Meet our new intern Julie DeVito!

Julie

AFA: What are three words that best describe you?

JD:Patient. Loyal. Young-hearted.

AFA: What made you interested in Arts For All and arts education?

JD: I first became interested in arts education as a freshman in high school in Palm Harbor, Florida. One day, my study hall teacher asked me if I would be interested in volunteering with a weekly art class for the mentally and physically handicapped at our local arts center. Unsure of what to expect and completely aware of my lack of artistic ability, I decided to give it a try and by the end of the first night, I had fallen in love with the class. I stayed for four years, and it was one of the most influential aspects of those four years of my life.

In many ways, the students were more loyal to me for those four years than my peers were. Every week, without fail, they would welcome us as we welcomed them with warm smiles and open hearts.

We laughed as Stuart begged for another cookie (he wasn’t supposed to eat them but had an obsession with them), raved as Michael (although deaf and unable to hear our instructions) blew our minds with his talent, and sighed when yet again Lori soaked her paper, palette, cup, or soda can to the point where it dripped with paint.

Some weeks, the last thing I needed was two hours less of time to accomplish the already too-tall order of academics for the night, yet still I went.  Flashcards in hand or paint brush in hand, those evenings were always my reminder of the need to be humble.

Watching the videos of that night and flipping through the photos from the years there, I can’t help but wonder how they’re all doing now. I can’t wait to see them again someday so I can thank them for having impacted my life so much.

One night in May of this year, I returned to Just Imagine for the end of the year party. Seeing their faces again and watching their laughter at the simplest of things, I remembered just how much I loved those Tuesday nights. As Susan turned to me and insisted that I keep her pearl bracelet “to match” my necklace, Tony, her assistant, told me how she always talks about me. I can’t describe the feeling of knowing that I might have actually made a difference in even one of their lives.

When I met with my advisor at NYU over the summer, she began sharing with me some of the organizations that other students had interned with in the past. Although I’m studying journalism, I found myself especially drawn to the mission of Arts for All. I remembered how much I loved seeing how even a little instruction in art drastically improved the outlook on life of the students in my Just Imagine class. After reading the blog series that Carly wrote about the importance of arts education, I was even more excited to join the team as an intern this semester.

AFA:What are you excited to learn this fall at Arts For All?

JD: I’ve never worked in a non-profit organization before, and I’m very excited to see the day-to-day operations that make it possible. I also look forward to meeting and interacting with all of the teaching artists to see how they play a role in the lives of the children they work with. I hope to learn and experience firsthand more of how important arts education is in the lives of everyone, especially students who might not otherwise have access to it.

AFA: What childhood experiences did you have with art?  How did they   impact you?

JD: I grew up in a family surrounded by the arts. My older sister for most of my life was a musician and a visual artist, later to become a pastry chef (food can be an art too). My mother shared her love of theatre with me at a young age as well, me memorizing the lyrics to Les Miserables after her playing it in the car. It’s definitely a part of my childhood that I remember most fondly.

In elementary school, I began to have negative associations with art, even though I used to love it, because of my instructor. The art teacher that I had for five years, was very strict, and often scared me when I wasn’t completing a project as she wanted. So I began to dread going to class each day. It wasn’t until high school that I began to realize how much I enjoyed the arts. Even though I have never been the most artistically talented of my friends, I have always enjoyed and appreciated art in its many forms. My best friends in high school were thespians in our theatre troupe. They lived and breathed everything theatre. I was involved in the yearbook as the photography editor and a writer on the school paper, but more and more I found myself hanging around the theatre after school helping my friends rehearse lines, or paint set pieces. By my sophomore year, I too was on the board as secretary of our thespian troupe and it definitely influenced my decision to come to New York for college.

AFA: Who do you look up to, professionally and personally, and why?

JD: One person that I admire most, both professionally and personally, is the journalist Ann Curry. As a Journalism major, I’ve spent many years looking critically at the media and its major players, and while in many ways I grow disgusted by what I see from others, I continue to become amazed by the work that she does. In a world where much of the news is biased, and often not of real significance, I really admire her dedication to the serious, and often dangerous stories that need reporting. Outside of her work as a journalist, she is also involved philanthropically, and although I don’t know her personally, seems to be genuinely a good person. I would love to meet her one day.

AFA: What do you hope to do after college?  What’s the dream?

JD: After I graduate in the Spring, I hope to spend a year at NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi as part of their Global Academic Fellowship program. Although I really love writing and journalism, I know that in reality it may be a difficult road to pursue as a career. So after the year abroad, I hope to pursue a Masters or Doctorate degree in Higher Education Administration or Student Life in order to hopefully work in a university or other form of education administration. But I’ll definitely also be continuing my writing and photography (perhaps as a freelancer) as well, because I can’t imagine life without those in it.

AFA: What’s your favorite piece of art?  Be it theatre, a painting, a song…and why?

This is definitely a tough one. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I definitely think my favorite would fall in the category of theatre. And from there, I have a few favorites, but most recently, I would say the musical Next To Normal. The complexities and emotions portrayed by the characters were so raw and left me thinking about the show long after I left. I also enjoyed the score and the set, which played a key role as well as the acting in my enjoyment of the show. It actually opened up conversation between a few friends of mine about the world of psychotherapy and the stigmatizations involved, which showed how theatre can encourage conversations about important, but tough topics. I also recently really enjoyed the play Sonia, Vanya, Masha, and Spike by Christopher Duran.

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