ASTEP receives Equity Foundation’s Paul Robeson Award

Equity Foundation’s 2016 Paul Robeson Award
Goes to Artists Striving To End Poverty


New York, NY, September 27, 2016–Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP), a nonprofit organization founded by Broadway musical director, conductor, orchestrator and musician Mary-Mitchell Campbell, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Paul Robeson Citation Award presented by the Actors Equity Foundation.

Created in 1971, the award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Mr. Robeson devoted his life: dedication to the universal brotherhood of all humankind, commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression, belief in the artist’s responsibility to society, respect for the dignity of the individual and concerns for and service to all humans of any race or nationality. The award was voted on by members of the Actors’ Equity Paul Robeson Committee, chaired by Allyson Tucker Mitchell.

ASTEP joins a distinguished list of previous award winners, including Paul Robeson, Maya Angelou, Alice Childress, Jacques D’Amboise, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Athol Fugard, James Earl Jones, Joe Papp, Sidney Poitier and George C. Wolfe.

ASTEP was conceived by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and students at Juilliard, where she was on the faculty from 2003-2009 and continues to conduct workshops, with a mission “to transform the lives of youth using the most powerful tool they had: their art. Today, ASTEP connects performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty.” Among its many programs, ASTEP runs a six-week summer arts academy for refugees, provides volunteers in a nursing home to work with kids in Washington Heights, focuses on children with HIV and other health challenges, as well as conducting performance workshops in homeless shelters and community centers, all run by a network of dedicated volunteers.

A major fund-raiser is planned for December 12, 2016 as ASTEP’s Annual Christmas Concert will be held at Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan.

“We are so incredibly honored to be given this award, and we are grateful to the many artists that have volunteered with us and continue to work toward creating better lives for young people,” says Campbell, who continues to serve as ASTEP’s Executive Director.

When not at ASTEP, Campbell has a busy musical career. Broadway shows for which she has served as Music Director and/or conductor include The Addams Family, Company, Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland and My Love Letter to Broadway, Kristin Chenoweth’s upcoming limited engagement concert at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

The Paul Robeson Award will be presented at 2pm on Monday, October 24, 2016 at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting of Actors’ Equity Association in the Council Room on the 14th Floor of the Equity Building, 165 West 46th Street in New York City.

The Actors Equity Foundation, a philanthropic and humanitarian nonprofit organization, was created in 1962 to aid and assist the members of the acting profession and to promote the theatre arts. It is separate from Actors’ Equity Association and is funded by estate bequests and individual donations.


“Zazise” in South Africa!


Since 2011, artsINSIDEOUT has gathered a group of working artists and students who have been personally affected by HIV/AIDS to travel to areas of the globe that have been hit hard by the AIDS epidemic and to connect with young people and mothers who have been similarly impacted. In June 2016, artsINSIDEOUT organized its sixth annual two-week arts intensive at Nkosi’s Haven in South Africa, which offers holistic care and support for mothers living with HIV/AIDS and their children, including orphans.

The theme for camp this year was “Zazise!,” a Zulu expression that means “introduce yourself.” Over 80 kids and 25 mothers took part in a variety of performing and visual art classes led by a team of 18 ASTEP Volunteer Artists that culminated in a show for the entire community at the historic Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The schedule is challenging: two-weeks to create, rehearse, stage and design a show but the final performance was incredible!

Thanks to our stellar team of Volunteer Artists who made this all possible!

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You are rockstars: Romy Achituv, Stella Boonshoft, Victor Colòn, Ali Rose Dachis, Roelf Daling, Ernest Felton, Alison Green, Mosoeu Ketlele, Sibusiso Khambule, Dumisani Khanyi, Ryan Kim, Katy Pfaffl, Victoria Pollack, Shawn Mothupi, Aaron Ricciardi, Dick Scanlan, Stompie Selibe, and Thembile Tshuma


ASTEP Arts Camp in India!



Along with providing year-round music lessons, ASTEP started and ended the summer season with a two-week arts camp at Shanti Bhavan, a school and home for disadvantaged children in India.

Held in May and then again in September Shanti Bhavan’s student body of over 200 kids, the aim of the arts camps is to encourage students to collaborate with their peers, strengthen their ommunication skills, problem solve creatively, try new things and gain confidence through visual arts, dance, theatre, and music classes and activities.

Throughout camp, students took part in a variety of activities. For example, in one collaboration class, students experimented with movement exercises that resulted in some amazing visual art!

“ASTEP Camp is the best part of the year. We get to do all sorts of crazy stuff, to do things we don’t get to do throughout the school year. I’m a music student, and I like playing the piano. Through ASTEP I have been able to improve my skills and my way of playing the piano. From camp, I learned to have an open mind, to imagine what I want. I learned from visual arts that nothing is ever right or wrong, don’t let other’s judge what you do. Be confident and do what you feel is right.” – Berkmans, 12th Grade

You can check out all of the photos on Facebook that captured our moments together but here are a few!

Thanks to our incomparable team of Volunteer Artists who made this all possible!


2016 MAY Arts Camp

Theme: Connect, Create, Celebrate

ASTEP Volunteer Artist Team: Quinn Coughlin, Aimee Cucchiaro, Destiny Garcia, Ryan Hotes, Anna Hulse, Alexis Jenofsky, Michelle Mussett, Jason Shiuan, Jennifer Stafford, Patricia Woolsey and Ashley Monroe (Program Facilitator)


2016 SEPTEMBER Arts Camp

Theme: “Let’s Grow”

ASTEP Volunteer Artist Team: Olivia Alsip, Jansen Bennett, Jordan Campbell, Allyse Corbin, Kaila Galinat, Marcus Guy, Patrick Heffernan, Joshua Hinck, Kelsey Lake, Marina Micalizzi, Aaron Rossini, Roschelle Spears, and Lizzy Rainer (Program Facilitator)

You are each incredible human beings!


By: Dick Scanlan

In preparation for a game I want to play with the kids at Nkosi’s Haven, “Trivial Pursuit: The artsINSIDEOUT Edition,” I compiled a list of the volunteers who’ve been part of our team since our first program here in 2011: 53.

I was astonished.  I was thinking, “It must be over three dozen.”

But 53!

Since Kobi Libii (Team Member 2012-15) suggested that artsINSIDEOUT expand the number of South African artists on its team—which in each of our first two years totaled two—we’ve done precisely that.  This year, 8 of our 18 team members are South African.  One of them is a Co-On-Site Administrator, a crucial role in managing a team this large.  Another is our director, who will decide how the work the teachers are doing in the classroom will fit together in a presentation that is cohesive despite having been developed simultaneously in two different classrooms.  And of our nine returning teachers, six are South African.  The result is a community of artists that I’ve come to love and admire, and that can (and do!) take the kids to shows, dance concerts, interactive arts festivals and all sorts of cultural outings year-round.

The expansion Kobi and I discussed in 2012 is so complete that virtually all of artsINSIDEOUT’s classes are taught “zonke-bonke.”  Both are Zulu words; zonke (pronounced zonky) means “ all of it” and bonke (pronounced bonky) means “all of them.”  Practically speaking, it means using English, using Zulu, using all cultural references available, none with more weight than the other, none understood by everybody which makes all of it understood by all.

Another thing that floors me is how the kids remember songs and exercises we taught them in 2011, and touched on since.  Some of the veteran ASTEP volunteers are dumbfounded when they start teaching a fairly complex game with words and movement.  They get three words of instruction out, and the kids are off and running.  In some cases, these are children who are too young to have been part of artsINSIDEOUT in those early years, so they’ve learned the games from the older residents here—and learned them perfectly.  The history of artsINSIDEOUT is now part of their history.  Indeed, for the kids under 13, they can’t remember a time when artsINSIDEOUT didn’t show up every June for a few weeks of intense arts training that culminated in a show.

They are thrilled that, once again, this year’s show will be off-campus at the Lab at the Market Theatre—the Market Theatre being where Athol Fugard developed many of his groundbreaking, Apartheid-shattering plays.  We’re expanding our time off-campus, too, this year: we’ve rented several nearby studios so we’ll hold classes off campus for the entire second week, and we’ll be able to more effectively integrate the younger kids into the production, and the moms as well.

Speaking about the moms, the second most significant change in artsINSIDEOUT is the inclusion of the moms.  It started as one-off workshops the held by the teachers, and the response from the moms was so overwhelming, in 2014 we added two moms teachers to focus on the mothers.  So much of the moms’ energy and focus is on the children, and for them to be the center of attention for a change brings out the most unexpected, moving and fun colors imaginable.  Working with the moms is truly zonke-bonke because, in general, the moms are not as fluent in English.  Working with them is also what’s made artsINSIDEOUT part of the entire community here.  They’ve made us part of the Nkosi’s family.

All 53 of us.

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