Sarah-Jane Ripa '02, artistic and education coordinator at Green Street Arts Center, is an advocate of social and personal change through creative communication. She's been actively engaged in the fields of arts administration and development for more than 10 years before coming to Wesleyan this fall.
Q: Sarah-Jane, you came to Wesleyan as the artistic and education coordinator at the Green Street Arts Center in July. Is this a new position?
A: The position was created as part of a restructuring, but primarily replaced the artistic director position. My position is overseen by the Center for Community Partnerships at Wesleyan, and fits wonderfully with the service learning and outreach components of the mission of the university. All of the classes, events, workshops, private lessons and community partnership programs that happen at Green Street come under my position.
Q: Cite some examples of recent artistic- and education-related activities at GSAC that you help coordinate.
A: Green Street offers numerous opportunities for people to engage creatively in five major arts disciplines: Visual, Movement, Literary, Media and Sound. Our Opening Day event in September was a microcosm of what we do throughout the year: our visual arts teachers hung work for display, several dance classes were conducted, community musicians gathered to share music as well as perform, our literary arts group and teachers gathered for a reading and a class, our early childhood music teachers collaborated with parents and children, we conducted tours of our media arts studios and new faculty performed. All of those offerings happen on a weekly basis at Green Street.
We are also home to an Afterschool Arts Program. The program provides 15 different arts classes over the course of the week, and students attend two class periods per day. Class offerings include Breakdance, Comic Book Creation, Digital Animation, Songwriting and Sound Recording. We always need Afterschool volunteers. We welcome Wesleyan students to visit us for a class or to meet our Afterschool students during homework time.
We also offer an art and science track for third grade students that utilizes curriculum from the Help Yourself Foundation. We partner with the North End Action Team and other community organizations to present free lifestyle programs each season, and our teaching artists go into classrooms and organizations throughout Middlesex County.
Q: Do Wesleyan students, staff or faculty use Green Street?
A: We have wonderful relationships with a variety of departments and professors at Wesleyan who are interested in engaging the Middletown community in their work. Our Sunday Salon discussion series dedicates one Sunday a month to talks by Wesleyan professors. The next one is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 22. Our connection to Wesleyan has also helped bring some truly amazing teachers and programs to the community, including the arts and science Afterschool program and Balinese dance.
Q: Do you take class suggestions from the community?
A: We are always looking for suggestions from the community. When our members ask us to start new classes or programs, we do seek out new instructors, but are open to being sought out by artists who are interested in bringing their work to the community through us.
Q: What challenges do you enjoy most about your job?
A: The greatest challenge in my job is the number of people that I need to communicate with to ensure that we are doing the most we can for the community and the organization. It is important to stay closely connected with our neighborhood and campus partners, teachers, students, families and also consistently perform outreach to the public schools, the Wesleyan community, and our Middletown neighbors who haven’t visited us yet. Fortunately, talking to people about Green Street is my favorite part of my job.
Q: What attracted you to GSAC?
A: I was initially attracted to Green Street because it is the place that truly has the capacity to connect the entire Wesleyan community- students, faculty, staff and families – with the Middletown community. Middletown and Wesleyan are assets to each other, and I feel that Green Street Arts Center is the place where those assets are openly and fruitfully shared.
Q: You graduated from Wesleyan in 2002 with a double major in music and history. How did your Wesleyan degrees help prepare you for a career in arts administration/development?
A: I had the opportunity to manage the orchestra for three years, worked for the Center for the Arts in a number of positions, and had the freedom to arrange and play in performances for myself and other students and graduate students. All the while, I was taking courses that helped me develop an intellectual life for myself that has enriched everything I have done since. I would then say that my education, rather than my degree, has prepared me for my current career, and anything else I might choose to do in life.
Q: What are your hobbies and interests? Where are you from?
A: I am actively involved in efforts to create awareness about local foods and their impact on individual and collective health. I am an advocate for lifelong learning, and am currently enrolled in the GLSP program at Wesleyan and a member of the Middletown Scottish Country Dance class – a well-kept secret of Middletown that I only recently discovered.
I am originally from Sterling, Mass., which also was home to Mary of Little Lamb fame. My husband, Aaron Paige ’04, is currently a Ph.D candidate in the in the Ethnomusicology program at Wesleyan.