In 2008, Penn State School of Visual Arts faculty members John Bowman and Ann Shostrom founded First Street Green (FSG) with the goal of cleaning up the rat-infested vacant lot next to their New York City apartment and creating an “art park” for the Lower East Side community. After three years of planning, fundraising, and gathering local support, their dream became a reality when they launched First Street Green in First Park in collaboration with New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Partnership for Parks.
Today First Street Green not only serves as a valued community asset in the Lower East Side, but also an important place for Penn State art students to gain hands-on experience in arts administration and event planning through internships.
According to Bowman, FSG’s interns—which have also come from New York University and Cooper Union—carry out a variety of crucial functions for the organization, including coordination of publicity and social media, logistical support, and community outreach. “We rely on the interns for their expertise in working on the proliferating social platforms that are re-making our contemporary internet commons,” said Bowman. “They also help us with essential analog functions, like providing muscle for deploying our material resources in the park, placing seating, providing electrical hook-ups for films and musical performances, and returning equipment to our storage facility after an event. In addition, they help to comprise the public face of our group, and serve very important roles in our public relations efforts. We are proud that they are from Penn State SoVA.”
Shostrom said working with interns and other young people at First Street Green is an extension of their work as Penn State faculty members. “Part of what John and I do as professors is mentoring,” she explained. “A lot of teaching in the visual arts is about mentoring; you help students figure out what they need for their individual development and growth.”
Elise Warfield, a B.F.A. candidate in painting, is this summer’s First Street Green intern. She said she decided to intern at FSG because it sounded like a fun way to gain professional experience. “So far, I’ve gained hands-on experience with art space work and learned a lot about the management of ‘open art spaces,’” she explained. “This experience will help me prepare for gallery work. Eventually I’d like to become a painter, and gallery work would be a good way of supporting myself while I pursue that goal.”
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Story courtesy of Amy Milgrub Marshall