Hello, I'm Enza, Executive Director and co-founder of Via Arts. I'm pleased to introduce myself here in my first blog post on our brand new page! Among other things, I'm an adventurer who loves to travel and experience new things. I've lived on more Streets, Avenues, and Roads than I can count. In fact, when asked to provide my address on a form or application, I almost always need to take a moment to remember my current zip code.
A year ago, I finished my doctoral studies and eagerly awaited my little family’s move to the next road, street, or avenue. (Who knows maybe this time it would be a “Drive,” or a “Circle?”)
I put in applications and I waited. And waited. Nothing was happening and I began to feel a little lost. I knew this type of feeling is common after transitioning out of graduate school, but knowing this didn't keep those questions about the worth of my Theatre degree from weighing heavily on my mind. So after a five-year hiatus, I decided it was time to navigate my way back into the Connecticut community arts and arts education scene. It was time to get back to the work that sustains me and reminds me of my purpose in this life.
I was fortunate to meet the directors of Via Arts’s first partner, New Britain Youth Theater (NBYT). I was invited to see one of NBYT’s Home School program share days and was inspired by the young people who performed so confidently and with such exuberance. After weeks and months spent alone in a windowless office writing my dissertation and applying for academic positions, it was just what I needed to get motivated. I wanted, no, I needed to be back in the field again. NBYT then asked if I would facilitate professional development workshops for their teaching artists and direct their summer program for the Consolidated School District of New Britain. They began to call me their “Arts Education Consultant,” and I thought: “Hm, that’s interesting, never thought of myself as a “consultant” before. Isn’t that what professionals in the corporate financial world call themselves and not artists?” I began to do some research and realized that as an expert in my field of applied theatre with youth and communities, I could easily provide advice that would assist arts companies as they worked to deepen the scope of their services. Though, I admit that at first the idea of “consulting” seemed vague or rather temporary. I had some reservations. I didn't want to provide some quick advice, conduct a workshop or two, and then move on to the next client before the work really had a chance to happen.
Then I met Via Arts Director of Strategic Planning, Kristianna Smith, a talented, intelligent, and vibrant person who immediately became a kindred spirit. Over many cups of coffee, we exchanged stories about our life-changing experiences in the field of theatre and we imagined the possibilities. From the start, we shared the same vision for arts in communities and passion for social justice and education through the arts. We discussed what it might be like to establish an arts service organization whose staff provide expert advice a la traditional consultants, but whose mission moves beyond temporary fixes into creating long-term, needs-based, reciprocal partnerships where everyone involved learns, grows, and becomes better humans. We discussed working with arts and non-arts entities such as schools, local community organizations, members of the corporate sector, and government agencies. We shared our mutual hope that all partners would be able to recognize, or at least be open to exploring, the value of enhancing a person’s quality of life through creation, collaboration, dialogue, and arts-based learning. More importantly, we began to design a business venture that would keep us actively working out in the field and deeply rooted in our communities, something we both believe is crucial to our well-being as people and as applied theatre artists. It was over these copious amounts of coffee and animated brainstorming sessions that Via Arts was born.
Why the name Via Arts, you might ask? Well, each time Kristianna and I would meet to dream our dreams, or the universe would somehow validate my decision to become an arts entrepreneur who proactively seeks out opportunities to make a positive impact with what she knows and does best, I felt more grounded and a little less lost. My path became clear again. I began to realize that the road I consistently return to is the one that always makes me feel like I am traveling in the right direction. This is the street where I have always “metaphorically” lived and continue to feel most at home: the street paved with the arts and all they have the power to make. This constant sense of place makes the unknown a lot less scary.
Thank you for visiting our page and learning about our services. We look forward to your feedback and connecting with you along the way. Please check back for new blog posts and updates on our current partnerships to see what we're making with the arts!