Exploring Passions

Emma performing
Emma Z. performing Sugar Plum Fairy. Photo courtesy of www.actionpic9.com.

I actually met Sarah-Jane Ripa during Orientation week at an event on Wesleyan’s campus where she was running a booth for Green Street Arts Center. I asked her about ballet classes at Green Street and she told me that none were presently offered but that she would be glad to find me a teacher so I could continue my passion for dancing. She told me that she would make it work.

I didn’t know it then, but I would be working with Sarah-Jane just three months later. Since coming to Green Street I have found it to be the kind of place that supports people following their passions. I have had the pleasure

Students working on Homework

of speaking with many of Green Street’s adult students who tell me how much they enjoyed their teacher or their class and they want to make sure to sign up for the next session. As for the kids of Green Street, it is clear in their faces. Just yesterday I worked with a child in the after school program, who quickly finished all her homework (getting all her spelling words correct) and who then wanted to color pastel pictures with me, and the day before I watched a first-grader correctly finish his math homework in 5 minutes, and then ask me for long division problems to practice for fun.

The Community Mural Project

I have spent the past year working with Sarah-Jane and the other members of the Green Street Arts Center team on various projects, helping to run events, working in the after-school program, and organizing classes. This is a group of extremely dedicated people who truly do make it work. Despite tough economic times, Green Street has remained dedicated to its students. There are so many options available to the point where you can sign up for a class or a private lesson in nearly any creative genre you could think of. You can also attend interesting events ranging from the Sunday Salons to cultural dance events to various performances by local musicians.

I think that Green Street is a place where anyone can come to express themselves and explore their passions. Sarah-Jane made the ballet class work for me and my friends and we study on Saturday mornings with a fantastic teacher.

I love coming to work at Green Street because it is my way of being active in the community I am living in. I thoroughly enjoy working with the children and adults of Green Street to share our common passion for creative expression with the Middletown community. It has affected me in a very meaningful way and because of it, Middletown, as well as each of us, is more beautiful.

Submitted by Emma Zawacki, Wesleyan Student and Green Street Worker

Green Street as seen through the eyes of After School Student Gabby M.

Gabby and Lisa sat down one day to talk about what Green Street Arts Center means to an 11-year-old 5th grader in the After School Arts & Science program.

Learning at Green Street:

Gabby M., After School Student

I first took photojournalism because I took some pictures for my best friend’s graduation, and they came out really, really good, so I thought maybe I should take pictures when I grow up.  My mom signed me up for the class and now I’m so happy.  I’ve learned a lot.  I didn’t know how to post pictures to make a calendar, and I can do that now.  The style of the cameras is really cool; we use different kinds of digital cameras, one blue and one grey.  I have my own, so after photojournalism I can still take pictures.  My favorite subjects to photograph are people and weddings.  I want to be a wedding photographer when I grow up.

Since Marela, the mural teacher, came to talk about the mural we are about to paint, I’ve taken time to draw pictures for the design.  Now she is going to put me in the Arts & Science program that will be working on the mural.

I also learn piano with teachers David Davis and Allison House.  Even though I didn’t sign up for private lessons, they just started teaching me scales and sharps.  I know some of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, the theme from Harry Potter, and I’m working on learning how to read music.

Green Street & my life:

When I first came to Green Street I didn’t know anybody, but now, 6 months

Gabby playing with angles.

later, I know everyone by heart.  The staff is really nice and helpful.  Wesleyan volunteers even help us with our homework! I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.  I’ve definitely changed since coming to Green Street.  I now get A+ on all my homework because of all of the academic help that I get.  I love it here.  I don’t have any friends at school, so I like Green Street because I’ve been making lots of friends.  My mom says I’m always smiling when I come out of Green Street.  When I’m older and finished with school, I would be proud to come back to Green Street to help with the kids as a staff member.

I just want to say thank you to Miss Cookie for letting me go to Green Street because without her I wouldn’t even be here writing this blog.

To view some pictures that Gabby took, visit our Facebook page.

Submitted by Gabby M., After School Student, with help from Lisa Bruno, Development Assistant

Upcoming Green Street event: Music and Dance of Bali

Come to Green Street for a musical journey to the tropical island of Bali! This Friday, Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University will host an evening of Balinese music and dance with performances by traditional Balinese ensembles. This dance is characterized by expressive hand gestures and intense emotion conveyed through the face as the dancers act out a story or series of events. In Bali, birthdays, weddings, and temples festivals are all occasions for dramatic performances and dance, as they are inextricably linked with the Balinese religion.

About the performers:

Dharma Swara is comprised of about 40 individuals who come from a variety of academic, professional, and artistic backgrounds.  They study a variety of forms, from ancient dances once performed to entertain the rajas in their palaces, to the contemporary kebyar ensemble.  For this concert we are joined by Green Street teaching artist Shoko Yamamuro, dance coordinator for Gamelan Dharma Swara, Noopur Singha, and students of Wesleyan’s Balinese Dance class led by Urip Sri Maeny.

Wesleyan’s Balinese Gamelan Angklung group performs under the direction of Gamelan Dharma Swara’s music and education coordinator Peter Steele. Steele is a musician, scholar and composer working primarily on Balinese Gamelan music, which he teaches at Wesleyan. With an M.A. in ethnomusicology, he is also an active performer and composer, having several of his works performed by Balinese ensembles at the annual Bali Arts festival.

Music and Dance of Bali takes place on Friday, April 30 at 7pm. Tickets are $10 for non-members; $8 for members, students, and seniors; $5 for Wesleyan Staff, Students and Faculty w/ID.

For more information visit www.greenstreetartscenter.org. To purchase tickets call us at 860-685-7871.

Submitted by Lisa Bruno, Development Assistant

Thinking About Pete Seeger

Sunday Salon Series Brings Wesleyan Professor to Discuss Legacy of Legendary Folk Singer

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger is very possibly the most important U.S. folk singer of the 20th century, a central figure in the music of social movements from the labor movement of the 1930s to the environmental movement of today. For the past year Wesleyan Professor Rob Rosenthal has been working with Seeger on a forthcoming collection of his papers, The Pete Seeger Reader. At Green Street’s Sunday Salon Series, Rob will discuss this work, Seeger’s place in American music, and invite audience members to share their thoughts and memories of this beloved musician.

This informal lecture takes place on Sunday, April 25 from 2–4pm as part of the Sunday Salon Discussion Series, Green Street’s monthly discussion series for creative minds and curious individuals hosted by Wesleyan University Chemistry Professor David Beveridge. Each monthly salon includes plenty of opportunity for socializing as well as a reception with light refreshments.

Admission is $5 for the general public and $3 for Green Street members, seniors, and students. Green Street Arts Center is located at 51 Green Street, Middletown, CT. To register or get more information, please visit:  www.greenstreetartscenter.org or call (860) 685-7871.

More About Rob Rosenthal
As a professor of sociology at Wesleyan, Rosenthal is an expert on housing, homelessness, social movements and the culture of social movements. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and his master’s of arts and Ph.D fromthe University of California Santa Barbara.

Rosenthal is the author of 18 published articles, seven of which cover the topic of homelessness. His book, Homeless in Paradise received the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award in 1995.

He teaches Introductory Sociology, Urban Sociology, Housing and Public Policy, and Music in Social Movements to undergrads, and recently taught Music in Social Movements to students enrolled in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program. In this class, Rosenthal questions how the actual use of music can create movement cultures. Students listen to musicians such as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Rage Against the Machine, and Public Enemy and discuss how their music relates to movements in the United States including the labor, civil rights, new left, woman’s, and current inner city movements.

Submitted by Adam Kubota, Center for the Arts

Teaching Artist Shawn Hill connects Healthy Eating, Creative Writing, and Technology

Shawn Hill’s extensive web-design experience and creativity continue to expand the imaginations of kids in his animation class and adults who have taken his blogging classes.

After School students love Shawn’s animation class because it allows them to get silly with colors and images while exploring topics that interest them.  Walk into class, and you’ll see kids discussing how best to present the topic: “How can we show glaciers melting?”, “What colors will be the most vibrant to combine?”  Global Warming was the theme for projects two years ago, after which the students focused on healthy eating.  This year, kids are letting their imaginations go wild as they animate science phenomena, vividly demonstrating the splitting of an atom, magnets, the mixing of colors, and electricity.  Check out their video about eating healthy: Fruit is Fuel

The After School students in Shawn’s class will debut their exciting videos at Green Street’s Arts Fest on June 12th.

Green Street Community Members also benefit from Shawn’s knowledge of the blogging world.  Photographers, painters, individuals concerned with a social issue, or people who want to share their passion and experiences have all gathered for Shawn’s Web-Design and Blogging class.  Shawn is especially excited by the blogging world because of the wide range of topics that blogs can cover. One of the most unique topics he has assisted with was for people interested in duck-decoy carving.  As an expert in web-design, html, and many other intricate computer languages, Shawn thinks that these techniques are overly complicated for practical, every-day purposes.   Even though blogs are not “God’s gift to original aesthetic,” they work well for anyone wishing to share information on the internet.  Shawn hopes to continue to share this passion with interested community members this spring in his Blogging & Web Design Class on Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30pm.

Submitted by Noah Klein-Markman, Wesleyan University Class of ‘13

A Taste of Green Street’s New Membership Program

Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University recently sat down with

Outside Iguanas Ranas

local business owner and Green Street partner, Polo Martinez to find out more about business at Iguanas Ranas Taqueria. As a partner in our Membership Program, the restaurant offers a free soda with every $10 purchase to our Members. Read on to learn about their fabulous dishes and community connections.

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Polo came to Connecticut 20 years ago. His wife, a native of Mexico City, and children followed soon after.  After years of experience in the restaurant industry, the Martinez family decided to try their hand at business.  Iguanas Ranas Taqueria opened in 2008 and has been making a name for itself ever since.

Nestled in Middletown’s North End, Iguanas Ranas offers deliciously authentic Mexican cuisine at economy-friendly prices.  Of all their delicacies, Polo tells Green Street, the burritos and the tacos are the most popular.  The Oaxaqueña a 15-inch creation, originally called “tlayuda” in Mexico, is something you have to see to believe.   Everything is homemade and fresh, which makes all the difference when you are competing with the multitude of restaurants in Middletown.  While they do have a set menu, Polo says that Iguanas Ranas is able to make other dishes to order. So if you’re craving enchiladas or mole, just give them some notice!

“We are happy, because everybody is happy.” –Polo Martinez, owner

Polo thinks that the large Latino population combined with Iguanas Ranas’ commitment to authentic, homemade foods are key in their success.  It is clear that this taqueria is in demand; Polo routinely receives requests for other Iguanas Ranas locations around the state.  While expansion is not currently on the menu, Polo hasn’t ruled it out.  When asked how he thinks another Iguanas Ranas would fare, the owner said, “I’m not scared. You make good food, people look for you.”

Are you taking full advantage of our partnership with Iguanas Ranas? If you are a Green Street member, show your membership card and get a free drink with every $10 purchase.  If you’re not a member, call us at (860) 685-7871 or email gsac@wesleyan.edu to join! Visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/members/ for a full list of membership benefits.

Submitted by Lisa Bruno, Development Assistant

Green Street Programs and Offerings

Green Street Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University (GSAC) offers a variety of programs for everyone! Here is a glimpse of what’s inside.

After School Students on a fieldtrip to the CT Science Center

After School Arts & Science Program – At the core of Green Street’s offerings is the After School Arts & Science Program. We have a wide array of opportunities for students in grades 1-8 to explore their creativity and develop practical skills for everyday life during after school hours. Students may enroll in a 4-day track to focus on one area of the arts, or may, with their parents, choose any combination of classes to engage in any number of the five artistic disciplines (Visual, Sound, Movement, Media, Literary) offered at Green Street. Classes are held from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM for grades 1 through 8. From 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Thursday, students may enroll in GSAC’s unique Academic Enrichment program. Friday programs take place at Macdonough Elementary School and represent an effort by Green Street and Macdonough to forge a closer bond between the North End neighborhood, the arts and the local youth resources.

Green Street works with the Board of Education to offer bus transportation from several public schools.  We provide a nutritious snack to students arriving before class time, engage the surrounding community through service learning projects, and give students a venue for biannual performances and displays of work. Need-based full and partial scholarships are available upon review for any student seeking to participate in Green Street’s programs.

Guests enjoying a talk with author Jamie Cat Callan.

Evening & Weekend Program Each evening and weekend Green Street offers courses in Movement, Music, Visual, Literary and Media Arts. Classes are generally offered in five or six week sessions and open to people through out the region. These classes are great for brushing up on old skills, learning new skills, socializing and having fun.

Friday Nights – Many Friday nights feature interesting and exciting events at Green Street. From local bands like Goodnight Blue Moon and Bus Hits Bridge to film screenings of Middletown B-Boys and To Brooklyn & Back: A Mohawk Journey and even cultural performances like the Music & Dance of Bali, there is sure to be something to spice up your Friday Night!

Sunday Salons – Led by Wesleyan professors, these information discussions present new research and cutting-edge information. You are invited join the conversation in a comfortable setting. Some of our previous discussions have included Reading the Nobel Prize Winners, Race & Politics, Music & Mystique of Downtown New York, and History in Sound & Motion. Coming soon, Thinking About Pete Seeger with Rob Rosenthal, April 25th!

Community Partnerships – Green Street continues to partner with the North End Action Team (NEAT) to offer free classes to community members including Computer Basics, Foreclosure Prevention, and First Time Homeownership.

Teacher Kerry and a student.

In addition to this partnership GSAC works with the Cromwell Children’s Home, Bielfield Elementary School, Portland Park and Rec, and the Boys Club at the CT Juvenile Training School offering classes and workshops.

We continue to reach into our neighborhood working in the Erin Street Community Garden, creating murals for the neighborhood, collaborating with Oddfellows Playhouse amongst many other projects.

That is just a glimpse inside Wesleyan’s Green Street. We hope that you will come visit us soon. And check the blog regularly for interviews, information and more!

A Brief History

In the late 1990’s the North End of Middletown began to undergo a revitalization to remove the blighted properties and clean up the neighborhood. The North End Action Team was formed in 1997 to help community members organize and have a voice. In 1998 a committee of North End stakeholders was convened to discuss a vision for the future. The committee expressed the community’s desire for a central gathering place. Conversations were held with then Mayor of Middletown, Dominique Thornton and an arts center was suggested. A feasibility study in 2001 suggested that the North End community and Wesleyan University would support an arts center, and identified the property of 51 Green Street as a critical piece of real estate due to its central location.

Arts Cafe during renovations.

The City of Middletown committed to renting the location to Wesleyan, who then began a fundraising campaign for renovations and operations, which resulted in support on the federal, state, and local levels. Renovations to the building began on May 2, 2004.  Originally the Johnson Street School in the late 1800’s and later St. Sebastian’s School, the building was a perfect fit for an educational center.

While renovations were taking place, pilot programs were run through the Green Street Arts Program at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street in Middletown. Classes included Music Alive!, children’s dance classes, and an after school program of about 20 students. In partnering with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, workshops with artists in residence were also held. Green Street Arts Center officially opened its doors at 51 Green Street on January 5, 2005.

Through the essential partnership of the North End Action Team, the City of Middletown and Wesleyan University, Green Street continues to offer programming for preschoolers to adults and we continue to reach out to the surrounding community. Many of our participants have been with us since our programming at Holy Trinity Church. We will highlight their stories in upcoming articles.

Welcome to the Green Street Blog!

Green Street Exterior ShotHello and welcome to the Green Street Blog!

An emerald sitting prominently in Middletown’s historic North End, Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University is a gathering place for people from all walks and stages of life to join together and explore the arts. Through this blog we hope to introduce you to Green Street, inside and out. We will highlight our programs, students, Membership partners, classes and events and more!

Green Street is a three-story arts and education center currently celebrating its fifth anniversary. Here you can find an eclectic mix of events, exhibitions, classes and workshops offered to local individuals and families, as well as people from more than 25 surrounding towns. Green Street’s state-of-the-art facility includes a sound recording studio, black-box theater, computer and media labs, and dance and art studios. Since opening in 2005, more than 20,000 people statewide have participated in programs from the visual, performing and media arts to early childhood development. Through evening and weekend programming and special events, audiences sample a wide array of performances, lectures, and workshops from professional artists, Wesleyan faculty, and visiting and local artists.

With its mission of enriching lives through the arts, Green Street enables people from diverse backgrounds to converge in one special place.  Ours is a place that celebrates diversity, while encouraging us to learn more about our community.  The high-quality After School Arts & Science Program remains at the core of Green Street’s offering, providing youth with arts education, homework assistance, mentoring, and nutritious snacks, all in the context of a safe and creative environment.

Green Street Arts Center’s greatest asset and most unique quality are its origins. Evolving from a collaborative spirit of Wesleyan University, the City of Middletown, the North End Action Team and other stakeholders who recognize the potential in their community, Green Street was destined to become a beacon of change. Since its inception, Green Street has always been viewed as an extension of Wesleyan University. Green Street was fully embraced under the umbrella of the Center for Community Partnerships at Wesleyan in the Fall of 2008.

Green Street is open Monday through Friday from 9am-6pm for regular business hours and is often open later for events and classes. We hope that you will stop by soon for a tour, to get more information, or to participate in an event.

See you soon!