Running from October 17th, 2022 to December 22nd, 2022, Park Avenue Armory’s Youth Corps fall semester was a way for high school students such as myself to further connect to and explore jobs in the arts. Those who participated had the opportunity to view and discuss the featured installation at Park Armory at the time, Julian Roosevelt’s “Euphoria”. Our discussions primarily revolved around the work’s themes, setup, and how we may want to let factors from this installation influence our final capstone project. But outside of the installation viewing and our capstone project which occurred in late November through December, our experience consisted of the following things, all of which occurred on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays following our school day: 5 “micro-sessions” which introduced and further taught us about different forms of art- each session being dedicated to something different such as film, choreography, theater, music, and visual arts; sampling and giving feedback to teaching artists who practiced their lesson plans on us before taking it to schools; assisting the administration department with preparation for the “Snowflake Lounge” event; and working front of house shifts which required frequent social interaction with strangers.
In addition to these experiences, some notable things we did in the first couple of weeks were an educational tour of the Armory where we were able to learn about the building’s history and creating a murder mystery event to engage with some of the workers at the Armory.
Returning to the capstone project, it was a final art project in which we chose how we would want to encapsulate what we learned from this semester as well as other topics which were important to us. This connects back to Julian Roosevelt’s work as we specified that these “topics” would be social justice issues, similarly to how Julian tackles, addresses, and provides complexity to a specific social issue in all of his pieces. Following the creation of this project, however, we were assigned to discussing our Youth Corp experience in a Q&A. I specifically was tasked with speaking about the Capstone Project, going over its conception to it’s final execution. The following is what I shared regarding this:
“From the start we wanted this project to revolve around the concept of social issues- specifically the ones that are important to us. The first step of starting was implementing a brainstorming process that we learned from one of our micro-sessions- just throwing ideas out there and writing them down. We were able to bring up and have conversations on the social issues of our choosing that we possibly wanted to further explore in the project. On a later day, we reflected on that list and came up with a more refined process in which we each contributed a single social issue and spoke about the art form we wanted to pursue along with a basic idea of what the project would be, examples being a film, dance, or piece of visual art. After brainstorming on this in small groups, we shared it with each other and voted on a general idea of our project. It should be noted that the entire time we all had this general understanding that during the whole process of creating this basic idea- we would be fluid and open to changes and new concepts. Besides deciding on the project being a film, we also used this process to decide on the name of the project- a vote was held and the final name of “Rocky Doves” was chosen, credits going to LadiRoyale, one of my fellow Youth Corps.
Ciara and Bev, the Youth Corp Managers, outlined the different groups needed to accomplish this project and from there everyone was evenly split between groups of their pick- these groups being; Installation team, Shot List Team, Audio Team and Choreography team. All of these teams eventually merged into one another after different points of the project were passed on the schedule that again, Bev and Ciara were kind enough to create for us. Each group worked on their own thing, but constantly collaborated with each other as many parts of the project required the contribution of several groups at once. Every day we updated each other on our progress and what else we hoped to achieve within the given schedule. I’d also like to note that everyone found a way to be included and involved in this project. One, within the groups themselves the input of everyone was asked for before making any finalizing decisions and even after certain decisions were made, there was room for additions, critiques and general comments. Even for people like myself who didn’t want to be in the film- I was given the opportunity to be the one filming and learned how to use certain camera equipment like a gimbal. We all remained one cohesive unit working towards one main goal with each other even when we were separated with different tasks.
Back to the main process, we followed the general steps of brainstorming, creating a timeline, and putting that timeline into action. For the action part, we encountered some difficulties. Our original plan was for the film to be a smooth one shot, meaning no cuts, panning between everyone. However, with things such as sickness and subsequently, missing people on shooting days, having to refilm a couple of times over two different days, and New York City weather, we had to improvise and use stand-ins meaning we would need to cut clips together, use the black and white filter, and overall endure the wrath of mother nature. Even though we definitely strayed from the original concept- we worked around it and were able to produce a final product.”
Throughout the whole semester, we received feedback from the mentors, which were Youth Corps from previous years of this long-running program. This entire program created a collaborative environment in which not only did we interact with each other, but we also sought out assistance from other branches of the Armory, specifically production whom were extremely helpful in aiding us with the set-up of the installation, providing us with the screens, projectors, and seating. Overall, I heavily enjoyed my experience at the Armory as not only was I able to explore art forms which was my original motivation for joining, but I was also introduced to the different jobs and tasks that go behind big installations and art productions. I was also able to solidify the fact that I’m not suited for customer service work.
Below are statements from other WHSAD students who participated in Youth Corps Fall Semester:
Alan Munoz, WHSAD Junior
The Auspicious Berry
The sky outside 68th Street, Hunter College was cloudy and unpromising. “Did I really pass that interview?” I asked myself while scrolling through places on my phone to eat near the Armory. Eventually, I found a nice bagel shop and ordered a strawberry cream cheese bagel. I was forty-five minutes early, and decided to calmly enjoy the treat right outside the Armory, when all of a sudden a random girl walked up to me. “I remember you from the interview session,” she said. Truthfully, I did not. However, I tried my best to be friendly and said that I totally did remember her. We exchange names and Lia tags along with me.
One thing that I learned over my sixteen years of living is that faking it until you make it works like a charm at random intervals, as my ability to use Google Maps has earned me a new friend. Anyways, we go to the bagel shop and she also orders her bagel. This helped us kill time and then we made our way to the Armory.
The rich interior design mixed with the building’s gothic style created an unexpected welcoming and serious environment. When all of the 12 other interns came, the overall feeling was very tense, and so the Youth Corps Manager, Ciara, ensured that everyone felt welcomed and included to this awkward stage in our Junior/Senior life. Over the course of the next few weeks, all of us interns worked together as a team to come up with ideas regarding the rules and standards of the Youth Corps. Honestly, because we did so much research about gaining context about the Armory and an upcoming art installation, Euphoria, the details of our activities in October remain fuzzy. Nevertheless, the fondest memory I have about the Armory is when Lia and I assisted the development team for their annual winter wonderland event, Snowflake Lounge. This event is for children ages three and up in which they enjoy games, delicious treats, photos with Santa, and holiday-themed crafts. Lia and I, along with other experienced Youth Corps staff, were in charge of the bag decorating station- a station in which children decorate their paper bags with stamps, crayons, stickers, and fine jewels. The first half of my shift was sort of trivial. While kindly rejecting food samples from servers that were going around, I asked myself, “How was I going to interfere with precious family moments concerning parents bonding with their kids? Children don’t follow rules..”
Eventually, I start getting the hang of it and tidy up the working space. People were asking me to help take pictures of them and their families in front of the dazzling Christmas tree. I was too focused to realize that my supervisor and I were the only ones working at that station. It has been thirty minutes since Lia ended her break, and yet neither her or the other person greeting the guests was present. Just as I was about to text Lia, my supervisor tells me that they have been snatched by other stations. Lia was busy helping children at the candle making station and the other person was at the snow globe making station, carefully cleaning pinecones.
My break begins, and I go up a floor with Darling (another intern) to seek the cookie decorating station. I began to walk up the stairs feeling confident in myself as a variety of music was playing from Nicki Minaj to Drake. Shockingly, as I got there, all of the cookies were gone, and I tried to appease my sadness with deformed gummy worms leftover from the station. All of a sudden, I remember that there is a hot cocoa station, and so I immediately rush down a flight of stairs.
Fortunately enough, there was still some left. I quickly enjoyed my hot cocoa and stirred it with a candy cane while heading back to my station. Still being by myself, I attended to spilled drinks over the table and felt less pressured as time moved on. There was a family that caught my eye. The only Hispanic family of the night that came to my station. It reminded me of the moments I had with my family, and I felt really happy to introduce them to the wide range of supplies my station had. With great pride, the little girl tells me “¡Mira lo que dibujé en mi bolsa!” which translates to “look at what I drew on my bag”. I reply enthusiastically and say “Se ve muy bonita” (it looks very pretty). Due to there being insufficient staff at my station, I noticed that the father was missing a program which contains a variety of activities and the location of multiple stations all throughout the Armory. As I hand one over to him, he says “Gracias hijo” (thanks son). When I returned from grabbing some water to cleanse the sweetness from the hot cocoa, they were gone. I wonder if they went to other stations.
Snowflake Lounge ends and I finish cleaning up all of the stations with everyone else. I talked with the rest of my friends on the magnificent elevator and from what I could tell, they really enjoyed the event. My view on the entire internship was expanded, and I really liked contributing overall. We head up to our little lounge and Bev, the Youth Corps Coordinator, tells me that someone from the development team was impressed by my work at the station. I was filled with pride that my hard work was noticed, but I did not even notice that I was being watched.
I remember when the people working there first brought in the dull Christmas trees. Now, they shine very brightly and glitter with the hundreds of golden lights, waiting for a special someone with a bright red nose.
(On December 12th and 13th, I got to enjoy the cookies that I yearned so much to taste. Needless to say, they did not live up to my expectations. Sheena witnessed how loud the gingerbread sounded when I tried to munch on it. I paired it up with some hot chocolate, and it tasted delicious.)
Annalisa Fortune, WHSAD Junior
Working at Park Armory is like being with family. It’s very carefree and judgment free. Everyone there is very friendly so you don’t have to worry about fitting in. I thought it was going to be hard working there. But ever since I joined, I’ve had nothing but fun in that workspace. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to go and ask the workers there about their experience about working at Youth Corp. I’ve also had more opportunities to see former Youth Corps who even used to go to Whsad. It was wonderful communicating with them. Everyone is treated equally and it’s an environment where your opinions matter. I’ve learned a lot more ever since I joined and it’s been very mind opening.
We recently had a project where we collaborated with mentors on social justice issues which was inspired by the film Euphoria by Julian Roosevelt. Everyone had opportunities to lay out different social issues. Not all of the ideas that were chosen but we still were able to collaborate and reach a ground point agreement. We also got to watch the installation to base our own short film on that. Julian laid out so many different civil liberty issues which were capital punishment.With Youth Corp, we made our project similar to that since it was with what we thought were the civil liberty issues that affected us.
Besides working on projects we all had other things that we did such as demos. Demos are like when they go through lessons with us that they’re going to use at other schools and they need us to give them feedback before taking it outside the armory and trying it with other students. Experiencing the demos is quite fun because I also got to see one of their lessons in school before I even started working in the armory. I got to see their process of how they start. Everyone is carefree there and it’s a healthy environment that you’d enjoy being in.