Cherokees dive into Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute

07/16/2020 01:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Mikaela Bonilla
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Becca Worthington
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Abby Vaughn
Main Cherokee Phoenix
James McAffrey
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Sydney McLeary
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Audrey McGee
OKLAHOMA CITY – Nearly 270 young artists from across Oklahoma – including six Cherokee Nation citizens – recently spent a week studying with internationally renowned faculty and celebrity guest artists at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute.

CN citizens Mikaela Bonilla, of Tulsa, and Becca Worthington, of Claremore, each attended the OSAI for acting. For film and video, CN citizen Abby Vaughn, of Tulsa, attended. CN citizens James McAffrey and Sydney McLeary, both of Oklahoma City, attended for orchestra, while Audrey McGee, of Tulsa, attended for photography.

They were selected from more than 1,000 applicants during a competitive statewide audition process this past winter, and studied one of eight artistic disciplines: acting, chorus, creative writing, dance, drawing and painting, film and video, orchestra or photography.

“My time at OSAI as an acting student has taught to move freely with my art, and really just be a sponge to all the knowledge given to me,” said Bonilla. “Having been here twice, learning from two different directors has definitely resonated with me by being able to learn from two different styles and perspectives. It has given me a chance to discover my specific preferences in my personal craft. OSAI acting has taught me that I can never stop learning, and that it is OK – maybe even encouraged – to not fully grasp something. It will only make you work harder.”

Worthington said she enjoyed attending OSAI and felt as if it was a place her talent mattered. “OSAI gave me the skills needed to get into a top-notch acting school, where I plan to train at for the next four years. It made me a better person, allowed me to meet great friends, helped me hone my craft, and gave me the chance to grow.”

Vaughn said she sees herself studying film at college and pursing it as a career thanks to the summer program. “OSAI has continually shaped me as a person by pushing me to be more accepting and adaptable, creative and artistic. OSAI has resources that other places don’t have and it gives you a glimpse into the professional world of film.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSAI could not be held at Quartz Mountain this year. But instead of canceling the program, the organization created robust online programming, called “OSAI at Home.” With even more instructors than usual and nightly presentations from performers such as Misty Copeland of American Ballet Theatre, students convened in the online world for masterclasses with artist-educators in their fields, workshopping and critiques, one-on-one lessons and opportunities to build community with other artists from across the state.

Students at “OSAI at Home” received specialized instruction from university professors such as award-winning poet Sasha Pimentel of the University of Texas at El Paso and actor-educator Daniel Spector of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Spector said that he did not give his students the “high school version” of his curriculum, but taught his class at a collegiate level.

Participants also said they enjoyed the nightly guest artist lectures and Q&A sessions, where the students could learn and interact with instructors such as Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara and creator of the “Radiolab” podcast, Jad Abumrad.

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