Inspiring local communities through TEDx

ASTEP was invited to present at the TEDxYouthDay event on November 19, 2011 at The School at Columbia University. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, the well-known TED conference created TEDx so local communities could spark deep discussions and share a TED-like experience. The theme for TEDxYouthDay 2011 was Play, Learn, Build & Share,  and ASTEP’s Mauricio Salgado presented A Call to Action to highlight creative ways to inspire curiosity and empower young leaders. Read below for his account of the day’s events:

Twelve presenters, including Charles Wilson (author of Chew On This) and Dickson Despommier (author of The Vertical Farm), shared innovative ideas and projects to encourage aspiring middle school students to make positive change in their lives and communities.

For my presentation, I adapted stories shared by ASTEP students and alum during the A Story per Step Campaign to relate the power of story-telling and what it can embody. After the presentation, I received help from a group of ASTEP volunteers–Will Clark, Laura Mead, John Egan, Dion Mucciacito, and Slaveya Starkov–to facilitate a story-telling workshop for students and parents. Both ASTEP presentations were received very positively by the community and a handful of people expressed interest in connecting with ASTEP in the future. Most importantly, I was honored to have 9 ASTEP members and supporters present, including Joe Norton (the Director of Educational Outreach for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS).

The piece I performed was co-created by Alejandro Rodriguez, Slaveya Starkov, Cindy Salgado and myself. At the core of the piece is the following story:

Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When Parable found her, she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There, she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again; clothed in story. Truth knocked again at the villagers’ doors and was readily welcomed into the people’s houses. They invited her to eat at their table and warm herself by their fire.

Thank you to Karen Blumberg and The School at Columbia University for including ASTEP in this rewarding community building experience.

Celebrating New York City kids

ASTEP recently completed the Celebration Program, a year-long training partnership led by Youth INC, an organization that  supports youth serving nonprofits in NYC.  The program culminated in a fundraising benefit on November 14, 2011 held at The Waldorf=Astoria. For the event, ASTEP launched a $25,000 fundraising target, and we are thrilled to announce that we surpassed our goal!

Thank you to all of the donors who supported us that evening! It was indeed a celebratory evening, and we were able to enjoy the festivities with several students and staff from our New York City partner organizations, Incarnation Children’s Center and IRC Refugee Youth Program.


A volunteer transforms messages of personal identity

Take a look at how Michael Markham, an ASTEP volunteer, transformed the side of a building in New York City into a piece of artistic work.

Michael, an actor with a passion for photography, collaborated with Inside Out, a global art project that posts large scale photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world.

A beautiful visual presentation!


Physical engagement with art. On Monday Morning.

I invite all of you to learn about an engaging art project by a member of the ASTEP community, Yazmany Arboleda (who also created our new website!).

His recent article, featured in the Huffington Post, highlights one of his projects, Monday Morning.

A true example of the transforming power of the arts.


Sometimes the Art Matters…Even More than Kim Kardashian

By Yazmany Arboleda

I have lived outside of America for the past 16 months. During this time and throughout my travels as an “artist-in-residence,” I have tried hard to be present in the places I have landed like Bangalore, Yamaguchi, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Despite a genuine effort, I have regularly succumbed to my mass media addiction and have, somewhat reluctantly but always necessarily found a way to stay informed about what is happening back home.

Being this addict-artist, I recognize and quasi-accept my preoccupation, borderline obsession with pop culture. So deep is my addiction that I have actually followed the wedding of Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries. For the four or five people out there who are unaware, Kim Kardashian’s big Hollywood wedding cost about $10 million for a marriage that lasted about 72 days. It was a lavish, impossibly perfect party that we weren’t invited to attend. At least not in the conventional way. E! Network filmed the entire event and televised it to impressive ratings a few days before the divorce filing. I suspect we’ll all be watching the Kardashian divorce special soon (Kim meeting with her lawyer, Kim jetting off to Australia to find herself and so on).

About a year ago, I decided to throw my own party. Among the many differences between me and Kim Kardashian was that my “party” would include as many people as possible. Since my primary focus as an artist is people’s physical engagement with art, I decided to give out 10,000 brightly colored balloons on a Monday Morning in the transportation hub of cities around the world. Each commuter would be given a balloon and asked to hold on to it until he/she got to work. It was, and remains, a fairly simple concept: the art of modifying a moment and redefining what art means to people using balloons.

The motivation for the installation was to counter that Monday morning feeling. The melancholy that strikes you when you open your eyes in bed, realizing the weekend is over and you must go back to the grind of things. In the West, we call this the Monday blues and just another “Manic Monday” as the eponymous song goes. But even in places like Japan, there is terminology, namely “Sazae-San Syndrome” to describe this phenomenon. Sazae-San is a popular family cartoon that has been broadcast every Sunday evening for the past thirty five years. Although the show is light-hearted and extols simple family values, it tends to depress people because they have come to associate the program with the end of the weekend.

Another motivation of mine was to speak to people across cultures and help them broaden their definition of art. This is especially true in the context of developing countries where education and funding for arts can be, and often is, limited.

I must be clear that I came to Kenya planning to perform another Monday Morning, before any of the recent terrorist attacks or any of the prevailing negativity invaded this beautiful but complicated country. Creating this art amidst the fear of grenade attacks and terrorism in Nairobi further transformed the work. While Americans may be concerned with so much at home (a lot of the worry legitimate, some if it not so much: see Kim Kardashian), Kenyans are resisting the urge to visit their local shopping malls or go to the center of town because they have been warned that these places could be attacked by al-Shabab. These concerns are real and the issues are truly life and death.

But for one morning, a Monday Morning no less, bright yellow balloons changed some commuters’ mood who came across them in the heart of Kenya’s capital city. They smiled in spite of their fear. They accepted a balloon in spite of their genuine reservations. And they went on about their day, in spite of war.

This matters.




Volunteers who share their (he)art. We honor you

We could not make an impact on the lives of the children we serve without the continued dedication of our amazing team of volunteers. From curriculum planning to running the workshops, our volunteers provide nonstop energy and love–their work is both an inspiration and a testament to the transforming power of the arts. From the depths of our hearts, we THANK YOU!

Refugee Youth Summer Academy | NYC

  • Keith Chappelle
  • Jasmine Collins
  • Nick Dalton
  • John Egan
  • Caroline Fermin
  • Catherine Hancock
  • Tiffany Jin
  • Allison Job
  • Julia Boudreaux Mayo
  • Dylan Moore
  • Amanda Toth
  • Hayley Treider
  • Alejandro Rodriguez, On-site Administrator

Art-in-Action Middle School | Homestead Florida

  • Robert Avila
  • Stephanie Borrero
  • Andrey Cassasola
  • Melissa Crepo
  • Laura Lalanne
  • Laura Mead
  • John Pimentel
  • Alex Samaras
  • Maggie Segale
  • Julia Steifel
  • Jamario Stills
  • Katherine Wood

Art-in-Action High School | Homestead Florida

  • Chelsea Ainsworth
  • Damian Gomez
  • Alisa Howard
  • Meera Kumbhani
  • Nadia Kyne
  • Kyle Netzeband
  • Charles Numrich
  • Briana Paige
  • Will Pailen
  • Curtis Peterson
  • Elisabeth Rainer
  • Kendal Sparks
  • Jim Stephens

Incarnation Children’s Center | NYC

  • Lucie Baker
  • Ali Dachis
  • Dion Mucciacito
  • Seth Numrich
  • Tanesha Ross
  • Cindy Salgado
  • Samira Wiley

Shanti Bhavan | India

  • Lauren Berger
  • Elise Seivert
  • Lillian Sposts
  • Rahil Tejani

Inspiring local communities through TEDx — the ASTEP way


ASTEP has been invited to present at the TEDxYouthDay event on November 19, 2011 at The School at Columbia University. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, the well-known TED conference created TEDx so local communities could spark deep discussions and share a TED-like    experience. The TEDxYouthDay 2011 theme is Play, Learn, Build & Share,  and ASTEP’s Mauricio Salgado is presenting A Call to Action to highlight creative ways to inspire curiosity and empower young leaders. Visit the  TEDxYouth event website to learn more.




A transformation story: from ASTEP student to volunteer artist

JP Pimentel moved to Homestead Florida in 2006. To help keep him busy, and meet new people, his mother enrolled him in the first ASTEP Art-in-Action Experience for high school students. Since then JP and ASTEP have been inseparable. He has attended every summer program, has been a part of the ASTEP Group Leadership program and has volunteered his talents at countless community events. Now, JP’s love for the arts has taken him to even higher heights; graduating from Homestead Senior High with top honors and coming to New York City to attend AMDA.

The following video is an interview with JP taken in 2009 at the ASTEP Art-in-Action Experience.


Artists Showcase: Brooklyn International High School

Discover the artwork from BIHS Spring 2011 Visual Art Class. These students are part of IRC’s Refugee Youth Program and took part in this class, once a week for the entire spring semester.