How to Help Our Partners During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are grateful to partner with social service organizations that serve communities throughout New York, the US, and around the world. During this global health crisis, we have been in close conversation with our partners, and have compiled a list of ways to help. Each partner serves a unique population, which means they each have unique needs. Here are some ways you can support our partners at this time:

Incarnation Children’s Center (New York, NY)
Buy an item off their Amazon Wishlist
Make a Donation

WIN (New York, NY)
Buy an item off their Amazon Wishlists, arranged by site

Abraham House (New York, NY)
Our partner, Abraham House, is in need of:
-Fresh produce + meat
-Food for their pantry
-Donations for cell phone service so families can stay connected to their social workers
Email info@asteponline.org for more info.

Safe Horizon (New York, NY)
Safe Horizon is sharing resources related to COVID-19 and domestic violence.

Lutheran Social Services of New York (New York, NY)
LSS is taking this time to celebrate the unsung heroes of their staff on social media.

Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project (Bangalore, India)
Contribute to SB’s COVID-19 Sustainability Fund.

This is a living post and we will continue to update it as we receive new information from our partners. We are grateful to team up with organizations that are so thoughtful in the ways they serve their communities, and we will continue to help in any way we can. We are in this together!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Gabriela Garcia

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Gabriela Garcia!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
Because their mission inspires me and I believe that giving back and sharing enriches our lives.

¿Por qué haces voluntariado con ASTEP?
Por que su misión me inspira y pienso que el dar y compartir nos enriquece la vida.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Uff, there are so many, but there was a day in which we explored acting with the older group at LSS. The exercise was to observe a painting (“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat) and identify with one of the characters in the painting and recreate the moment before that character arrived at the scene of the park. Create who he/she is, what he/she was doing before going to the park, why they went to the park and what they were thinking when the moment was recorded on the painting. I was impressed by how all of them left their daily life’s worries and problems in order to create a new character and allow themselves to be taken by creativity. It was a beautiful moment witnessing the transformation of these kids and how they integrated themselves into the position of their chosen character on the painting.

¿Cual es tu recuerdo favorito de algún programa de ASTEP?
Uff, hay varios pero hubo un día en el que exploramos actuación con un grupo de chicos de LSS. El ejercicio era observar una pintura ( en este caso “Un Domingo por la Tarde en la Isla de La Grande Jatte” de Georges Seurat) e identificarse con uno de los personajes dentro de la pintura y recrear el momento antes de llegar a la imagen de la misma. Tenían que crear el personaje, quién es, qué estaba haciendo antes de ir al parque, por qué fue al parque y qué pensaba cuando se grabó la imagen en el cuadro. Me impresionó como todos salieron de su vida cotidiana y se dejaron llevar por la inspiración del cuadro. Fue un momento en el que dejaron todos sus problemas, preocupaciones etc, para crear un personaje nuevo y dejarse llevar por la creación. Fué un momento bello ver a cada grupo transformarse e integrarse a la posición de su personaje en la pintura.

Why is arts education important?
Art is an escape from the everyday pressures of life. It allows us to open up our senses and explore our spirit within. It makes us feel, it inspires us, it opens up our mind and as a result it motivates us to act better in academic situations. It raises our energy and vibration which leads to better performance in any task that we want to accomplish.

¿Por qué es importante la educación de las artes?
El arte es un escape de las presiones cotidianas y nos deja abrir nuestros sentidos y explorar nuestro interior. Nos hace sentir, nos inspira, nos abre la mente y por ende nos motiva a actuar mejor en situaciones académicas. Eleva nuestra energía y vibración lo que nos lleva a una mejor ejecución de cualquier tarea que queramos lograr.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I always say that if one of the ten students present got something out of my class, then I have fulfilled my mission. I hope that sharing my art with them inspires them to be curious in life; I hope it invites them to try new things that can enrich their knowledge and motivates them to step outside of their comfort zone.

¿Que esperas que se lleven los estudiantes de tu tiempo compartido con ellos?
Siempre digo que si uno de los 10 que asistieron se llevó algo, cumplí mi misión. Espero que mi enseñanza los inspire a tener curiosidad por la vida y los invite a probar cosas nuevas que los puedan enriquecer; que los motive a salir de su zona de confort.

What have you learned from your students?
I’ve learned that they are open books who want to learn and who need good role models, empathic beings who are there to listen to them and not judge them.

¿Qué has aprendido de tus estudiantes?
He aprendido que son libros abiertos que quieren aprender y que necesitan tener buenos modelos a seguir, seres empáticos con disposición a escucharlos y no juzgarlos.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
Be ready for ANYTHING! You may come into a class with a plan and when you get there, the response may not be what you expected. So be prepared to change the game in a second’s notice and be aware of their energy and what you feel they need from you. I also love to think of a class as a game. Always greet them with a “thank you for showing up to play with me.” That word removes any pressure kids may have from entering a class. Mark Mylod (director or SUCCESSION, GAME OF THRONES ) said that to me as I entered the TV set for my shoot, “thanks for coming to play with us.” It has changed my life! I threw away any worries or pressure I put on myself and I did just that, I started to play.

¿Tienes algún consejo que quieras compartir con para los nuevos voluntarios de ASTEP?
Hay que estar listo para CUALQUIER COSA! Puede que llegues a clase con tu plan, y cuando entras al salón la respuesta tal vez no sea lo que esperabas. Así que prepárate para cambiar el juego sin notificación alguna y sé consciente de la energía del salón y de lo que los estudiantes necesitan de tí. También me gusta pensar en una clase como si fuera un juego. Es bueno empezar con un “gracias por venir a jugar conmigo.” Esa palabra remueve cualquier presión que pueda tener un estudiante al entrar en una clase. Mark Mylod (director de la serie SUCCESSION, GAME OF THRONES) me lo dijo cuando entré al set para mi filmar my escena. “Gracias por venir a jugar con nosotros,” y esa frase cambió mi vida. En ese momento, cualquier presión o preocupación que hubiera sentido hacia mi misma, salió por la ventana e hice precisamente eso; me puse a jugar.

Thank you, Gabriela, for your hard work and dedication! We could not do this work without you!

 

 

ASTEP’s March and April Professional Development webinars

During this unprecedented time, ASTEP is leaning into Adaptability – one of our four foundational pillars. We’re adding to our monthly Second Saturday Webinar Series by offering weekly, free professional development and networking opportunities for all of our trained and placed Volunteer Teaching Artists. These webinars focus on a variety of topics that best prepare Teaching Artists around the world to work with the young people ASTEP serves. Even cooler, we’ll have a variety of different presenters!

Please take a look below and let us know if you can join. Take good care of yourselves, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, ideas, or desire for communication!

Sign up for as many as you like. We will send out reading, watching, and listening materials in advance so you can be best prepared.

  • Friday, March 27th from 3:00-4:00pm EST: ASTEP Artist Meet Up with Monique Letamendi
  • Saturday, March 28th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Monday, March 30th from 3:00-4:30pm EST: Lesson Planning for One-Off Workshops with Tiffany Ramos
  • Friday, April 3rd from 12:00-1:30pm EST: Making the Most of Digital Platforms with Marcus Crawford Guy
  • Saturday, April 4th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Monday, April 6th from 3:00-4:30pm EST: Activities Without Age Limits with Will Thomason
  • Saturday, April 11th from 10:30am-12:00pm EST: Using Art to Create Courageous Spaces with Juanita Castro-Ochoa
  • Saturday, April 11th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Tuesday, April 14th from 5:00-6:30pm EST: Working at the Speed of Trust with Mauricio Salgado
  • Friday, April 17th from 12:00-1:30pm EST: Mindfulness and Self Care with Lizzy Santiago
  • Saturday, April 19th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell

 

Remote Lesson Planning: ASTEP Style!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead

These days, in an ever-changing world, we need to be adaptable and creative. Luckily, we are an organization of ARTISTS!

Last week, we collaborated with one of our New York City-based partner organizations as they prepared to dive into the new world of remote learning. This particular partner serves children who have recently arrived at the US border without an adult family member and who are awaiting resettlement, and all of our programming with them is in Spanish. Together, we created a plan to integrate the arts into their remote learning model through a series of “homework packets”. Thanks to our amazing Volunteer Teaching Artists, we were able to put together packets focused on storytelling, movement, creative writing, poetry, and visual arts in just a matter of hours.

Find out what our Volunteer Teaching Artists had to say about the experience:

“Last week I had been talking to a friend about how I wished there was something I could do for those kids, and the universe answered with Lizzy’s text! It was a crazy moment of serendipity. We talked through what she was doing, and I was blown away by ASTEP’s efforts in making this homework pack come true. I went through a few ideas on the phone based on classes I have taught before, and we came up with one in a manner of minutes. I typed it out, and sent it along! My heart really goes out to these kids who are already experience so much turmoil, and uncertainty. Just glad I was able to help in some small way!” -Susanna Stahlmann, Volunteer Teaching Artist

“Last Wednesday afternoon, I received a call with an excited Lizzy on the other line. In usual Lizzy fashion, she had an idea, and sprung into action. She contacted me and others, and shared her idea: a virtual class, complete with worksheets and multi-level learning, to assist our partner organization as they navigate distance-learning with both the younger and older students. We brainstormed the best ways to provide materials, and I chose to take the advice of Lizzy and create a virtual Yoga/Movement lesson, by way of storytelling about the environment and the outdoors (something that at the time I didn’t realize how much I would want connection with). I excitedly searched Google for black-and-white coloring pictures of people in specific yoga poses. I came up with an outline for a story we could tell with our bodies, and questions to ask to dig deeper for each part of the story. As the 4pm deadline drew near, I realized that with my focus on the younger class, I hadn’t dug into a reflection portion of the class for the older individuals. Lizzy was collecting a variety of worksheets and lessons from many different people and needed to send it off to our partner, and so I collected myself and practiced what I was putting on the page. I reflected, I breathed in (“Inhala”), I breathed out (“Exhala”), and thought of what questions I was asking myself. With GoogleTranslate pulled up to check spelling of Spanish translations and a list of Sanskrit words in another tab, and with a gentle reminder from Lizzy about the time, the worksheet was complete, save an upside-down exclamation point or two. I didn’t know what anyone else was doing, but submitted and hoped our partner would be able to feel supported through this time. Minutes later, I received an email with all of the lesson plans that were made in those few hours, and I was amazed. There were hand-drawn diagrams, and many, many pages of activities, ranging from coloring and creating to writing and reflecting, and with all of them, a feeling of fun and play and art. I was amazed. I am amazed. I knew our group of teaching artists at ASTEP was top-notch, and this continued to prove what I already knew: when we work together and share, even during difficult times, beautiful things can blossom.” -Will Thomason, Program Facilitator + Volunteer Teaching Artist

Click here and here to see some of the worksheets!

 

ASTEPers Community Mutual Aid Network

Dear ASTEP Community,

These are trying times. It’s more important than ever that we’re here for one another. This crisis is hitting all of us in different ways, and may continue to do so for a while.  There are many ways for us to support and be supported by each other as we move forward. Let’s figure out how best to serve each other and those around us.

*NOTE: This is not an official ASTEP program, but an effort among past and present ASTEPers to support our community.

What is Mutual Aid?

It’s showing up for each other. We all have needs. We also all have resources. Mutual aid is about finding ways for our collective resources to meet our collective needs. Right now we are all facing considerable challenges and may need help addressing them. 

  • Do you need groceries dropped off? 
  • Are you lonely/anxious/frustrated and need someone to talk to? 
  • Are you worried about paying bills or rent?
  • Does your family need something right now?

If I know anything about this community, I know we’re also searching for ways to be of service during this time. It may feel as though there’s little we can do, but even the littlest things can make a difference. 

  • Do you have the ability to safely run errands for others? 
  • Can you offer an online class? 
  • Would you like to share your art?
  • Could you extend financial assistance to someone who needs it? 

What Can You Do?

Fill out this form: ASTEPer Community Mutual Aid Form.

We’ve kept it simple: let us know what you need and what you have to offer. Of course we can’t promise that needs will be met or that offers will be accepted, but let’s see what we can do. You’ll also see a question about your connection to ASTEP. This isn’t about authentication, just an effort to be relational and share how we’re connected.

Safety

Looking out for each other also means being safe and limiting our social contact. Things that involve even minimal contact (drop-offs, etc.) will need to be handled very carefully and in line with medical guidance to limit the possibility of transmission.  We’ll have to get creative about how to hold each other up across distance. Good thing we’re creative people!

Other Resources For Mutual Aid

There are many localized mutual aid groups springing up in New York City and across the country. If you’re interested in how you can be there for your neighbors, check out these sites:

NYC United Against Coronavirus – Resources and Information

Mutual Aid NYC – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

If you don’t live in New York, here is a national directory: 

Database of Localized Resources During COVID 19 Outbreak

Who We Are

We are two good friends and long-time ASTEPers who have worked alongside each other (and many of you) for 15+ years. We’re excited to invite you into this effort because we believe in this community and in our collective capacity for compassion and creative problem solving.

My name is Mauricio Tafur Salgado (mauriciotsalgado@gmail.com) and in this moment I am divinely tormented +first gen born to proudly subversive Colombians with graduate degrees + brown skinned + aspiring bio-regionalist + cis-hetero + married + artist pursuing justice and healing through a decolonial framework. I come from the everglades watershed, my antepasados and a solid plate of my grandma’s arepas and buñuelos. I am one of ASTEP’s co-founders and I am grateful for all that I learned from and with our artists at Shanti Bhavan, Art-In-Action in Homestead, Teach for India, Ubuntu, Refilwe, IRC Refugee Youth Summer Academy, Young at Arts in Bronxville, The ICC in Washington Heights, The Artist as Citizen Conference and our College Chapters.

I’m Seth Numrich (sethnumrich@gmail.com), an actor/theatre artist living in Brooklyn. I’ve organized and volunteered with ASTEP for Art-In-Action in Homestead, ICC in Washington Heights, Young at Arts in Bronxville and the Artist as Citizen Conference. he/him/his. This document is a work in progress and will continue to be refined as this effort develops. If you have questions, suggestions, or want to help us manage this doc, email: Astepersmutualaidnetwork@gmail.com

 

 

 

#artathome: Try these ASTEP games!

Need some game-spiration for your time inside? Look no further! We are happy to share some of our favorite activities from the ASTEP Games Guide, courtesy of our incredible Volunteer Teaching Artists! We will be adding to this list, so stay tuned for more on the ASTEP blog, as well as on our social media pages!

 

∴Word Connect
Listening, Improvisation, Creativity, Quick Thinking Storytelling

Requirements: ​2 or more players.

  1. Start this activity in a circle
  2. The activity begins with one person saying any random word.
  3. Turn by turn every person says another word which is related to the previous one.

For example: if someone says red, the next person can say apple or blood etc. It is wise to give content parameters around this game so that it remains appropriate for all students.

This game allows the students’ impulses to fly. It’s a great way to not overthink and just say the first thing that comes to your mind. Certain choices made by the student can help us understand their unconscious thoughts/likes/dislikes/fears.

 

∴Move the Hat
Imagination, Creativity, Use of Space, Storytelling

Requirements:​ This activity is great for any age group and size.

  1. Establish a “start” and “stop” line around 10 feet apart, or just enough room for them to work with!
  2. Students Individually or in small groups are told there is an object in front of them on the floor, in this case: a hat. For the purposes of the exercise, it can be any manageable object that is around or even invisible/imaginary.
  3. The student is then instructed that they are to move the hat from the start line to the stop line, but they have to move it according to the prompt the teacher gives.
    a. Some examples: it weighs 500lbs, it’s on fire, it smells very bad, etc. Anything the instructor can come up with! Optional addition: rather than announcing the prompt out loud, the teacher can tell only the active student the prompt and the students in the audience guess what it was! There is no “wrong answer” to this game, and it can be adapted in a variety of ways depending on the students’ needs.

∴Zombie:
Silliness, Teamwork, Silliness Storytelling, Character work

Materials:​ 1 chair per student. Requirements: ​4 players or more Similar to Musical Chairs

  1. Everyone begins sitting in a chair. To start the game we need one volunteer. Place the volunteer some distance away from their chair in the room. (Remind kids to be safe!) 
  2. The zombie wants to sit in an empty chair and everyone else wants to prevent the zombie from getting to an empty chair. The only way to prevent the zombie from getting to an empty chair is to sit in the chair yourself, thus creating a new empty chair!
  3. Once you get up, you MUST find a new chair. Zombies must move like a zombie (slow shuffle, low moaning etc), but all other players may move freely at whatever speed they wish. 
  4. If the zombie reaches and sits in a chair, he becomes human again. Anyone remaining standing becomes the new zombie. If there are multiple people standing, the last person standing must be the new zombie.
  5. All new zombies MUST get down on the ground in body or spirit and pretend to come back to life.

 

Additional Resources:

Check out more of ASTEP’s go-to games! 

“Learning from Home: NYC DOE Aligned Curriculum”

“11 Tips for Starting to Homeschool in a Hurry”

 

What are your favorite games right now?

Share them with us by tagging us on social media!

 

 

 

Special Update

In response to the ongoing health crisis, all currently running ASTEP programs have been suspended until April 20, 2020. We will continue monitoring, communicating with partners, and adjusting the schedule accordingly. We are taking this time to provide additional professional development webinars for our network of Volunteer Teaching Artists, so that we can put our best foot forward when we are able to resume programming. Thank you for being an important part of the ASTEP family, and for your ongoing support and dedication to the communities we serve.

– Your friends at ASTEP

 

 

Getting to Know Our New Programs Manager, Monique Letamendi!

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to our new Programs Manager, Monique “Mo” Letamendi! We are thrilled to have Mo as Part of the ASTEP family!

Learn more about Mo in the interview below:

Where did you grow up? 
I was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Brooklyn is so much of me and so important to me, because it really molded me into the person I am today. 

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
I have been in the teaching artist realm for a while now, but before I started at ASTEP, I was (and continue to be!) a contracted Program Director with viBe Theater Experience, facilitating workshops with high school girls creating original, full-length albums and plays. 
 
Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones?
I have been to a couple of sites with ASTEP, but BY FAR my favorite has been with the youth at ICC as well as our WIN site in Flatbush. 
 
Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started?
Before starting at ASTEP, I had been teaching with viBe Theater for about 6 years, and was a mentor/counselor/advocate for youth since I was 19 years old. It started with advocating and creating events for youth with Make The Road in Bushwick, mentoring youth affected by homelessness with Sankofa Empowerment and teaching poetry to fellow colleagues in college for groceries. 
 
What is the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my job is learning how to manage my time efficiently, as well as getting used to the newness of my position. With being on the field so often, this is very different from what I’m used to, but I am finding it exciting to explore and learn all these new things!
 
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is connecting with the volunteers and the youth we serve. Nothing brings me more joy than being at our sites, and just learning from our youth, or watching a volunteer really lean on their expertise and experiences. I think the beauty of what we do is in those moments where you can visibly see someone stretch a new muscle, or try something new and actually enjoy what they discover and come back again…it’s a fulfilling experience to be able to delegate and contribute to that process. 
 
What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP?
Being in the office with folks that are as passionate about this work as I am! I am so impressed and inspired by how much work we all do and offer to be sure who we are serving and our volunteers are getting the best that we can give. 
 
What song best encapsulates your working personality? 
I think that the song that encapsulates my working personality is ELECTRIC LADY, by Janelle Monae! It is energetic, cheerful, funky, grounding and empowering! I think that this song motivates me to be the best Electric Lady I can be and lift others around me up to be that as well!

Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Burns

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Kelly Burns!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I volunteered with ASTEP because I loved their mission. Art education is so important, and art can be a powerful tool to grow community.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from this past summer is our first rehearsal with all of our sound equipment. After the last song ended they were jumping up and down with huge smiles. The students were able to hear what all of their practice and teamwork had turned into, and they were ecstatic to show everyone at the final performance.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education is important because it teaches confidence, empathy, creativity and imagination. The arts have the power to build the self esteem and spirit of a person, bring a community together, and inspire a greater world.

How has art impacted/inspired you?
The arts inspire me every day, from music that pumps me up in the morning to the great works of theatre that have changed my perspective on different issues. But most of all, the process of creating different types of art has brought me life long friends and colleagues and shaped me into who I am today.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
When I work with students I want their biggest take away to be confidence. With ASTEP, many of the students I taught were sitting down with an instrument for the first time, and the first week of rehearsals I got a lot of “I can’t do this.” However, in the last few weeks we were having breakthroughs everyday. The best part of teaching is watching students work hard and achieve something they originally thought was impossible. I hope they learned that they are capable of anything.

What have you learned from your students?
This past summer my students taught me about community. My students ranged in age from 6 to 14 but they had no difficulty coming together and playing like a band. The younger students looked up to the older students, who found themselves in leadership positions. The community was incredible, as we had support from parents and other teachers from the first day of camp to the final performance. My students showed me just how much you can accomplish when you have the love and support of a community.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
My advice to future ASTEP volunteers is simply to have fun. If your students are working hard and enjoying themselves, then the art you create will reflect that.

Thank you, Kelly for your hard work and dedication! We could not do this work without you!