NY Arts celebrates 50 years of the arts

By Katie Cantrell

Transcript Correspondent

One of Ohio Wesleyan’s signature student opportunities is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. The New York Arts Program will recognize its 50th year with alumni and sponsors in New York City over the weekend of Nov. 16.

The celebration will be held on Saturday, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Children’s Museum of the Arts on Charleston Street. The celebration includes performances by former alumni and staff such a Peter Zummo and Lily Ann McBride.

On Friday, the NYAP will host an art opening at its Loft. Information regarding the celebration can be found on Facebook at NY Arts Program 50th Anniversary.

One of the administrators of the page, and former OWU alumna, Sally Harris, encouraged alumni to post about their time in the program, including what their internship was, where they went to school, and when they participated. The page features stories and pictures.

According to Darrell J. Albon, director of the International & Off-Campus Program for NYAP, OWU is not the only university that participates in NYAP. OWU is one of 13 schools from the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) that participates.

The program occurs during either the spring or fall semesters and lasts for approximately 15 weeks. OWU seniors must spend their last semester on campus, so fall of that year is the latest those students can take advantage of the program. Students live in the Saint George Towers in Brooklyn Heights through the programs’ educational services housing. While in the program, students participate in at least one and usually more internships within the concentration of their program. They also attend regular seminars.

The program itself has a wide range of opportunities for students interested in the arts. There are studies in film, music and sound; theatre and dance; writing and publishing; and visual arts and art history.

Currently, 25 students participate this semester, three of whom are from OWU. Two of the NYAP alumni Harris, who participated in the program in 1975, and Helena Enders, who participated in the program in 2016, were kind enough to talk about their time in the program.

Harris, ’76 and a program participant in her senior year. She said she interned at the American Place Theater, which was off-Broadway. Harris described her time in the program as fun and exhilarating, but hard work nonetheless. She said one of the most memorable experiences occurred “sitting backstage in the Green Room with the actors during a production. They were so nice and friendly to me. I felt like part of the cast – but I was basically a gofer.”

She said her internship changed every few weeks. She worked with casting directors going over resumes and headshots, on stage crews, as a receptionist and helped with costumes. She admitted the latter was a disaster. Harris was also loaned to a television production of Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys to help out with rehearsals at a nearby studio. That opportunity convinced her she enjoyed live performances rather than television production.

Helena Enders, College of Wooster class of 2018, participated in the Visual Arts/Arts Administration program during her junior year of college. Originally, Enders planned on interning at a museum in New York, but found she liked the idea of working with a non-profit called the International Studio and Curatorial Program better.

“More than anything,” Enders said, “I loved going to galleries and studio visits with my seminar. It was the first time I felt like I was a part of a creative community, and that was huge for me. Those experiences opened a door to the ‘art world’ that I hadn’t felt a part of until then.”

Ender said her internship was an exciting one.

“I had to package and deliver a lot of artwork,” she said. “I had no clue what I was doing, but I would have to build cardboard boxes from scratch in specific dimensions for specific pieces of art, then pack and deliver them. I definitely felt the weight of what I was doing and took care in every step of the process, but I didn’t know any of the artists whose art I was handling.

“Now, I look back at those experiences and laugh because I really had no clue how cool it was. I was carrying Shepard Fairey and Cary Leibowitz pieces on the subway during rush hour all the way from East Williamsburg to the Upper East Side. I met Vito Acconci and had no clue who he was at the time.”

Coincidentally, Enders and Harris have more in common than being NYAP alumni. Both women moved back to New York City not long after graduating. Harris worked a job as an assistant for a national press representative office for on- and off-Broadway theaters and dance companies.

Enders said, “I had found a place where I could really be myself with limitless space to grow. So I told myself that the second I was done with school, I would go back. That meant working at a doughnut shop for three months until I had enough money to move.”

Enders now works as an admissions coordinator for the program.

“Working for a non-profit arts organization during my time at NYAP and meeting countless artists through my seminar exposed me to the many many ways I could have a profession in a creative environment,” Enders said. “The program is also the reason I consider myself a creative at all; I have no clue what I would be doing right now if it wasn’t for NYAP.”

Both Harris and Enders had similar advice for students interested in the program.

“The performing and fine arts are areas where there is a lot of amazing talent out there,” Harris said, “but success is based on connections and being in the right place at the right time. Being provided with a job, a place to live and constant support in this field, in NYC, is almost too good to pass up. It’s an incredible opportunity to make the connections that will open up doors.”

“My advice for future students,” Enders said, “is to take risks all the time, but specifically while you have the security of your college community. Whether that means taking classes on campus that put you out of your comfort zone or coming to the NY Arts Program and doing an internship in an area you’re interested in but don’t know much about. It’s okay to be inexperienced as long as you are genuine and honest. Everyone is growing and learning no matter their age, so don’t be scared to try something new and take risks.”