Carley Robinson was transitioning from her work in health education to theater when she discovered a Creative Catalyst Fellowship in Education and Engagement at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY The Fellowship, supported in partnership with the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at UNC School of the Arts, proved to be the perfect stepping stone – her fellowship progressed into a full-time role at Hangar as a Learning and Engagement Associate.
Robinson had worked with Hangar the previous summer as a teaching assistant and was excited about the opportunity to combine her interests by bringing together the things she is passionate about. “Combining my interests in theater and working with young people was a dream, and to be able to do this in a community that has given me so much has felt extremely fulfilling,” she says.
Her scholarship began last June, and Robinson began working closely with the theater’s youth summer programs, particularly the Next Generation School of Theatre, offered to children in grades one through ten. Other projects included community engagement around Hangar’s production of “An Odyssey” and working to reimagine and oversee Project 4, the theater’s in-residence arts education program.
For Shirley Serotsky, artistic director of the Hangar Theater (and a graduate of the UNCSA School of Drama in 1999), the fellowship was an opportunity for the organization to begin to evolve its approach to educational programming as a whole. “The scholarship and engagement position has allowed us to reimagine, refocus and redefine our approach to in-person educational programming in the summer of 2021, after a full year of exclusively virtual programming,” said Serotsky. . “Carley brought a sense of compassion, enthusiasm and incredible creativity to this role. Young people and parents alike were happy to have her thoughtfulness and care in the position, as we welcome them back to explore the improvisation, play design, musical theater skills and more in theater.His supervision and care, especially in times of COVID, has been invaluable.
This thoughtfulness and ability to start conversations is what led Hangar to offer Robinson the full-time job. “Working with Carley has really opened up the conversation about how we embed learning into all aspects of what we do – from our mainline productions, to our theater shows for young audiences, to the programs we have historically referred to as ‘educational programs.’ We are excited to continue working with her to discover how learning can be exciting, enjoyable, expansive and, of course, creative.
Below, Robinson reflects on his time as a Creative Catalyst Fellow and the opportunity to continue his work with theater and education.
How has the Creative Catalyst Fellowship helped you achieve your professional goals?
The scholarship introduced me to arts education on a larger scale than being a freelance teaching artist and really gave me the opportunity to explore what my place could be within an institution. .
The biggest boost was getting a return offer to work full-time at the Hangar. The scholarship introduced me to arts education on a larger scale than being a freelance teaching artist and really gave me the opportunity to explore what my place could be within an institution. . Now I have a different perspective on how all of our educational programs work together and how they fit into our theater season as a whole. As I continue my journey to The Hangar and beyond, I am excited to explore how theaters can better integrate educational programming and production.
Can you describe some of the work you have done as a Fellow? What was the most exciting? What challenges did you encounter?
I definitely jumped right into it at the start of this scholarship. In June, we were gearing up for our Next Generation School of Theater summer lineup, and our first-ever outdoor theater season was kicking off. I was in charge of creating a training program for new teaching artists and accompanying them once the lessons started. All of our classes took place on the theater grounds, so students were able to see rehearsals and professional productions in real time. They got to see how everyone in the theater was battling the weather as we created a full season of outdoor programming. In the midst of a pandemic, the children challenged me to tap into my creativity and joy to overcome difficulties.
Can you tell me about any other recent artwork, work or projects you have been involved in?
I will be performing in a new job with Civic Ensemble. I worked with Cornell’s Department of Performing and Media Arts and consulted Clockmaker Arts. I really try to understand the landscape of the Ithaca theater scene and continue to foster a relationship with the community as a whole.