick and brownstone are reminders of people who fought to say “I’m Here.” I’m reminded of how old the building is by the signs next to the alleyways that read “Walk your Horses.” Back in the day, New Yorkers used to say that ‘once you live on Striver’s Row, you have arrived.’ Well I have arrived but I know I have a lot to learn. The building is so humbling (knowing it was home to some of he most influential African-American professionals and artists of the 20th century) and I am so inspired to live right next to something so rich in culture. Artistically, it is a reminder that I am on a long journey and that we will never fully arrive, but we will have moments of arriving to a new place in our art and in our craft which we will use as leap pads to keep striving towards become a more selfless and transparent actor. It makes me want to get up, go to the gym, start my day, go out and get better, and come back home knowing that I did my days work to chip away at the rock.
My next location is Central Park. I am so grateful for Central Park!! Being a guy from having open space and a nice backyard, there is nothing more recharging than laying out a blanket and taking a second to breathe. As an artist, Central Park (particularly the 86th street entrance) is a place that I have found to go to when I want to process information, reflect on my progress in Lincoln Center and in my art, and a place to sprawl out and get enchanted by a story or play. I can see so many buildings and feel so small here, another important part of being an artist. We are infiltrated with so much information and technology and media and emails and plans and tasks that are very important but nice to put on hold and give into the biggest nature outlet we have as New Yorkers a moment to be at the forefront of our minds. I can work on lines here, I can stretch and clear my mind, and I can go on a run. I am inspired to be a well-rounded artist. Someone who respects other interests and work forces, someone who forms opinions about politics and the media, someone who is in touch with the world, and ultimately to hush the ego and to tap into the bigger connected web in NYC and the world. Only from that place can I feel artistically free and vulnerable in my work. Central Park is there to say “Hey. Take a second. Or an hour. Or an evening.” I found my go-to spot in Central Park.
The last place I visited was Walkerspace Theatre down in between Little Italy and Tribeca. I saw The Attic Theatre Company’s production of On the Verge, and was able to enjoy a drink at sunset before the show. I think what was so inspiring about the theatre and the neighborhood is that a theatre company rented the space and put up a show they were proud of and believed in. I was inspired by the theater itself; an example of the bare necessity to tell the story. All the actors really needed was the space. The space to say, “this is where we tell and do, and that is where you sit and watch.” New York is full of people making art, but there is nothing more inspiring than a new york off-off Broadway small playing house. This theatre company created something raw and meaningful in the midst of the most expensive and upscale neighborhoods in New York. Getting to drink my $14 cocktail before allowed me to be grateful for inexpensive theatre that focuses on only the necessities. It brought me back to why I do theatre: to simple get lost. Art drowns out the money-ruled world, just like this theatre was the portal to my two hours of adventure and learning. New York is full of theatres, but this one created a special experience that I will never forget.
I have also been lucky to venture out to Brooklyn and see the NYC skyline. This isn’t really a “location,” but more a representation of a dream I’ve always had. In 4th grade, I put a framed picture of the NYC skyline above my bed, knowing I wanted to move here after school. Getting to see that skyline in person was a pivotal moment for me as a human. I can’t believe after all the years of waiting, I am so lucky to get to live in this incredible city. It was definitely a full circle moment for me. Makes me feel small and powerful. Makes me feel invigorated. Makes me happy.
Parks have always been a source of major artistic inspiration for me. Over the last week I've had the chance to visit Central Park, Bryant Park, and Riverside Park. Each park was different from the others, either aesthetically or by the people that inhabited them. While I was at Central Park I sat on a big rock near the Great Lawn and watched people playing frisbee, reading books, and doing gymnastics. Art was being created unintentionally all around me, and I felt so artistically fulfilled, I couldn't help but journal the immense amount of gratitude I had in that moment. There were birds creating their own songs around me, while guitars were being played in the distance. It was a truly magical day at Central Park.
When I went to Bryant Park it was a different atmosphere. People were playing ping pong while a yoga class was being taught on the lawn. It was so rejuvenating to watch them and it really made me want to join in on the yoga class. I was noticing them connecting to not just themselves but the environment of being outdoors. I couldn't help but wonder how being outside changed their yoga experience. I ended up talking to one of the participants afterwards about how to register for the class, and I am officially enrolled in one next week.
Now, Riverside Park was by far one of the most enthralling experiences that I had. I sat on a park bench and watched people ride their bikes, walk, or jog by me. The canopy of the trees that lined the streets, along with the view of the river really helped to put me at ease, and create a beautiful piece of artwork without even knowing it. Even the graffiti I saw printed around the park brought about a sense of freedom and enlightenment.
#1 – Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is just under the Brooklyn Side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn. The park has a lawn, freckled with pet-urine brown spots but otherwise pristine, where people can sit and watch the clouds pass behind the downtown Manhattan skyline. The lattice of metal bars on the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge seems sparse, like there should be more structure supporting the commerce of crossing cars. But it doesn’t budge, just hums and absorbs the view.
A few men toss a Frisbee along the narrow width of the grass. The Frisbee crashes into the gravel pathway that frames the lawn and unleashes a SHHCRR that mingles with the twinkling of a glass-enclosed carousel that wafts from a distance.
Just beyond the carousel is an outcropping of rock that hugs a small beach, shielding it from an East River pummeling. Parents sit on the rocks while their children get sandy. These rocks are cut roughly into cubes; there are faces to sit on and edges to drape legs over. Too human-friendly to be natural. I wonder where the idea came from for these cubes came from. Were some rocks already eroded in this way, and humans simply finished the job? Was it entirely conceived in an urban planner’s office? Were these geometric geo-structures even originally here?
#2 – The David H. Koch Theater
Today, the five other Kenan Fellows and I took a tour of the Lincoln Center campus. The tour concluded with the David H. Koch Theater, with which I have a special fascination. My favorite dance company, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, performs there every year. Between attending those shows and this tour, I have seen the theater from every angle. At first glance the theater resembles a velvety soup can: tall, cylindrical, shiny, and scarlet. Jewel lamps glitter along the perimeter of every balcony. From the stage, looking up makes one feel he is looking down the barrel of the world’s largest, most opulent gun. Then again, the excitement that comes from being on that stage is tsunamic.
The tour guide tells our group that the stage floor of the Koch Theater was the nation’s first sprung stage floor. I imagine myself ten years from now, performing on that obsidian stage and jumping painlessly. I am determined to build myself into the dancer that achieves such an experience.
#3 – A Rock by the NW Entrance to Central Park
There is a tall rock within easy walking distance from the Northwest corner entrance of Central Park, right by the 110th street B and C train subway stop. The clay-brown, gravelly dirt path leading up to this rock is littered with trash: a Pringles can, several empty water bottles, some woman’s sock. I must not be the only one who likes this rock. Standing on top, one can watch early morning cyclists commuting south. Standing eighteen feet above the paved path these be-spandexed cyclists are climbing, I wonder where they are all going. More importantly, where do they put those bikes when they get there? There are hardly any bike racks in Manhattan!
The cyclists don’t appear to wonder anything about me. They don’t even look up.
#4 – The Gallery at Gibney Dance 280
I have spent a lot of my first few months in New York in the gallery at Gibney Dance’s 280 Broadway location. It is an inspiring place. Dancers in socks and casual activewear practice their material soundlessly on tan wooden flooring. Swaths of rouge music escape from open doors: African drumming, somber piano, the lilting lyrics of "The Lady of Shalott." Gorgeous flower arrangement dot the desks. Orchids balance in forest-green pottery, lilies hide behind each other, and other flowers I do not recognize lend their soft odors to the overall environment. A convex skylight casts warm rays over all of this. Even when it is raining, a united comfort comes from watching water knock rhythmically on the glass overhead.
As the name suggests, art installations are presented in the gallery on a rotating basis. These are often interactive: a looping video playback where passers-by can record themselves, a wall on which to post handwritten inspirations, a curated collection of found items lost by visitors. A particular memory comes to mind of a small boy - maybe eight or nine years old - who, left alone by his mother who was taking a dance class, spent the entire hour-and-a-half sliding along the floor in front of a camera. He was making a looped video collage of himself dancing and laughing in the way you do not mind children laughing, even when they are too loud. I always admire the ways in which people utilize this real-world room of requirement to make it work for them, to reflect their creativity. That makes me want to dig deeper within myself.
#5 – A Garden in Harlem
Just one block south of my apartment in north Harlem is a gorgeous little garden. It is shaped into a skinny right triangle, and fills the blank space in the middle of Saint Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue, between 152nd street and 151st street. At the heart of the garden is a perfectly manicured patch of grass where children play tag and grandmothers rest in indestructible plastic chairs. Trees litter the lawn, utilitarian little things with no fruit but plenty of shade. Around the grass are a figurative fence of bushes and smiling daffodils in daisy white and chrysanthemum yellow. And just outside of that is a very literal fence of jet black-painted cast iron.
The garden is a gathering place for families, and an oasis in a neighborhood where there isn’t a lot to do outside but walk and sit on stoops. Walking by this garden on my everyday commute to the subway is heartening, because it could just as easily not be there. It is not maintained at all by the city, but rather by the families that live nearby. They are the mothers, grandmothers, brothers and sisters I see bent over, plucking weeds and planting seed, watering and sunbathing. It is a beacon of summertime happiness in which they have all invested to make happen. I hope I find something to contribute toward in this city; the experience I am starting in this Fellowship may very well be just that.
Inwood and its Park
This place is a beautiful oasis. I came here because it is the farthest north park in Manhattan and to me seems like an untapped treasure. Of course, I may be biased, I have lived in Inwood for a mere thirty days now and have completely fallen in love. The atmosphere is community driven; at any given point you can find gaggles of children running up and down the streets with tired-footed mothers in tow. I suppose the hills here don’t help their sore toes recuperate very much if ever. But its peaceful, quiet and feels like my own. I am only one of six people I know who live or have lived here and compared to every other neighborhood, that is minute. One of the best parts is being a minority. When I walk down the street at any given point during the day, my face is the only one of its kind and it’s not that I enjoy standing out, it’s that I enjoy seeing diversity compared to my pre-NYC days. While it is mainly a dominican and hispanic neighborhood, some african-american people and asian families have also called this place in the north home. I can’t quite pinpoint the exact reason I am here but part of me likes to think that my northern, Minnesotan self enjoys being in the most northern part of Manhattan. But I may never know.
The park itself is vast. Having been to a good number of parks around the city this is easily my favorite one. Central Park is too crowded for me, Washington Square does not have enough green (although I will say one of my favorite memories yet has been sitting there reading my book during sunset), and all of the other parks in between seem too small to find a sense of privacy. This park though, is vast. Far beyond anything I could get close to traversing in a single day. But it isn’t vast like Central Park is long, it’s vast because of it’s density, the thick woods and unpaved trails are a true rarity in the middle of the concrete jungle. On the one hand, recreational baseball teams spend their weekends here, while just a little ways farther into the park you will find mothers with their children or teenagers playing tennis. It seems to have everything, from basketball, baseball, soccer and football fields to running trails and paved paths, a gorgeous view of a bridge and a plethora of open green field beautifully manicured and inviting. I honestly could spend all day here, writing and rewriting, thinking and growing. The trees feel as if they speak to me, some to tell of the drug-ridden past and criminal tendencies from years ago this beautiful place suffered, and other younger trees seem to warn to watch out for the kids rushing by. But all of it feels like a pair of open arms waiting to be tapped into and loved and shown the care and enjoyment that it has so longed for. This place is an oasis, vast and large, full of secrets, stories and creativity abound. I have just begun to travel to the center of its love and light, and yet, now all I have are questions.
Where do the locals eat?
How are these leagues of baseball and basketball formed?
How large is the draw of Inwood?
Will I ever find people my age who will be a friend?
Who is out here that can be a creative partner?
Where are the secret spots of this park?
And how long will it take for me to find them?
How can I bring art to this park, neighborhood and community?
How can I spread the love and joy this place has brought me?
Will anybody ever ride the A train this far north?
How can I enrich this place without stepping on its culture and heritage?
Am I gentrification?
If I love this place enough does that nullify my “white” impact on it?
How do I find love beyond the six people I know?
What is this place and how can I be involved with it more?