There should be no dividing line between artistic excellence and social consciousness.

For 59 young artists interested in combing their artistic practice with their pursuit of a better world, ASTEP presented our 2nd annual Artist as Citizen Conference from June 7 – 12, 2015 at The Juilliard School.

At ASTEP, we work with children. We put artists in classrooms around the world to share their passion with kids.

In a larger sense, we’re part of an evolving, nationwide conversation on the role of the artist in society. There are articles published on the subject everyday – the landscape of the arts is changing and so are the opportunities available to artists. Meanwhile, the social emotional skills the arts help to develop are increasingly viewed as essential for success in today’s knowledge-based economy.

The Artist as Citizen Conference is an opportunity for ASTEP to help spread this powerful ideal nationwide — and with it, the remarkable culture of service it represents.

It’s been talked about for years. Innumerable blogs have discussed it. The New York Times recently chimed in. There is a movement afoot. A return to meaning in the arts. A return to impact. As one curator put it, “Marcel Duchamp’s toilet is being returned to the bathroom.”

The Conference is about putting the riches of the first network at the disposal of the second. Its mission is to celebrate, connect, and develop young leaders in the arts by providing them with a transformative artistic and educational experience in the heart of New York City.

Why? Because developing motivated young leaders in communities across America is a way for ASTEP to expand the reach of its mission exponentially.

Which means more kids. Exposed to more art.

An ASTEP Fellow in ACTION!

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Last week I spent some time as an intern at Orkestai Farms, a non-profit organic vegetable farm that works with students of varying ages and disabilities. Their program brings these students to the farm to participate in the amazing world of agriculture; from planting seeds to weeding and mulching, and finally to harvesting, as a way to develop skills and learn about sustainable living. After a week spent working on the farm with Alethea and Erin (co-owners) and their students, we led a community day where parents, students, and friends of the farm opened their awareness to different ways of experiencing the land through art- who knew you could create a beautiful sculpture of people with mulch, weeds, and rotten vegetables! (Additionally, this sculpture served as a compost for the potato beds for the next season!)

If there was one lesson to learn from this experience at Orkestai, it would be about patience: patience for the land, for the people around you, and for your art. Alethea, Erin, and the students at this farm taught me that the same care, love, dedication (and hard work!) that is put into planting and harvesting the land, must be applied to the people around us, and the relationships that exist there. A plant dumped into a shaded patch of land and left to its own accord will perhaps grow, but it won’t thrive. It needs attention and dedicated care to produce its best- the same should be said about our relationships with each other, and our relationship with our art.

— Linnell Truchon, ASTEP Volunteer Artist and 2014 ASTEP Fellow