ArtsConnection | Teen Programs Staff

allison
Allison Whorton
Teen Programs Manager
Art2Art
High 5 Tickets to the Arts
Teen Advisory Council

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Los Angeles, California (the valley, to be exact.)

What college did you go to?
Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. There I studied theatre, literature, and psychology.

How did you become involved in the arts?
I grew up performing in elementary school plays and summer camp musicals. In high school, I became more serious about acting – I participated in each school play and musical (and even directed a bit) and ended up being the president of the Thespian’s Society my senior year. I discovered the world of arts education, theatre outreach, and the performing arts for social change in college. I began teaching drama to students at nearby elementary schools where my passion for providing young people with access to the arts was ignited.

What’s your favorite thing about living in NYC?
The culture that we’re surrounded by every single day; listening to that incredible performer on the subway platform on my way to seeing a new off-Broadway play. I try to see and listen to and experience as much art as possible because we’re so lucky to have it all around us. That, and the incredible FOOD.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I was voted “Most Dramatic” in my senior high school year book. (Not much has changed.)

ag
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 Program Manager – Teen Programs
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.



Detric Hicks
Teen Programs Manager
MS266k SONYC Program
Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies
McKinney Secondary School for the Arts

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the “Motor City” Detroit, Michigan.

What college did you go to?
I went to Eastern Michigan University as well as The Art Institute of Jacksonville.
I received my Degree in Film from Eastern Michigan University.

How did you become involved in the arts?
I have always been involved in arts as far as I can remember.
My mother used art to teach to my siblings and I as a way to express our individuality.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
Networking and creating with the mosaic of artists that NYC has to offer.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I was the man in high school (the nucleus of the school). I was friendly with many different groups in school, which prompted everyone to become very fond of me and helped me become President of the student body. I also attended every senior planning meeting with teachers, to ensure that they were doing right by us. Additionally, I staged a sit-in when we went two semesters without a math teacher and students were given incompletes as their grade and we wanted that changed, since it was not their fault. We succeeded. I did it, even though I was in AP Calculus and I wasn’t directly affected.



Ella Keymer
Teen Programs Coordinator

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chelsea, Park Slope, and the suburbs of NYC—but Brooklyn will always be my hometown.

What college did you go to?
I’m a First Year student at Sarah Lawrence College and I’m studying film and computer science with black squirrels and trees in the suburbs.

How did you become involved in the arts?
I became involved with the arts because I needed to express my passions somehow—lugging a camera around almost everywhere and creating some interesting conceptual paintings involving cactuses and clowns just happened to be how I did it.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
I love to explore new neighborhoods by taste—if I could spend a whole day walking around the city and stopping occasionally for xiaolongbao, arepas, and dollar slices, I’d be the happiest girl in New York City.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
During high school, I was known for three things: trying to get my friends to come into the city with me, talking about Canada too much, and dishing out great restaurant recommendations (I was super cool, I promise!). I took part in almost every teen program ArtsConnection has to offer—three semesters of TRaC, creating artwork for Art2Art, curating for TCT, being a member of TAC, chilling at Pizza and a Movie Night most months, and seeing countless shows on High 5 Tickets.



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.



Madjeen Isaac
Student Art Program Assistant

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

What college did you go to?
I went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, majored in Fine Arts minored in Art History.

How did you become involved in the arts?
I’ve always been involved in the arts throughout my childhood as a hobby and explored many forms of it (drawing, painting, sculpture installation, stop motion animation, graphic design, videography, jewelry design) through extracurricular activities in high school. For me, the ability to create and share my experiences gave me voice. My first exhibition was while in high school through a program I did at Smack Mellon located in DUMBO. This became a pivotal moment for me when deciding that art was more than just a hobby. The best decision of my life was deciding to go to art school for college. I’ve learned so much about myself as a creative, broadened my horizons of my knowledge of the industry (still so much to learn!) and is more than positive that viable careers in the arts exist!

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
-Brunch
-Gallery/mural hopping
-Long walks at Prospect Park
-Exploring nature and beautiful community gardens
-Exploring culturally rich neighborhoods

One interesting fact about you from high school:
Aside from being an artist, I started a dance club and performed in front of the entire school twice… I am glad I stuck with Visual Arts



Rachel Watts
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.



Rina Ortega
Communications Manager

Where did you grow up?
I was born in the Philippines but migrated to Texas when I was five. I grew up in Dallas.

What college did you go to?
I was a Human Biology, Pre-Physical Therapy major at Texas Woman’s University for the first two years of college. Then I moved to New York City just two weeks after my 20th birthday and transferred to Fashion Institute of Technology where I eventually received my Advertising and Marketing Communications degree.

How did you become involved in the arts?
I am not an artist, per se. I don’t sing, draw, paint. I’m not a dancer or actor. I’m a patron and supporter of the arts. The arts were introduced to me when I was in grade school. The Catholic school I attended valued the arts and it was there where I discovered the Dallas Symphony in the 1st grade, the Dallas Museum of Art in 5th grade and the Dallas Opera in 6th grade. Also worth noting—in college, I always had an A in Art History!

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC?
I love food. I love trying new cuisines and restaurants—especially desserts I find on Instagram.

One interesting fact about you from high school:
I went to Lakeview Centennial and I played basketball throughout high school—we were district champs my senior year.