Alumni Spotlight

As part of New Urban Art’s 25th Anniversary, we will be spotlighting current programs and initiatives across the organization. Alumni stay connected to New Urban Arts in a variety of ways from staying in touch with the ALAS program, volunteering, joining our staff and board, and becoming donors. For our eleventh month we asked five alumni to share what they’re up to, and how NUA has influenced them since graduation. 


Emely Barroso Madé, class of 2010
Currently involved with NUA as a Volunteer Artist Mentor. 

NUA has been like a home base that I could always come back to since becoming an alum. My life has changed in so many ways after graduation, none of which I could have foreseen.  Coming to the studio felt like a reward after a grueling hurdle of the school day. Then after college didn’t work out & I moved out of the New England area, I lost a lot of myself for a long time. As my life kept changing, so did NUA! We both had big moves, so many new faces have come in & out of our lives, we would look so wildly different than we did back when I was a student. Yet that feeling I had during open house all those years ago has never changed. I’ve always felt welcomed here. Whether it’s someone who’s known me since I was a teen or someone I’ve met a handful of times from a studio meeting now as an adult, that feeling of warmth, comfort & acceptance is the same. I feel really blessed & grateful to still have this connection. Now being a part of the new volunteer mentors has been a dream come true that I never thought would come true. But it did! That’s something NUA’s also offered me through all these years. Whether it’s been with art or in my personal life, being a part of NUA has given me these chances to make something I couldn’t see or believe happening come to reality.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since moving back to Rhode Island. All these challenging lessons & changes that have come with this move keep happening whether I’m ready or not so it’s been good to have one constant in my life. I’m looking forward to seeing how NUA & I keep changing & how we continue to grow together. I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of NUA, past & present, who’ve all helped shape me into who I am today. I’m glad we could build this home together & congrats on 25 years. I hope to pass that feeling on to the next generation of students & being a part of cultivating this space they can always be excited to come back to for the next 25 years. I’m still drawing & working on making comics. It’s funny how much I reflected on all these huge life changes but I still feel like the same kid who came to NUA to work with the then comics mentor. I’m also working on going back to school to pursue art education or graphic & web design. I took a long break from making art so it’s exciting to think about the possibilities of what my art can be or look like getting back into it. I still love cartooning, painting, making books & zines but now that I’m older I’ve also come to love film & sculpting also one of the resident mentors, Ian Cozzens, put me on to sewing these cute plush toys so I’d love to see how I can learn from & mix up a little of everything from all these mediums.

Angella Nakasagga, class of 2019 
Currently involved with NUA through A Life After School. 

First, I want to say that NUA has been a constant string in my life that has catalyzed my successful achievements outside and inside the classroom through highschool to my current day in college. Engaging in a co-creative/academic space like NUA has truly made me appreciate the meaning of aligning passion and purpose. So many lessons learned from Mara [former ALAS Coordinator], and the check-ins with Addy [the current ALAS coordinator] have been a shining star guiding me through admission processes, dissecting career and academic choices, and always-needed words of (life) wisdom. Now I am currently a junior at the University of Miami studying Public Health and Economics. All my personal projects are to do with economics research, and I hope to continue a life of learning through later-life post-grad studies. I really like to paint and since my start in NUA, I have engaged in the practice more deeply creating a few canvases that are dear to my heart.

MJ, class of 2021
Currently involved with NUA through A Life After School. 

Since I graduated, New Urban Arts has supported me academically and financially, which I greatly appreciate as a low-income, first-generation student. In addition, Addy has been incredibly helpful and supportive when I have questions about FAFSA or scholarships. In 2020, I participated in a virtual summer program focused on discovering different styles of art. I really enjoyed learning the different media and started writing poems as a form of storytelling and journaling. 

Adrienne Adeyemi, class of 2006
Currently involved with NUA on the Board of Directors 

New Urban Arts has been very instrumental in my personal and professional development. Participating in New Urban Arts’ programming as a high school student, and other like nonprofit organizations, inspired my career in the non-profit field. I kept in touch with NUA leadership – leaning on them as mentors as I found my own path, and I’ve now come to see them as close colleagues and friends. I had the privilege of serving as New Urban Art’s state grant officer during my time at the RI State Council on the Arts. I am now serving in my second term as a New Urban Arts Board Member, having recently been appointed as the Chair of the Development Committee. New Urban Arts has a funny and magical way of bringing its own back into the fold for our time, treasures, and talents. It’s been an honor to serve in various capacities over the years and to watch New Urban Arts’ evolution over time as I’ve evolved into the adult that I am today.

Dana Heng, class of 2011
Currently involved with NUA as a Resident Artist Mentor 

When I moved back to Providence after college, even after my immediate family moved away, I knew I wanted to come back to NUA to be a volunteer artist mentor. I started mentoring in film photography in 2016, which happened to be the first medium I tried at NUA while I was a student under the mentorship of Erik Gould back in 2007. After that year in photography, I was hired to co-teach the 2017 Summer Art Inquiry, and then I was hired onto year-long staff as a Resident Artist Mentor later that autumn. Since then I’ve participated in several professional development trainings, including ones in Painting with Mediums, Youth Development, and Restorative Justice.

As artist mentors, we are trained in NUA’s core practices, one of which is “[Youth] Agency and Freedom of Expression.” It has taken me my lifetime to instill this practice within myself, even as I’ve navigated higher education and the art world as a young adult. As an employee of NUA, I’ve felt like my coworkers have all mentored me at varying degrees. My coworkers and supervisors asked the right questions to guide me in a direction of my choosing, whether it was a vague goal I needed help working through for professional/career development, or a specific desire to create a studio system for student works-in-progress. It feels both collaborative and supportive. Whenever I tell friends outside the org that I’m never told what to do at my job, they are confused! It has been an empowering experience to feel supported by such a flexible workplace. Of course we instill structures that make sense for everyone, but we are ready to change when needed. The people here really define the studio, not the other way around. I am still currently employed at NUA. I work part-time, so I have flexible time for my own creative practice–which is all over the place!

Before the pandemic, I was doing a lot of fun installation collaborations with friends in unconventional spaces. We threw weird installation art parties called Ice Floe to help fund DIY projects, such as the first two Queer/Trans Zine Fests. In 2018 I co-founded Binch Press with some friends, with the idealistic dream of creating a radical community space for meetings, events, art, and publishing. In 2019 I was the RISD Museum Artist Fellow, and collaborated in a museum intervention with a socially-engaged art project, Look At Art, Get Paid. In that year, I also tried out a solo studio practice, which was unusual for me, but I learned a lot about myself and how I want to be a creative person. I’ve always been interested in the culinary arts, and the pandemic times really let me lean into it even more. I was doing caregiving work with my grandma, helped her cook, and documented many of her traditional Khmer home recipes. I’ve done a couple food pop ups, and I also just let myself get really creative at dinner time for a private audience. I’ve taken a couple clay hand building classes during the pandemic too–and that’s been a nice steady speed for creativity. Rediscovering my creative practice after March 2020 has been a slow process, but I am not too worried! I still think a lot about gender, labor, domesticity, mundanity, food heritage, and social and natural worlds when making (or not making) artwork.