A conversation with Development & Program Assistant, Jennifer Morrison and Resident Artist Mentor, Dailen Williams.
The New Urban Arts experience is difficult to put into words, both for the youth and the adults in the studio. Artist mentors play an important role in New Urban Arts’ success and also contribute to some of its mystique. When I heard Resident Artist Mentor Dailen Williams comment that she sometimes “tricks” students into trying something they claim they can’t do, I knew exactly what she meant. I fell for the trick just a few weeks earlier. The trick is, however, far from malicious. “People know more than they think they do,” says Dailen. “You just have to reframe it for them. Sometimes I do that by introducing a time limit—‘draw something in ten seconds!’—so then there’s no time for it to be good. If you frustrate them, they’ll show you what they can do out of desperation.”
Whether out of desperation or something else, it works—perhaps, as Dailen says, because producing comes secondary to having fun. “New Urban Arts is like an endless barbecue. People are just hanging out, and it’s as low-key or intense as they want it to be. It’s all about hanging out and building relationships.” Relationships are one of the reasons that Dailen remains involved at New Urban Arts. I’ve met new peers and made relationships here that would be really hard to walk away from, because of how invested I am in them.”
In building those relationships, students are able to learn about new opportunities outside of the space. Artist mentors support students in their art-making, Study Buddies in their academic work, and A Life After School mentor in creating a path to post-secondary success with help. “The studio’s like a weird magnifying bubble,” says Dailen, “that helps you figure out where else you might go and what else you might be able to try.”
Dailen explains, “hearing or reading about New Urban Arts isn’t the same as seeing or experiencing it.” We love to show people around the studio. Contact us to come for a visit!