TRENDER: New Urban Arts Director of Programs Emily Ustach
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
You have worked with New Urban Arts since 2007 and have taken on many roles, including Artist Mentor and Student Program Coordinator. How does it feel to be the Program Director now?
I’m excited to get to know New Urban Arts in a new way. I have been very lucky to have seen the organization grow under the leadership of Sarah Meyer, the former Director of Programs. She, along with others, expanded the number of students attending, deepened summer engagement, and gained national recognition for the organization’s programs. Those are huge shoes to fill, but I’m excited to join a growing team and to have the opportunity to work here every day.
I feel very lucky. Having been an artist mentor helps me connect with the experience of mentoring at New Urban Arts. Our mentors give so much of their time, energy and heart, it’s a unique experience and not as easy as it looks, so it’s helpful knowing what they are going through and also what they can get out of the experience.
As director, what are your plans for the program going forward?
New Urban Arts’ programs are award winning, and my first priority is to really understand and get to know them. I am meeting with a lot of people who have been involved in our school year and summer programs to see what they like and what we could improve.
New Urban Arts has a unique model of empowering students to choose the artist mentors they want to work with for the year. Students are involved in the selection process, from reading applications to conducting interviews. This changes the whole dynamic of the space – it’s less, “I have something to teach you”, and more “I want to learn from you”. I am fascinated by how this simple power shift changes how we learn from each other in the space. I am thinking about opportunities where we can empower students in similar ways at other times in the studio.
What do you think about the RI art scene in general?
I moved to Rhode Island nine years ago to go to graduate school at RISD, specifically to study community-based arts education. It has been the community of artist and of arts organizations in Providence that has kept me fascinated and enthralled with this city and state. There is such a wealth of youth-based community arts organizations to learn and grow from that are anchors in the city of Providence.
I feel so fortunate to work at New Urban Arts alongside these other organizations and be part of what makes Providence such a unique and exciting place to live.
How important is it to introduce RI youth to art? What impact do you think New Urban Arts has on their lives?
That is a really big question. I think that the arts are a vehicle for youth to express themselves, reflect on their world, and to try on different personalities as they are learning and developing who they are.
I think having a safe space where young people can try things, take risks, ask big and hard questions of themselves and each other and do so alongside other artists who are also taking risks and asking questions is very important. It’s critical. I’m sure New Urban Arts has impacts well beyond what we can measure.
Ultimately, our goal is to fulfill our mission to empower young people as artists and leaders who sustain a creative practice throughout their lives. It’s a long reaching mission, one that we are just starting to see a glimpse of in our 16th year.
What has been your most rewarding experience/moment working at New Urban Arts?
When I was a mentor, I worked closely with a group of young women who were into making comics, and wanted to add color into their work – my mentoring group was in watercolor.
There was one student who was a freshman and would drop in and out of my group, but she never really finished any projects. She would just doodle and talk with the other students. After my mentoring year, I would see her around occasionally at events and things, and then in her senior year, she showed me some watercolor pictures that blew me away. She said she always had a set of watercolors in her bag just in case.
I had no idea she was so affected by our group. It shows you never know how or in what way you might impact people.
She ended up getting a large scholarship to study art at Salem College, the school I went to for my undergraduate degree. So she is now learning from the professors I learned from, which is nice and not anything I could have predicted.
You call yourself an amateur artist. What sorts of medium do you enjoy working with?
Lately, I have been spending more time in the kitchen studio rather than the art studio, playing around with recipes. I’m also working on knitting many, many squares to make a blanket. My background is in painting, and I would like to do more of that, but I have to make the time.
Professionally, I think that facilitating conversations among people is a creative practice. Facilitating how people can learn from each other and how they can learn from the experiences they are going through is something I’m very interested in, and is definitely a craft I’m in the process of honing.
What should Rhode Islanders look out for in the future from New Urban Arts?
There are a lot of new faces at New Urban Arts right now. We are sitting in ideas and possibilities. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we support students who don’t go to college after high school. There is very little information out there for students who don’t or can’t take that route.
We are thinking about hosting a Not-College Fair, which would showcase alternative options to college for high school students, such as AmeriCorps Programs, gap year programs, alternative experiences, etc.
Most of all though, Rhode Islanders should look out for our students. They will (and are) doing great things.
How should people looking to support the program get involved?
Come visit us! We had a show opening of our current Artist Mentor’s work on December 6, and this weekend from 10-4pm we are hosting the 3rd Annual Cardboard Pancakes, a holiday craft sale featuring current and former artist mentors and student work.
If people are interested in mentoring, they can apply at the end of summer. Applications and more information are available on our website, www.newurbanarts.org!
We are a non-profit youth arts studio and rely on the kindness and generosity of our supporters to keep our programs running.
Related Slideshow: Women Leading in Rhode Island
Who are some of Rhode Island's high-level female bosses? GoLocal takes a look at some of the leading women in the state in their respective industries, in the private and nonprofit sector.
The founder and Creative Director of Alex and Ani, Rafaelian started the company in 2004 to produce jewelry to “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.”
Prior to founding Alex and Ani, Rafaelian produced designs for and co-owned Cinerama, her father’s jewelry manufacturing company. Now, in addition to Alex and Ani, Rafaelian owns Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, and the café franchise Teas and Javas. Rafaelian received the 2012 Rhode Island Small Businessperson of the Year Award as well as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the products category for New England.
Merchant is the CEO and President of Hope Global, an engineered textile solutions company centered in Cumberland with plants and sales offices all over the world.
Merchant began her career as a production supervisor at General Motors, then worked at Mazda, Ford Motor Company, and Lear Corporation, and managed manufacturing plants in Mexico, Canada, Poland, England, and America.
In addition to her work with Hope Global, Merchant is an active member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Commodores, and the Governor’s Economic Development Council, and is a trustee of Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.
Snead is the CEO of Banneker Industries, Inc., a supply chain management company in North Smithfield that has performed e-procurement, assembly, packaging, inventory management, warehousing and distribution services since its founding in 1991.
Snead has served as state delegate on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council and received the 2009 New England Businesswoman of the Year Award and Women Business Enterprise National Council Star Award, among numerous others in year prior. She now serves on the Board of Directors of AMICA Insurance Company and is a member of the Rhode Island Commodores.
Zimmerman is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for FarSounder Inc., a Warwick based company specializing in sonar technology and born of Zimmerman’s achievement in the 2002 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.
Since its inception, the company’s sales have grown exponentially and it has expanded to different markets within the nautical navigation industry.
Previously, Zimmerman has run numerous other businesses including a company for wholesale book selling and one for engineering services.
The nineteenth President of Brown University, Paxson had previously served as Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Chair of its economics department, as well as Director and founder of an NIA Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging.
Paxson is an expert in public health, having conducted research on childhood health, AIDS in Africa, and Hurricane Katrina, among other topics.
White, the President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, previously served as its Senior Vice President, and an executive counselor to the Governor in policy and communications. She is dedicated to strengthening the business community in Providence with focus on employment and retaining young, talented professionals to work in the state.
Dr. Carriuolo is the ninth President of Rhode Island College. She has previously served as the Director of the Office of School/College Relations at NEASC and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences the University of New Haven.
She has written over thirty publications, featured in, among others, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Education Week. In 2009, she was named a CLADEA fellow, and she has served on the boards of many organizations, including the Journal of Developmental Education and New England Dollars for Scholars.
Lapides is the co-founder, President, and CEO of Rhode Island real estate firm Residential Properties.
Lapides has been quoted in many local and national publications as a real estate specialist. During her career, Lapides has served on the boards at the RISD Museum, Roger Williams University, Smith Hill Center, and Trinity Repertory Company, among others -- and as Chair of the Board of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Action Campaign Committee, helped raise a million dollars for the Fund for the LGBT community.
Pattie, the CEO and President of BankNewport and OceanPoint Financial Partners, MHC, began her career with the bank in 1984 as a consumer loan officer, rising through ranks and across different areas of expertise.
Pattie is a board member of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Bankers Association as well as a trustee of the Community College of Rhode Island. She is also a certified financial planner and a member of the Board of Governors for Newport Hospital.
Coxe is the Executive Director and CEO of the Preservation Society of Newport County. Before holding this position, Coxe served as the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Executive Director of Rhode Island’s Save the Bay, and Director of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Coxe has received numerous awards for her business success, including the 2011 Business Women Award for Overall Career Achievement from the Providence Business News. She also does extensive volunteer work, including sitting on the boards of Grow Smart Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Commodores. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Law Foundation and the Alumni Board of the Wheeler School.
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