CARLY McCOLLOW Community Spotlight

Carly McCollow first joined the Ping Chong + Company community as a participant in our Summer Training Institute. She then joined us as a teaching artist in our Secret Histories arts-in-education program at Flushing International High School in Flushing, Queens. 

Carly McCollow FIHS 2014
Carly McCollow leading her students at Flushing International High School’s performance of “Secret Histories” in 2014.

 

How did you come to engage with Ping Chong + Company?

I first learned about PC+C through Jesca Prudencio, with whom I crossed paths during our undergrad education at NYU. As my work moved towards community-based theater, professors directed me to her as someone who was doing this sort of work, as she was then the Education Director at PC+C. We began meeting and sharing our experiences in the worlds of community-based and documentary theater. I attended a PC+C Summer Institute in 2013. That Institute, and the people I met there, changed my life in many ways. I was thrilled at the opportunity to teach with PC+C at Flushing International High School in 2014.

What was a meaningful moment or take-away from your experience with PC+C?

At the Summer Institute, a fellow participant approached me at a social gathering and mentioned that she noticed I was struggling with my own privilege. This put a name on something I’d been grappling with for a long time. It started me on the path of community engagement and social justice work, and I am now in the Masters of Social Work program at Hunter College to learn more tools to do this kind of work. The other participants at the Institute gave me the beginnings of my social justice community.

How does your experience with PC+C influence what you’re doing today?

The Secret Histories residency I did with PCC at Flushing International High School crystallized my desire to spend my life doing this work. The collaboration there with the teachers, school administrators, and students–and their determination to do their jobs, using love as a tool–showed me a new way to do this work. The students I met there touched me profoundly, and were the reason I enrolled in an MSW program to be able to be more fully equipped to do this work going forward. Documentary theater and storytelling can be therapeutic, and I want to be able to take responsibility for that aspect of it.

Carly McCollow headshot
Carly McCollow

 

VAIMOANA NIUMEITOLU: Connecting & empowering diverse communities

I have been a part of the Ping Chong + Company community for 15 years. I am a Senior Teaching Artist and I am also a performer in “Secret Histories/Undesirable Elements” with Ping Chong + Company. Currently I am teaching PC+C’s “Secret Histories” curriculum at the Museum Magnet School in collaboration with Lincoln Center Education. I am working with 8th graders from diverse backgrounds and communities. Together, we’re creating a performance in which the students will share their stories of culture, immigration, family, and home, in an event June 10th at the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center.  For all of them, this will be their first time sharing stories in performance with each other and with their school, families and communities. I am moved by who these young people are—their trust in me, in each other, and in themselves, taking risks outside of their comfort zones to share their stories. I have been with them for over 4 weeks now and already I have seen them grow in their confidence and sharing their truths. I witness their vulnerability and power in sharing what they have already gone through at a young age. Their stories vary, and they are seeing the connections of resiliency between each other:  families being exiled from their homelands; being homeless; family members being incarcerated; drug abuse; domestic violence; and learning whole new languages and cultures. I am inspired by who they have become. I see their strengths and courage every week. Also, we get to have so much fun together because each of them has their own humor and style, hence their own dance moves and jokes. Being a teaching artist for PC+C is not a job for me. It is me, living my purpose—and my purpose is using arts education to connect and empower diverse communities.

Moana MMS LE Manhattan 2015
Moana’s students and their classroom teacher in the “Secret Histories” project at Museum Magnet School, 2015.

Teaching, performing and working with Ping Chong + Company has inspired and empowered me to live my life-long dream as an artist and educator. I get to be someone who is committed to community, social justice, and making a difference in the world. This is a life that I love. PC+C has inspired me to be the founder and creator of Mahina Movement, a performance group of women that have performed on over 500 stages across the US and Ireland in the past 15 years. In our music and poetry, we tell our own stories and histories, which is exactly what I teach my students to do. Also, in the past 3 years, I have created and directed public murals to show and share stories of the community. I have worked on murals in LA, Utah, Australia and New Zealand. Currently I am working on a mural that will be on a 3-story building in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This community mural will feature stories of grandmothers, mothers and their granddaughters from Palestine, China, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. This mural will honor and celebrate their stories.  This mural is sponsored by Ping Chong + Company, through a grant from the Asian Women Giving Circle.

I am very grateful to my Ping Chong + Company family. I would not be the artist and educator I am today without all the experiences, learning, and love that is given to me by the company. Thank you, PC+C!

Moana2015 Headshot
Moana Niumeitolu