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.

A Million Billion Thunders — live from the Kennedy Center

From August 31-September 5th, Mauricio Salgado and Marco Ramirez were granted a residency at the Kennedy Center in order to complete a new work and present it at the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival (September 3-5).

“A Million Billion Thunders” is Nico’s telling of the literal and metaphoric storms he faces and fights. The piece is for an actor and a musician. Although the piece is still in development, it has already generated interest in Washington DC, and Mauricio and Marco have already committed to producing the show in the near future.

During the residency, they also collaborated with Alejandro Rodriguez (dramaturgy) and Steve McWilliams (Guitar). The project was made possible by Gregg Henry’s generosity, the Director of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.

A special volunteer. A special THANK YOU

At the end of June, Seth Numrich and I hosted a 2-day event at the Incarnation Children’s Center in order to re-energize and commit students to the summer ASTEP program. This summer marked the third year ASTEP worked with  the ICC, a pediatric facility for adolescents living with HIV/AIDS , and the first time under Seth’s leadership. Although Seth led the South Florida volunteer team in 2009 as an ASTEP On-Site Administrator, this summer has proved particularly challenging for him. Not only will he be recruiting volunteers, teaching classes, and overseeing curriculum development for the ICC program, but he will be doing all of this while starring in the critically acclaimed “Warhorse” currently running at Lincoln Center.

Seth first volunteered with ASTEP in the summer of 2006 as a visual artist for our Art-In-Action program in South Florida. Seth doesn’t have a background in visual art—in fact, he claims to struggle with drawing stick figures. But his belief in the power of art and his passion for social justice lifted him above his insecurities. After an overwhelming summer, he returned in 2007 to try his hand at teaching theatre and raise his level of output and creativity. Even upon graduating from Juilliard in 2008 and beginning his career as an actor, he continued to commit to ASTEP’s programming by participating in two more Art-in-Action summer programs.  In 2009 Seth led the volunteer team.

Given his investment in our work, it would not surprise you that I lean on him quite often, which is why I called him quite confidently one evening in April after a challenging staff meeting. We had come to a decision that unless we found a volunteer to carry the ICC program in August, we would have to cancel it.

“Brother, I’m sorry for calling so late.”

“No worries, whats up?”

“Things are extra busy this season in the office and it doesn’t seem like Abby and I are going to be able to do the necessary prep for the ICC program this summer. Would you be game to recruit and prep your own team?”

“Sure. I can take that on. I’ve already got some ideas…”

Several weeks later, we found ourselves wearing eccentric costumes and exuberantly hosting an Arts Olympics Event with the ICC community. Although he was running in from Warhorse matinees and leaving early to prepare for his night shows, he was a joy to watch and collaborate with. It is his ability in the classroom that makes him such a valuable volunteer. The students and fellow volunteers appreciate everything he brings to the classroom.

I recently had a conversation with Charles Numrich, Seth’s dad, about his experience with one of our programs this past summer—Seth has recruited both of his parents to volunteer for us along with many other friends. As we wrapped up, the discussion turned to Seth.

“Have you seen him recently? How is his work going at the ICC?”

“He’s doing great as usual, and we are very thankful to have him in charge of that, although we don’t understand how he juggles both his show and this work.”

“Yeah, I worry about that as well. But you know what, he’s young and he can handle it. Tell him to call his Dad when he gets a chance?”


It’s his youthful energy and so much more that make him special. From all of us in the ASTEP community, we thank him for being an example for what it means to serve others. And as his friend, I hope I can find ways to serve him as well.

– Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP Director of Domestic Programs


“In order to create art, community, a classroom, or anything else, you need a situation that is saturated with love and support beyond question. That is what ASTEP has to offer.”

– Seth Numrich; ASTEP Volunteer

ASTEP delivers art programs designed to demonstrate the power of the arts to inspire youth and strengthen communities


It was about fifteen minutes before our final performance, and all of the teachers were standing in front of 57 excited, nervous teenagers, trying to give them some last minute words of wisdom and express to them, if we could, just how proud of them we were. As the last teacher to talk, I had each of the students give themselves a hug and take a deep breath, explaining to them that being nervous before a show is a good thing. As soon as I finished talking, one of the students caught my eye.

This boy was the kind of teenager you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find at an arts summer camp. During the first half of camp, he had been very “cool”, and we had a hard time getting him to participate fully. Only during the last few days had he begun to open up a fraction. This young man caught my eye and held up his hands, clasped in a yoga mudra (hand gesture) that I had taught a week or so earlier during a relaxation elective. It was in that moment that it hit me: these students were taking everything in. The moments of silly dance parties in the hallways, the songs, rhymes, dances, drama exercises; the students weren’t missing a beat. Even those that seemed distant were absorbing everything like sponges. Though I loved just about every second of my volunteer experience, this was the instant when I realized how important the work was, and how much these students were teaching me about taking risks, opening up, and having courage.

– Elisabeth Rainer, AIA 2011 Volunteer