Supporting Arts and Culture
From Off-Broadway premieres to local festivals, museum preservations, community choirs, and more, the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) provides funding and support to all types of artwork across the state.
As Bronwyn Edwards ’19 discovered during her summer internship with NYSCA, the process of administering over $41 million in grants to 2,400 arts and culture organizations throughout the state is no small feat.
“Until this winter, I knew nothing about the process of grants,” said Edwards. “I knew you filled out an application, but I didn’t know about all that happens afterwards. It was a learning curve for me, especially since NYSCA is such a huge organization, to keep up with the sheer volume of applications and people.”
Edwards found her summer internship opportunity through her past winter Field Work Term (FWT) experience at A.R.T./New York, which serves and advocates for New York City’s nonprofit theatre community.
A.R.T./New York participates in NYSCA’s decentralization program, which allows A.R.T./New York to redistribute allotted NYSCA grant funding to the theatres with which the organization partners.
Edwards met Kathleen Masterson, NYSCA’s program director of literature and theatre, when Masterson came to observe this regrant process. From this connection, Masterson invited Edwards to apply for a summer position at NYSCA.
“I did similar work in both places, but on a larger scale,” said Edwards, who worked with NYSCA’s theatre and literature programs. “I got to meet a lot of people from the field, both in literature and in drama, from across the state: New York City to Rochester to Western New York.”
While at NYSCA, Edwards got to observe the granting panel process, wherein experts from relevant artistic fields meet to discuss and rate applications.
“During the discussions, panelists read hundreds of applications and discuss them in depth, which takes significant time and effort,” said Edwards. “When I was working at A.R.T./New York, there were fewer applications, so it was easier for a panelist to read through those, but the same level of discussion that happened for applications at A.R.T./New York happened at NYSCA. Everyone had great respect for their peers.”
During the course of her college career, Edwards’s summer and FWT experiences have all explored various facets of arts administration. The trajectory of her education at Bennington, however, has shifted significantly from where she expected it to lead.
“I initially wanted to study literature and go into publishing, but when I got here, I discovered I had a passion for theatre, which I had done in high school but thought that was the extent of that,” said Edwards.
For her first FWT, Edwards read scripts for Primary Stages, which dovetailed with her interest in publishing at the time.
“As my time at Bennington has evolved, I’ve become more interested in the political side of arts and culture, so I’ve begun to gear my jobs and FWTs that way,” said Edwards.
The summer after her second year, she interned in the development department at New York Public Radio. Working for a public news organization, said Edwards, well-prepared her for her position at NYSCA.
For her final FWT, Edwards is interested in delving more deeply into journalism, perhaps with a FWT at a local paper.
“After Bennington, I’m interested in looking into arts and cultural journalism, which isn’t something I would have thought about doing my freshman year,” said Edwards. “Even though I still primarily study drama—that hasn’t changed—the way that I see and approach my work in drama has changed significantly at Bennington.”
By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer