OP-ED: The Arts Leadership Boot Camp at QC Inspiring and Supportive

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From Friday, Mar. 3rd to Sunday, Mar. 5th, Queens College hosted the “Arts Leadership Boot Camp” featuring students selected from several different CUNY schools. Students were given art-related resources and tools, whether it was from introducing job opportunities, finding creative outlets, promoting one’s art, or finding resources to showcase their art. 

Why is the support for art given by the Arts Leadership Boot Camp so critical? According to Dexter Stanley-Tauvao, a student at Aaron Copland School of Music studying Music Performance, “I think art is crucial to us as humans because of all the stress and burden of everyday life. It lets us express ourselves — not only artists but also those who don’t practice; one can find art that expresses their thoughts and feelings which can be really therapeutic. Art often helps us to communicate and understand and express things we can’t express so easily otherwise!”

As one of the Arts Leadership Boot Camp participants, I gained a unique outlook on my work because of the event. My art form is poetry, and I use my experiences as an Asian-American to spearhead my work. One thing I noticed was that the participants all had one thing in common: the ability to showcase one’s identity whether it was through playing an instrument, dancing, or opening up an exhibition. I think as artists it’s important to build a sense of community which many of the experts in the talk panels gave advice towards. In one of my group sessions led by Claudia Norman, an arts producer and consultant, I was given advice and a chance to talk and hear from my peers about our art ideas. The advice I gathered was to connect and network — it’s important to find people that can help me grow as an artist and I was told to follow a few poets on Instagram. We live in a digital era where we can connect to people through digital media. 

There was also an arts pitch competition where students pitched their artistic ideas to judges and I placed in third. It was a wonderful experience being given a chance to go up on stage and share my art idea. Stanley-Tauvao, the first place winner, explored the development of a jazz orchestra that, in his words, “Focuses on the music of my culture [and/or] geographical location, promoting this music across the world, and giving musicians from these areas a world-class ensemble they can aspire to play for one day.”

 Throughout the bootcamp, one phrase kept coming up: “To live is to change.” This means that it’s important to change as an artist and allow different perspectives to influence you. Another piece of advice that I found empowering was: “Don’t hold yourself to purity.” This inspires me because it teaches me to be ‘messy’ as an artist. It’s not important to make my art a linear process, but rather it is a curvy line of ups and downs. Trial and error are important for someone who wants to enter the creative world. Stanley-Tauvao advises, “Love what you do and work hard at it. It’s a big and scary world out there, but if you can take care of ‘your side’ of the artwork on your skills, be disciplined and focused and all of that — if you can take care of the art, there are people out there who would love to help you! If you have a vision, look for people who can help — find projects that are similar and reach out to the people involved.” 

Overall, I think this bootcamp was a success. For Dawn DeVito, a student at Queensborough Community College, the Arts Leadership Bootcamp exceeded her expectations, “I learned an overwhelming amount about all of the different journeys and paths your art can take you. As someone who has always loved being creative but never really made connections in the art world, this was a great start to forming those necessary relationships.”

I hope there are more events to encourage creativity among CUNY students. Art within the working environment is difficult and making financial outcomes is important for everyone. Many creative majors do not always result in a job straight away, so networking and hearing from successful people who were in the same shoes as yours is inspiring and reassuring to continue growing in your chosen field.

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