Who we are: a video snapshot!


A huge thank you to Yazmany Arboleda, an ASTEP volunteer and multimedia artist extraordinaire, for creating this colorful and enthusiastic video highlighting our programs over the years. For some of you, this will be a trip down memory lane since some of the images captured here are from the very beginning of ASTEP! Enjoy!!

Discussing the artist’s role as citizen with the Justice and the Arts Initiative at Santa Clara University

By: Mauricio Salgado, Director of Domestic Programs

From April 16-April 21 2012, I had the honor of being an artist in residence with the Justice and the Arts Initiative (JAI) at Santa Clara University. For the fifth year, JAI Co-directors and SCU Dance faculty members, Kristin Kusanovich and Carolyn Silberman (pictured left), invited me to connect with their community, which seeks to create an intellectual frame of reference for examining and fostering artistic processes that are critically bound to issues of social justice, and to support practices and methods of developing artist-activists at SCU. As usual, the experience was uniquely invigorating! Aside from the workshops I presented, I witnessed performances affirming the power of art and many one on one conversations considering the artist’s role as a citizen.

On my first morning there, I witnessed SCU’s production of “What Strangers May Know,” a play commemorating the 32 victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. The outdoor event involved  76 members of the SCU community ( students, staff, alums and faculty members), focusing on 32 separate one act plays memorializing each of the victims. Aside from immersing myself in the 32 stories, I also found myself reflecting on the culture of mourning; a thought that I continued to explore while visiting class reflections and in personal conversations with students and faculty. From the beginning, I found myself enlivened by a community that is processing profound social issues.

The next day, I led the first of two workshops exploring the empathic process and its use in community development. About 40 students participated in the workshops, where we also discussed ASTEP’s practice of using Arts Education to develop empathy in students. Most importantly, the workshops provided a space for students to consider what it means to pursue justice for the oppressed and impoverished, and how artist activists should prepare for that pursuit.

While at SCU, I also attended the 2012 Bannan Fellow Lecture by Dr. Maeve Heaney. Entitled, “Beauty and Beast; the role of the arts in Jesuit higher education,” the performance landed the importance of the arts in higher education in order to broaden intellectual capacity. I specify that the event was more of a performance than a lecture, because it included scenes, music, dance pieces, and painting. As Maeve demonstrated, singing about beauty lands the point more effectively than speaking about it – and if so, it is equally more effective at relating social injustice.

As happens each time I visit SCU, I left inspired to deepen my own understanding and pursuit of Justice and eager to relate the stories that moved me. I left ready to take the next step in helping artists strive to end poverty.


ICC students claim victory during the 2012 Slamin’ Olympics!

On April 10 & 12, 2012, ASTEP hosted the 3rd annual ICC Slamin’ Olympics at the Incarnation Children’s Center in Washington Heights, New York City. The Residents triumphed over the Staff this year, although the score was neck and neck throughout the competition!A favorite among the art-based events was “Ready-Set-Slow”, a race (always run with “Chariots of Fire” playing in the background) in which the last competitor to cross the finish line is the winner! But perhaps the most memorable moments came from the “Create A Story” event, where teams have just 10 minutes to create a story with a beginning, middle, and end, but for extra points, they must try to include moments of slow-motion, singing, repetition, and an element of surprise.

Of course, players can always earn extra points for their team by coming up with inventive dance moves during the “Lord of the Dance”, an ongoing event throughout the Olympics and a huge source of entertainment for all spectators. However, the most popular way of gaining the extra points comes from supporting and cheering on the opposing team! Thanks to all who participated and to all of the volunteers who came out for the Olympics! A great time was had by all and we’ll see you next year when the Staff will have their chance at redemption!

A big thanks to Tanesha Ross, an ASTEP volunteer, who coordinated the event and to our volunteer judges: Krystle Armstrong, Michael Liscio, Gabrielle Reid, Anne Markt, Yazmany Arboleda.

One of the final competitions involved creating a piece of art using elements found during a scavenger hunt!

Catherine Hancock, ASTEP volunteer, using music to promote social change

Hello ASTEP Family!

As an active ASTEP volunteer artist for a number of years, I’m writing to let you know about an exciting group that I am involved with called the Moirae Ensemble.

The Moirae Ensemble is a Chamber Music group that flutist Fiona Kelly, harpist, Caroline Cole and I founded while pursuing our Masters of Music at The Juilliard School.  The three of us discovered that we had similar ideals and beliefs in what we wanted to accomplish through our musical careers and as active members in our community.  Not only are we dedicated chamber musicians, we are also women who deeply care about supporting fellow women worldwide. We decided to start an ensemble that would embrace these two concepts by forming the Moirae Ensemble.

I was introduced to the International Rescue Committee through ASTEP and have worked with their domestic office in NYC for almost a year as an art teacher at PS199, and have been inspired by this amazing organization since I started my work with them and wanted to collaborate with the IRC on this project.  We are currently scheduling a concert series for the 2012/2013 season that will raise awareness for women’s issues and funds for the International Rescue Committee’s domestic office in NYC, with the long term goal of creating a fund for women refugees in NYC to receive counseling. In addition, we have commissioned several new works for this project including a donation from world renowned composer, Libby Larsen.  Please keep an eye out for our upcoming concerts and feel free to visit our website at www.moirae-ensemble.com.

— Catherine Hancock | ASTEP Volunteer Artist



Launching the ASTEP Leadership Seminar. Get empowered!

ASTEP’s volunteer artists are the key to our success. We believe in cultivating a community of artists who use their gifts to inspire youth and in providing ongoing professional development opportunities for our volunteers. Starting this year, we’re excited to begin offering the ASTEP Leadership Seminar series for active ASTEP volunteers.  During the two-day intensives, we will explore the skills and strategies necessary to be an effective facilitator and leader when using the arts for social change. Focusing primarily on communication and organizational skills, the seminar will prepare individuals to be ASTEP On-Site Administrators, key leaders who help us manage the partner and volunteer experience. Most importantly, the seminar provides a space for like-minded artists to share their ideas about, experiences with, and challenges on leadership.

Our first ASTEP Leadership Seminar took place on March 1-2, 2012 in NYC. In attendance were 9 volunteer artists, ranging from dancers to actors to musicians to visual artists. We covered topics such as communication, conflict mediation, and evaluation—we were lucky to have a special presentation by Annika Sheaf, a Pilobolus dancer, who led the group through movement exercises that explored movement and how it relates to quick thinking, group productivity, awareness, trust, and communication.

Over the course of these two days, everyone involved not only grew closer as a volunteer community but also strengthened their leadership abilities and personal connection to this work.

Hear from several of the participants:


“Thank you so much for including me in the ASTEP Leadership Seminar. I really can’t tell you enough what a meaningful time I had. I feel so lucky to be a part of such an incredible community. I really look at ASTEP as a defining part of my life–the ideals of the organization and of the people within it are ones that I constantly push myself to strive for. And attending this seminar only made me believe this even more. I treasure my time spent with ASTEP and look forward to many, many, more years as part of the ASTEP family.”

–Alli Job, ASTEP volunteer | bassist and visual artist

Refugee youth explore visual art, pushing their boundaries.

ASTEP provides enriching arts education classes and workshops through the Refugee Youth Program (RYP) at the International Rescue Committee. Our programs not allow refugee youth to build confidence and a capacity for self-expression, but also break down the barriers they face by improving their English language skills, academic abilities, social and emotional behaviors, and community ties—abilities they require to create a new life for themselves in their new home. In addition, our volunteer artists serve as trusted adult role models, mentors, and educators who guide refugee youth in making healthy decisions about their futures.

We’d love to share photos from the fall 2011 visual art classes, including some of their collages and individual student photography. Creativity and energy abounds!

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 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

Visual storytelling, courtesy of Refugee Youth Summer Academy

Created by Alejandro Rodriquez, ASTEP’s On-Site Administrator at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, this video captures the many moments of joy and empowerment experienced by volunteers and children this summer at RYSA. Enjoy!