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Meet Daniel Schleifer!

Relationship with New Urban Arts: Executive Director

Daniel Schleifer received his B.A. in Ethnic Studies from Brown University in 2004. He joined the New Urban Arts community in the fall of 2007 to pilot our Studio Study Buddy program, which combines academic tutoring with the structure and values of New Urban Arts’ Youth Mentorship in the Arts Program. Daniel is also a founding member, Sousaphone player, and composer in the What Cheer? Brigade, an 18-member brass band that tours internationally while remaining a local institution. In 2011, he received the prestigious MacColl Johnson fellowship in music composition from the Rhode Island Foundation.

Before coming on staff at New Urban Arts, Daniel worked as a policy researcher, organizer, grant writer, and lobbyist for Open Doors RI (formally the RI Family Life Center). In 2006, he served as field director of the Rhode Island Right to Vote Campaign (a project of Open Doors), a successful effort to amend by referendum, the Rhode Island Constitution, to extend voting rights to individuals on probation and parole.

We interviewed Daniel and asked them to share with us how they got started with New Urban Arts. Here’s what they said:

How did you first hear about New Urban Arts?
I first heard about NUA from Andrew Oesch who was my roommate at the time and he told me that there was a place where education was happening for young people and that they had a say in the education they were getting.

How long have you been involved with New Urban Arts?
I have been involved in the 2007-2008 school year when I was the first Studio Buddy.

What’s something that you think makes New Urban Arts stand out from other organizations?
To me the biggest thing is, we work so hard to create an environment that is safe and yet gives young people as much freedom as possible to determine their own educational experience.

What was the last adventure you chose to go on? What did you do?
I’ll talk about the adventure I’ll be going on later today! I’m going to New York City to play some new horn parts for the band Blondie which is a pretty crazy and exciting opportunity. The thing that makes this an adventure is that we’ve been communicating with them a lot leading up to this but they haven’t really given us much clarity about exactly what they want from us when we get out there. They sent us a track, and some ideas then said “But really just come up with whatever you want, we’ll just figure it out in the studio!” But the way that I’m used to working in the studio is to have a very clear plan, because “What Cheer” (Dan’s band) is such a huge band we can end up wasting a lot of time and money, because in the studio time is literally money in the studio.

Why do you support New Urban Arts?
There aren’t enough places in the world where anyone gets to feel free. In particular young people of low income, and more specifically young people of color. NUA is an important exception to that dynamic. That’s why I support NUA. It’s not just about what we provide and what it does for young people. I consider it a real privilege to be here because I learn so much about how the world could be or should be and about dynamics between people and about how people learn particularly young people.

If you were in High School, What Projects would you work on while at New Urban Arts?
Thinking back on my own High School experience, I think I would be in the sewing area patching up clothes, making new clothes, and making giant shark costumes. I would also be making a lot of friends. It’s funny because a lot of the friends I still have from High School are people that I was creative with in some kind of way, and New Urban Arts would have likely been the center of my High School career as tit is for a lot of the kids who come here.