Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: BACK TO SCHOOL


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #5:

BACK TO SCHOOL

 

I remember as a child (neurotic and high strung as I was even way back then) being so challenged by the routine that school brought as I returned at the end of each summer. I longed for days where I could play as I wished, where morning bled into noon and into night and be that guided by books, games, movies or time with family and friends, it was something I missed by the time the last week in August rolled around. I went to a school where we wore uniform: shirts, ties, belted pants and black shoes… ugh. Stifling.

But as I think about many of the kids I have met this summer at ASTEP’s partner sites, I am eager for them to get back into routine, to have new structure and to be given goals to work towards. The fundamental difference between my own free time and the free time of the students I work with being that I really didn’t have anything to worry about. Structure would be provided where needed but for the most part, I had more things to do than I had things to worry about.

For our student population, the equation is typically reversed. Time off often brings up the things that are absent in their lives. I had to actively remind myself of this in all of our workshops these past couple of months – intellectually I understood their experience (with a 26 year old brain) but to be living that in the mind and body of a 7 or 8 year old is completely incomprehensible. It made me particularly aware of moments when a teaching artist couldn’t understand why the students needed so much scaffolding around a particular concept. For the most part, their days are spent off without structure – and this likely only brings their life circumstances into focus more acutely. Their creative expressions within transitional housing complexes for example, aren’t always accepted as productive and so our task is to come in and not only be the bearers of fun, but also to present the structure in which that fun will be had.

So, with school back in session, I’m excited to return to many of these sites this fall and see familiar faces with brand new energy. Granted, its usually colored with the exhaustion of learning at the end of a school day but this allows our function to be different, providing fun, freedom of expression and creativity at the end of a rigorous day, which, of course, then presents a whole other set of challenges!

 

 

ASTEP Featured on Common Good!

 

We are excited to announce that ASTEP is featured on Common Good, a new website from Newman’s Own Foundation!

This site is dedicated to sharing the powerful pursuits of nonprofits all over the world, and the everyday good that is often overlooked.

Check out our story here.

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Ring in the holiday season with us! Mark your calendars for the 10th Annual New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP.

Conceived, produced and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz, Allegiance), the evening will feature Broadway’s most sought-after talent, putting their spin on your holiday favorites. Past performers include Sierra Boggess, Raul Esparza, Derek Klena, Lindsay Mendez, Andy Karl, Orfeh, and more!

Monday, December 10
7:00PM
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre

Tickets: $75 | $100 | $125
Sponsorships available at various levels

 

ALL proceeds from ticket and album sales will support ASTEP’s mission of connecting performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world. Together, we give kids access to the transforming power of the arts!

Email Katherine Nolan Brown at katherine@asteponline.org to be notified when tickets are available for purchase, or for information about sponsorships.

 

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: IF I’M NOT TEACHING AM I REALLY A TEACHER?


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #4:

IF I’M NOT TEACHING AM I REALLY A TEACHER?

 

Whenever I take a few weeks to myself (in this case to galavant in Los Angeles) I’m anxious returning to the classroom. I’m not a teacher by training but by instinct and I so often get the fear of – DID I EVER KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING?

So last week as I geared up for 3 days of arts classes at housing shelters throughout the city, reviewing volunteer lesson plans, I really took the time to check in with myself. What is my role in this? How do I make a space where artists can thrive? And if I were the volunteer, or the student, or the partner receiving ASTEP workshops, what would I want?

A planner at heart, these questions actually helped me focus and quelled my anxieties. Potential blindspots found detail and I mapped out ways of helping teaching artists keep the seed of the lesson they had crafted, while ensuring that it would flow and have a hook for our student population, who are often antsy and lack focus (they’re kids!). I started to see the benefits of time away. It forced me to come back and look at the work with fresh eyes: to consider the WHY in everything I do and reconnect with ASTEP’s mission – to break cycles of poverty, where poverty is defined as a lack of choice. I made sure that, without giving kids free reign, they didn’t feel bound by the plan. They had space to be expressive, offer input and interpret activities in ways that helped them feel strong and valued.

In action, the week felt fresh, fueled and live! And as I reflect, I am reminded that this isn’t a job – it’s a service, it’s an offering and it’s a commitment to people and communities who are in need of support. If it stagnates with monotony or gets stuck on autopilot, the communities we partner with suffer. And as summer continues, I’m going to keep checking in with myself, seeing the detail, the room for improvement and challenging myself to best represent ASTEP’s A-Game!

 

ASTEP benefit concert, Aug 13 at 7PM

Recently, there has been a great deal of news coverage related to one of the many populations that ASTEP is proud to serve. Hundreds of youth affected by refugee/asylee/unaccompanied minor status have been thrust into the limelight – and while ASTEP isn’t able to prevent what’s happening to families at our border, we will continue to play a vital role in caring for them while they await the next steps in their journey. Most importantly, making sure that the students we serve get the chance to use the arts, if only for a moment, to remind them how to be kids.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, ASTEP will be putting on a concert in support of our students. On Monday August 13 at 7pm, ASTEP’s Founder/Co-Executive Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell will take the stage at Joe’s Pub for SANCTUARY: ASTEP & Broadway Sing for Children in Need. Mary-Mitchell, Music Director of Mean Girls, together with some of ASTEP’s most stalwart supporters & performers, will perform to honor and sustain the children at the center of this maelstrom.

Join us for this one of a kind event – purchase your tickets today!

 


THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Dr. Keith Bell, Licensed Acupuncturist
The Bisesto Family
Angie Canuel Kantor
Karen + Dan McCallan
Monterey International Pop Festival
Sheri Sarkisian
Dr. Rocky Slonaker + Mr. Dan Friedman

 

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: POSITIVE + REALISTIC.


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #3:

POSITIVE + REALISTIC.

 

We’re playing the Game of Life. Well, actually, we’re working with students to build it, asking them to complete the board with events, choices and circumstances that will shape their play in our final class this Thursday – “Remember to bring dice, Mr Marcus – that spinner thing won’t do!”

We’re working in a juvenile correction program at Passages Academy, where the common trait among all of the students is some kind of criminal charge, though we don’t get into those conversations. It’s a given and we work hard to move beyond that to build a creative and productive classroom environment. But with an ever-changing community, the politics are clear and while some infractions are considered “cool”, others are unanimously agreed upon as unforgivable. Regardless of the specifics, these factor entrench the students in a highly complex social environment. So when I posed the question: “What’s a negative event that could happen in your life?” it’s unsurprising that the answer was matter of fact “go to jail” because, generally speaking, it could be agreed upon – no politics.

Ok, well let’s think about something with lower stakes?” This caused a silence. “What’s something that could go wrong for me today that would affect me negatively but not be so high stakes as to cause me to break the law?” More silence. “Umm…you could stub your toe.” This was followed by a long and fairly intricate conversation about what feels normal, what feels bad, and what feels great for the students in their current state of being. The positivity and negativity associated with certain events exist on a sliding scale based on the privileges we are conditioned to. It makes sense and my upper middle class upbringing didn’t account for this.

Our dialogue about positive life events took a similar turn. The students weren’t willing to put events on the board that they couldn’t imagine for themselves. It was not productive, they said, to think about things that simply wouldn’t happen. I challenged this with the idea that if this was true, then thinking about the extreme negatives would only make them more likely to happen. So we agreed that we wanted to make a game board that felt realistic and true to the lives these young men were leading but that didn’t confine them to a certain realm of success or growth in the world.

And so, what was supposed to be a simple conversation about how we complete the game, became a complex discussion of what’s positive, productive and promotes success for this specific population. For the community in question, positive days felt like ones without negative interaction vs. being ones where something great happened. The latter just wasn’t in their realm of expectation.

As I gear up to play the game tomorrow morning, I’m thinking about how we can lift these students up, even when they are living with limited choices. How can they move forward and have lives that aren’t defined by their mistakes but by their potential to grow and move beyond this moment in their very young lives?

Our game board is deliberately two thirds positive – here’s hoping that’s what’s still to come!

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: A 2 SHOW DAY


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #2:

A 2 SHOW DAY AT ASTEP on STAGE!

545am / My alarm rings and the only thing slower than me is the sunrise. I’ve got an hour long train ride ahead, followed by a 15min walk to my first site for the day: a juvenile detention center where I’ll be leading classes in poetry over 4 days in the next two weeks. ASTEP Shirt – check! Supplies – check! Game Face – check! And just like that I’m out the door…

845am / My Teaching Artist cohort and I are taken through 3 security doors to meet the school librarian who’ll escort us and our pre-approved materials to the classroom. “The kids are excited for poetry month!” I am too. And I’m hoping the caffeine (now 3 hours old in my system) keeps working its magic.

915am / SHOWTIME. Act 1. 2 young women write Acrostic poems and open up, sharing the positive qualities they’ve assigned to each letter of their name. Their uniform ages them and for a moment I forget they’re just teenagers – they speak so beautifully. But their youth shines through as colored markers (approved contraband) are brought into the mix.

10am / One of these young women is going to be released today. She wears a smile brighter than the sun and the girls giggle their way out the door, the guards having called and approved movement between classes. My energy and spirit are rejuvenated – who needs caffeine?

1055am / Act 2. The class draws to a close as 4 boys, having written their own Acrostic poems, share what they learned with the class. Through their lens of “cool” I can hear them celebrating one another, having a new set of armor being built up as their positive behaviors are acknowledged. As they walk out the door I know they’re all questioning: Can clever be cool? And is that alliteration?

1230pm / I crash in through my front door, inhale my lunch and switch out supplies for the afternoon show… I’m about to head back out on another hour long train journey… but not before I nap!

345pm / I meet my next team of Teaching Artists and we immediately start talking about how our plans can change if the group is too small, too large, too energetic, too exhausted, too noisy… you get the picture! They’re flexible, they’re ready and it’s showtime all over again!

445pm / Energy is flowing – dare I say uncontrollably. We’ve explored our signature rhythms and are trying (oh, how hard we are trying!) to focus on drawing the things the music makes us think of. Suddenly, “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana blares out through a handy portable speaker and becomes the ultimate antidote to chaos. Crayons and markers are held up like candles, it’s Beyonce at Coachella, and the kids join one another for a chorus of their favorite song. The joy is palpable.

550pm / Time to wrap up. “What’s one thing you learned or enjoyed today?” Several kids sigh. “What?!” I exclaim, shocked by the reaction. “But we loved so many things! The drawing with Mr. Eric and music and playing the BAH! game and playing Bunnies and Hawks with Mr Julian.” The reviews are in and it’s clear they were a hit!

715pm / After my fourth hour underground today, my front door slams shut behind me and my ASTEP shirt stares up at me. The word STRIVING looks a little bolder than it has before. Today we did that. We were striving in pursuit of something great and I think we inched our way closer to the goal. I open my laptop and refresh my email. Gmail politely reminds me that tomorrow I’ll be an Actor again, out in search of a whole other kind of two-show day.

 

NEW! Summer Program in Arkansas

WORK WITH ASTEP IN ELAINE, ARKANSAS

BUILDING SKILLS THROUGH THE ARTS, NO MATTER THE OBSTACLES*

 

Don’t know where you will be this summer? Do you want to bring joy and hope to a new community that is hungry for change? This summer, ASTEP is partnering with Waves of Prayer in Elaine, Arkansas to host the Heroes of Elaine arts camp.

With a population of 636 people, this rural Arkansas community is still flooded with segregation, unemployment, and poverty. Coming up on 100 years after the largest mass lynching in US History, this new summer program aims to help the community of Elaine remember the past and claim a new future for all Elainians. This three-week summer camp will focus on visual art, theatre, spoken word. music, and dance and will teach students to use their voices, believe in themselves, and collaborate with their peers. The Elaine’s Heroes arts camp was first hosted in the summer of 2017 by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 Collective members, Arielle Julia Brown and Mauricio Salgado. After a successful first summer, ASTEP was invited by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 to support the development of the program.

Program Dates: July 4th – July 29th
Application Deadline: May 15th
Location: Elaine, Arkansas
Who: All artists!

At ASTEP, we are making a conscious effort to have our artists reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve. People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, those with all educational backgrounds, and anyone excited to work with us are strongly encouraged to apply.

Housing, Flights, and food are all provided by ASTEP and Waves of Prayer

Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

Be a part of Refugee Youth Summer Academy 2018!

 

For our 9th consecutive summer, ASTEP is teaming up with the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a 6-week summer camp that focuses on welcoming newly arrived refugee youth to their new life in NYC.

At RYSA, ASTEP Teaching Artists use their art form to help the students achieve school readiness, build English language skills, and develop coping skills and confidence. ASTEP Teaching Artists lead performing and visual arts classes with these goals in mind so that the students can learn to fully embrace who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. We use art as a tool to show students that they can be proud of who they are and thrive.

Program Dates: June 30th – August 17th

Application deadline: May 15th

Location: New York City

Time Commitment: 7 Hours Per Week

Who: All artists! We need a diverse team and hope that you are a part of it!

– Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

– Stipends are provided for ASTEP Teaching Artists








ASTEP & Friends Inaugural Gala a Smashing Success!

Our first ever ASTEP & Friends Gala at 54Below on April 23, 2018was a heartwarming and invigorating reminder that the arts is a valued part of the world we live in — and most importantly, you agree that it belongs in the hands of every child.

Thanks to the passion, thoughtfulness and commitment of everyone involved, we raised over $91,000, and we could not be more humbled and proud.

This generosity will allow ASTEP to “expand the reach of our arms”, as Georgia Stitt so eloquently said.

ASTEP is an organization that is only as strong as its community. After last night, we are feeling pretty invincible and excited to get to work.


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