GEM Magazine Spring 2013

Women In The Arts Long Island: Theresa Statz-Smith, Executive Director Long Island Arts Alliance

For the past two years as its Executive Director for Long Island Arts Alliance (LIAA), Theresa Statz-Smith has made it her goal to shine a spotlight on the cultural arts events that are happening right here on Long Island. Living in the shadow of a metropolitan city, Long Island arts and culture organizations constantly struggle to promote their own world-class programs. Read more

Spotlight on: Theresa Statz-Smith

You never really know what’s in your own backyard until…

For the past two years as its Executive Director for Long Island Arts Alliance (LIAA), Theresa Statz-Smith has made it her goal to shine a spotlight on the cultural arts events that are happening right here on Long Island.  Living in the shadow of a metropolitan city, Long Island arts and culture organizations constantly struggle to promote their own world-class programs.  After commissioning two studies in 2010, one by Dr. Pearl Kamer, Chief Economist for the Long Island Association (LIA) and the other by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, “Arts On The Edge,” LIAA, a collegial network of the region’s not-for-profit arts and arts education organizations, renewed its commitment to promoting arts, culture and arts education on Long Island.

LIAA’s Arts Alive LI speaks to the heart of LIAA’s mission to showcase Long Island’s word-class arts.  As stated in its October 2012 Business Plan:  “Our quintessential island community is the setting for this multi-venue celebration where all involved share a single vision:  to showcase the many high-quality experiences Long Island has to offer during a month-long celebration of the region’s arts, culture, food and wine.”  Arts Alive LI showcases the superb talent and cultural resources Long Island has to offer while also fostering economic development through the arts and enhancing the quality of life for all local residents. Instead of spending the costly amount of money to take the family to the city to see a play, go to a museum, or attend a concert, locals are now discovering the wealth of cultural arts events that exists right in their own community by simply going to ArtsAliveLI.org.  Theresa offered a sampling of recent events:  Blue Oyster Cult played their first acoustic concert at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington and the whole community came together.  The village designated an official Blue Oyster Cult Weekend.  Different restaurants created Blue Oyster Cult dishes, Blue Oyster Cult martinis and even a paper company sold special blue stationary.  The whole village of Port Washington came together to celebrate.  Another local Northport Long Islander, Patti LuPone advocated for Arts Alive LI with her personal testimonial attesting the rich offerings right here on Long Island; she and Mandy Patinkin performed at the TillesCenter for the Performing Arts at LIU Post this past October. “Almost all of our Signature Series Events are collaborative,” notes Theresa, “in order to receive the level of promotion as a Signature Series Event we require artists and organizations to create an event that encourages a collection of activities.”  For example, The Islip Arts Council and the Patchogue Arts Council came together and created the South Shore Walking Arts Tour where all these communities had artists’ work hanging in their windows, and scheduled special Festival happenings on different weekends.  “They were taking some events that were already loosely happening and brought it all together as a single event.”

Culture makes places distinctive, engendering pride in the local community.  It also makes a practical contribution in terms of sustainability, providing employment, encouraging learning and inspiring people to adopt creative and active lifestyles.  Through culture, communities are better able to engage young people in constructive activity and attract the people and businesses essential for a prosperous local economy. Theresa talked about how “we’re finding ways to bring us all together.”  She mentioned an early Festival launch event in the East End and invited people from the North and South Forks to share their communal art resources:  “An event like that alone brings people together; it gives people the opportunity to collaborate, to meet, to brainstorm.” Pat Snyder, Executive Director of the East Ends Arts Council at Riverhead created a Maritime Heritage Festival.  She brought her community together and created the Maritime Heritage Festival from Riverhead to Orient Point.  “So, it’s all these communities, all these venues, coming together to create one big Festival happening all month in October with targeted [events] here and there. The Long Island Railroad also came to the table to provide transportation and hang Festival Posters in stations from Penn to the East End; and Media Partner WNET New York Public Television aired Patti LuPone’s promos on both WNET Thirteen and WLIW 21.  LIAA, through Arts Alive LI, helps foster all these regional alliances of people who understand that there is strength when we all join forces. Of course we could not do any of this without the support of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Long Island Community Foundation, Rauch Foundation and other foundations and individuals who believe in regional collaboration and economic development through the arts.”

Theresa’s passion for the arts is palpable: “What we’re trying to do, looking forward, is that we are highlighting not just the ‘classic’ arts, but we want to bring in a lot of what we’re talking about with our festivals:  the culture, the history, food, and wine – that is what makes Long Island an incredible cultural experience.  And that’s what grows new audiences, and engages young families and children.” Despite these dire economic times, Theresa justifies funding for the arts because it “feeds” our children in so many ways:  How do we inspire and engage that child to stay in school? And to create a life worth living?  What keeps that at-risk child in school:  it’s when they learn to love to sing a song, or play an instrument, or kick a ball.  That keeps an at-risk child at school.”

Theresa talked about one of LIAA’s flagship programs:  Scholar-Artist Awards.  “It’s based on the same idea as the Scholar-Athlete Programs in our high schools where we honor the artist in the school and bring that artist to the level of the athlete.”  In partnership with Newsday, New York Community Bank Foundation, and school districts, high school faculty nominate their top artists for the honor. They must also maintain excellent academics.  “Ultimately, twenty are designated as Scholar-Artists and an additional twenty receive the Award of Merit.  Area universities offer scholarships and there is a big Newsday photo shoot to launch the program and a Gala at TillesCenter closes the program in May.”

What is so transformative about the arts is that it “helps you to think . . . to think in creative ways and look in unexpected places for answers.  It’s critical.”  Case in point on how the arts inform all subject areas, Theresa cited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  “You have some of the best scientists in the world there and some of the best art there too.  You will see a Chihuly glass piece hanging in the middle of an incredible lab, and stunning sculptures all over the grounds.  Beautiful artwork!  There are concerts held in Grace Auditorium on the CSHL Campus, and lectures. Smart people know that the arts inspire creativity and creativity is our hope for the future.”

First Online With Fran Pilot Episode

The pilot episode of First Online With Fran with featured guest, Angelina Fiordellisi is posted on The Cherry Lane Theatre’s website. Take a look and learn more about The 15th Anniversary of The Mentor Project…

The results are in! 2,939 Views and Counting!

Here are some of the comments about the pilot episode of First Online With Fran:

Nancy Martinez This video was very inspirational loved it great job Frances McGarry!!
Nancy Martinez My daughter is actually looking to get into performance arts and theater ! So this is really nice to hear
Al Rios Great job! Really love all this! Wow great concept and I am sooo happy you are spreading the word about the arts and how we have to stopping cutting it out!!! Loved it, looking forward to the next one!
Christine Fuchs. So far I absolutely LOVE the interview!! You are so relaxed and engaged. Love the editing, love the dialogue between you & Angelina. I feel like I’m in your living room. Post this repeatedly!!!
Cynthia Shaw Simonoff I saw it and loved it. Passed it on to a friend!
Marie Michalopoulos Warren. Congratulations. What a wonderful, organic interview!!! Wishing you success in your endeavor. Xo
Joanne Dorian • Really enjoy your interview style, Fran! It was wonderful to listen to Angelina’s enthusiasm and passion for the Cherry Lane Theatre, and what it has meant to her as founder and Artistic Director.
Rachel Towers I hope you make it. You have an amazing personality!
I salute you Fran =)
Christen Madrazo Jan 10, 9:26 pm Great interview! Thanks, Fran! ~Christen (Dramatic Adventure Theatre)

Will less art and music in the classroom really help students soar academically?

Will less art and music in the classroom really help students soar academically?
By Tyleah Hawkins
Journalism students at Howard University’s school of communications were deeply engaged in this year’s presidential campaign as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battled for the White House. The students wrote widely about the candidates and the issues. Some traveled to Ohio, a key battleground state, and wrote about classmates who canvassed voters there as volunteers for the Obama campaign.
Others wrote about college students struggling to pay rising tuitions after their parents had lost jobs and homes to foreclosures. One student wrote about black Republicans who supported Romney and their status as double minorities – minorities within the Republican Party and among black voters who largely supported Obama. Throughout the year, students reported on the economic and social challenges that working people and poor communities were facing, issues that were being neglected by candidates singularly focused on the needs of the middle class.
And on Election Day, the students covered everything from problem-plagued polling stations to election night parties and spontaneous street festivities in front of the White House. The Root DC is publishing some of the students’ work, starting with the story below by Tyleah Hawkins, a sophomore, about the impact of funding cuts to public school arts programs in poor communities.
Schools across the country have slashed their arts programs in the wake of major funding cuts by state governments struggling to balance their budgets during the economic downturn.

(Oscar Perez/Associated Press) According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 95 percent of school-aged children are attending schools that have cut funding since the recession. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods that faced budget cuts were able to make up for their losses through private donations, while schools in impoverished neighborhoods have not.
As a result, schools in areas serving children from low-income families have reduced or completely cut their arts and music programs. These programs tend to be the first casualties of budget cuts in hard-pressed school districts already struggling to meet other demands of the academic curriculum, and they are rarely restored. Some school districts don’t have much meat left to cut from arts programs that had already been reduced to bare bones after repeated funding shortfalls over many years.
“The cuts that have been occurring for the past couple of decades … however, with this recession, many arts advocates such as myself do not have a clue when some programs will be brought back,” said Narric Rome, senior director of Federal Affairs and Arts Education at Americans for the Arts, a national organization that promotes the arts. “The entire system is very unstable; teachers are laid off one school year and brought back the next, or most times not brought back at all. If we are lucky enough to bring these programs back, they won’t be for a couple of years. Which means some students who are in school during these difficult economic times will completely miss out on the benefits of arts education.”
Although arts and music programs tend to be seen as less important than reading, math or science, research has shown that arts education is academically beneficial.
“Low-income students who had arts-rich experiences in high schools were more than three times as likely to earn a B.A. as low-income students without those experiences. And the new study from the National Endowment reports that low-income high school students who earned few or no arts credits were five times more likely not to graduate from high school than low-income students who earned many arts credits,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a report titled “Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009-10.”
The arts have also proven to be a form of inspiration and expression for at-risk students, especially those in inner-city schools, and have been shown to improve their outlook on education.
According to a study titled “The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention,” by the Center for Music Research at Florida State University, “Students at risk of not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts as reasons for staying in school. Factors related to the arts that positively affected the motivation of these students included a supportive environment that promotes constructive acceptance of criticism and one where it is safe to take risks.”
Organizations such as ArtsEdSearch, an online clearinghouse that collects and summarizes high quality arts education research studies and analyzes their implications for educational policy and practice, have done private research about the issue. AEP Executive Director Sandra Ruppert said that the findings in the report point to the power of the arts to lead the way in helping every child realize success in schools
“This is especially true for underserved students who benefit most significantly from arts learning but are the least likely to receive a high-quality arts education,” Ruppert said.
Research has also shown that arts education helps improve standardized test scores. A study done by The College Board, a nonprofit association that works to make sure all students in the American educational system are college-ready, found that students who take four years of arts and music classes while in high school score 91 points better on their SAT exams than students who took only a half year or less (scores averaged 1070 among students in arts educations compared to 979 for students without arts education.)
“Arts education gives children a place where they can express themselves and channel negative emotion into something positive. Students are well-rounded and required to be academically healthy in all subjects to perform. To be honest, what is learned in music education is truly immeasurable,” said Barbara Benglian, the 2006 Pennsylvania state teacher of the year. Benglian has been teaching at Upper Darby High school in Drexel Hill, Pa., for nearly 40 years. Her school was one of the many schools at risk of losing their arts programs due to low test scores. However, the arts programs at the school were saved after parents, students and alumni organized petitions and protests rallies. Even Upper Darby alumnus and actress Tina Fey jumped on board to help save the arts program. Other schools around the country are not as fortunate.
Several Howard University students who participated in music and arts education in grade school and high school speak fondly of the positive effect it has had on their lives.
“In elementary school, music sparked my interest and led me to playing the trumpet. It gave me the opportunity to travel to places I otherwise would not have gone, and most importantly, helped me become more culturally accepting by broadening my musical horizons,” said Joe Williams, a junior majoring in psychology. “Without music, I would not be as open as I am to learning about new people.”
Nate Shellton, a sophomore, chose to dedicate his life to the arts by majoring in acting.
“I think it’s absolutely outrageous that fine arts are the first to be cut in public schools,” he said. “It says a lot about what is important to education in America. Because math and science is what is being tested, tests that determine a school’s ranking is what is most important to the school, but the institutions’ ranking is not necessarily what’s in the best interest of the students as a whole person.”