Staten Island Arts
UNITING COMMUNITIES THROUGH THE ARTS
Fast fact: Tweet her @hartandsolmomo
Monica Valenzuela knew from an early age that she wanted to be involved in her Staten Island community, and that desire to serve has carried through to today. As deputy director of Staten Island Arts, Valenzuela works to mesh the arts with civics, melding the arts world with the work of developers and government officials while also providing opportunities for young people to get involved in artistic endeavors. “Something that’s at the forefront of a lot of our work is to bring artists and developers into conversation, to bring artists and city government into conversation,” Valenzuela said. She believes that by getting kids involved early, her organization can open doors for them, making them realize how important art is in all walks of life, perhaps setting them on a career path they might not have otherwise chosen. “People are constantly interacting with their world through art, and that creates an opportunity to create powerful connections and gives people a tool to create change,” she said. Valenzuela also currently serves as a member of the Times Square Alliance Curatorial Committee, Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts of New York, Department of Transportation Art Committee and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce's Young Professionals Group Leadership Committee.
NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?
MV: I was always working in the community growing up, so I think it made me naturally inclined towards nonprofit work. But, I didn’t really think of it as nonprofit or for-profit, and I think a lot of people don’t know the difference. I think when you care about your neighborhood and you care about your community there isn’t much of a difference. I was looking for a job that would allow me to do that and that matched me with the nonprofit sector.
NYN: DESCRIBE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
MV: I am most proud of my work on the LUMEN Festival, an annual performance and video art festival.
NYN: WHAT CHANGE WOULD MOST HELP THE INDIVIDUALS YOUR ORGANIZATION SERVES?
MV: Increased funding for arts education and integration into multidisciplinary and intergenerational curricula, for youth to seniors, would help communities address non-arts issues.
NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?
MV: Before I retire, I would like to start a collective for arts administrators from different organizations to address advocacy and professional development.
NYN: WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
MV: When you start to empower artists and work at the neighborhood level to make art happen, it really brings the community together because a lot of jobs and a lot of facets of life have a creative aspect. I think it’s something that allows people to express themselves, express ideas, express concerns. It’s multi-faceted and I think it’s an excellent way to do activism, an excellent way to bring communities together after a tragedy and celebrate culture and learn about each other.