ArtsConnection | Teen Programs Staff

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Amanda Guest
Teen Programs Manager, Exhibitions
Art2Art
Student Art Program
Teens Curate Teens

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in London, England.

What college did you go to?
I attended Harvard College initially in pre-med and then as a Visual Environmental Studies Major.

How did you become involved in the arts?
As a kid I constantly drew what I saw around me. My father was an architect with an office at home and I saw the building designs taking shape on his drawing table and visited construction sites with him. Museum visits were a big part of our family time. When I took a year off from college, I worked in a hospital lab while taking evening life drawing classes. There was an “aha!” moment when I learned that in drawing there were endless things I wanted to explore and to find a way to have the time to do that. After graduation, I came to NYC to study drawing and sculpting from the figure at The New York Studio School. Fast forward through an art career, having a child… I got involved in creating art opportunities at my daughter’s school for the students and the community and this brought me to work at ArtsConnection.

What’s your favorite thing about living in NYC?
The people and the passions that draw us here. I also love exploring new neighborhoods- and getting to know new school communities.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I was the one with the big hair.

briana
Briana Thomas
Assistant Teen Programs Manager
High 5 Tickets to the Arts
Pizza and a Movie

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in The Boogie Down Bronx.

What college did you go to? 
I majored in Art History and Spanish at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

How did you become involved in the arts? 
My high school Art History class really hooked me. On one hand,  I was excited looking over the images and the museum trips for the semester.  On the other hand, I remember being intimidated by names I wasn’t sure how to pronounce and long lists of vocabulary terms.  My professor was amazing, he taught me that I already had the best tools : my eyes and a perspective that was all my own; the vocabulary you’ll learn, that’s no problem.  With those words, that became my favorite class and a place where I knew my voice was always heard.
I continued with Art History on through college where I worked at my school’s art museum giving tours to school groups. What I gained from that class drives me to keeping looking for ways to break down barriers and connect students to art.

What’s your favorite thing about living in NYC? 
It never sleeps! No matter the time, stores are open, trains are running, people are out and the city is filled with possibilities (and material for the best stories you’ll ever tell).

One interesting fact about you from high school: 
My fifth-period Conversational Spanish class was better than any gossip magazine or telenovela. My professor tended to go on tangents about his younger years and we gladly encouraged him.

Dionne Thornton
Program Manager, Museum Connections

Where did you grow up?
I’m a southern girl, born and raised in Tampa, Florida.

What college did you go to?
I graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a major in History (early European focus) and minor in Music (operatic voice).

How did you become involved in the arts?
Music has always been part of my family and was my entry point into the arts as well. I sang in school and church choirs but I always yearned to do more. Sadly, I kept that yearning secret because I lacked the supportive environments and opportunities to explore the arts in more depth. That lack fueled my determination to work in the arts: to support artists and champion creative expression.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
The culture and diversity of NYC is like no other city in America. This makes NYC an amazing place to explore the depths of one’s identity and find supportive community for what’s discovered. You can “simply be” in NYC but it does come at a cost because equality and equity are still significant issues here.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I hated high school. That said, I knew extracurricular activity filled high school years would give me a path to escape Florida. So I did it all: sports, Student Government and was even President of the National Honor Society.

 



Kristina Gonzalez
Teen Programs Manager
Teens Curate Teens
Teen Reviewers and Critics (TRaC)
OnTRaC

Where did you grow up?
I’m a born and bred Brooklynite.

What college did you go to?
I studied Advertising and Marketing Communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was constantly inspired by my career driven classmates and industry professional professors.

How did you become involved in the arts?
In elementary school, I loved to be on stage. I was a glee club nerd and still proud of it. Unfortunately, puberty hit and I soon became tone deaf, so my dreams of becoming an international popstar were over. It was also the same time my dad gave me his old Nikon SLR camera and I soon had a newfound love for photography. That camera went everywhere with me, whether it was a birthday party or just a day at the park with friends. In 2008, my photography teacher encouraged us to enter this “contest” and we’d have the chance to win a $100 gift card from B&H photo. While that may have excited my classmates, I was more thrilled about having my photo potentially displayed in a fancy Manhattan office. That contest ended up being ArtsConnection’s Student Art Program and it was the highlight of my high school career. I was selected three different times between Junior and Senior Year. It was the first time I could follow my passion and develop my work ethic.
Ten years later, I am now on the Teen Programs team and it has been the most rewarding experience overall.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
I’m a major foodie and am constantly looking up new restaurants or dishes I can try via Instagram. I’ve always felt so lucky to grow up in a city where different cultures and their cuisines are not only celebrated, but also accessible to try.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
In all four years of high school, I spent every free period in the darkroom developing my photos.

 

 



Rachel Watts
Executive Director
Director of Teen Programs and DEI Initiatives

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Ghana, but I grew up mostly on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean.

What college did you go to?
I created my own major at Williams College. It focused mainly on the arts and culture of the Caribbean.

How did you become involved in the arts?
From an early age, my parents realized that I loved to dance and I was lucky enough to be put in dance classes early on. I performed for many years in a children’s dance and theater company until I left Trinidad for college. In high school, I studied visual art and it was the one place I felt successful as a student. It really helped me navigate those awkward years.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
I love taking the subway to new neighborhoods and arts events with my friends. There are so many stories to encounter on the subway and arts events to experiences in all 5 boroughs. We are really lucky to live in New York City, where the world meets.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I was the captain of my swim team. My dad used to say I swim like a dancer.