Five Takeaways from the Art Force 5 Summer (2018)

As the Art Force 5 departed NYC last weekend, the long U-haul ride back to Alfred allowed me time to consider our accomplishments and potential for next year. Here’s a short recap of the five takeaways of the summer.

1. True Hero-Building Internships: Eight students spent their summer together, discussing divisive issues in our news, the history of various conflicts, and ways to serve others. While they provided an impressive amount of outreach to thousands of people, these college students’ exit-surveys all indicated their same desire to DO EVEN MORE. These young people are hungry to change the world. This experience let them do just that and they wanted MORE. It was my pleasure to watch the engagement and experiential learning of Zaire, Ali, Michael, Marvin, Kelsey, Elvira, Imani, Kat and Noah. Thank you all for joining the team.

2. Official heroes of Governors Island: For thirteen weeks we made an impact on Governors Island. The Island’s staff often referred to us as the friendliest group on the island. Underneath this simplest of compliments hides the secret to the Art Force 5. It is not about us but about valuing everyone around us and treating each encounter with the upmost worth. So thank you to the heroes of Governors Island who made our experience a success; Shane, Liz, Hannah, Merritt, Eric, Jeff, Jessica and everyone else who welcomed us so graciously.

3. Harlem Potential: Towards the end of the summer we achieved an important goal of beginning to serve Harlem and recognize the community’s history. We researched photo collections at the Schomburg, made action figures alongside the NYPD, and provided non-violence workshops to the YMCA. We plan to develop a proposal to expand our footprint in Harlem as we near the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. As we champion art and equality, it is fitting that we honor a movement rich with both.

4. Alfred University: While my alma mater has never had the financial resources to heavily invest in this program, the AU community continues to provide wherever and whenever it can. My presence in the city was due to release time from my supervisor Gerar and at the expense of my co-workers Betsy, Billie, and Shelly. More than fifty alumni stopped by with words of pride and encouragement. Manhattan’s Deputy Borough President Matthew Washington, an Alfred alumnus, was a constant source of support and advice. Provost Stephens and VP Woughter made trips to the island to offer support and listen to my big dreams to develop a center on Governors Island - a dream which would require more financial resources than my small university could likely spare. Which leads me to our financial sponsor…

5. Making SUNY Proud:  Alfred University is home of the New York State College of Ceramics, one of sixty-four amazingly diverse entities under the State University of New York. This entire summer program was made possible from a SUNY Performance Improvement Fund shepherded by SUNY’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (thank you Elizabeth, Carlos, and Meylin). This summer team was comprised of students from five different SUNY schools – Purchase, University at Buffalo, Morrisville, Tompkins Cortland, and Alfred University’s NYSCC. I could ramble on for three more paragraphs about the potential of partnering with SUNY but I’ll just let this amazing experience speak for itself and challenge all 64 schools (including my own) to look beyond your own campus’ walls to collaborate statewide.

Most importantly, my personal takeaway is that my wife and children are my greatest superhero support team.  Thank you for allowing me to spend the summer fulfilling this long-held dream and believing in the value of the work that we do.

Dan Napolitano
Director, Art Force 5
Assistant Dean, School of Art and Design
New York State College of Ceramics
Alfred University

Dan Napolitano