Recap: New York City Fall 2023 Retreat

Boston and Philadelphia Fellows traveled to New York for the Fall 2023 retreat in October for five days of professional development and exciting social impact experiences at New York City host organizations. After arriving on Monday morning, the Fellows made their way to the Whitney Museum where they engaged in team building exercises led by Philadelphia Fellows Sophie and Kayla.

After a delicious pizza lunch, Whitney Fellow Sarika led a tour of Ruth Asawa Through Line: an exhibition highlighting drawing as the through line in Asawa’s work. Fellows were able to familiarize themselves with the more than one hundred works, many of which have never been exhibited before now. Following the tour, Fellows participated in a discussion with Adam Weinberg, Director of the Whitney Museum on his penultimate day in the role.

Whitney Fellow Sarika and Dyemma Simmons, Director of Social Impact, facilitated a session on Disability, Accessibility, and Inclusivity at the Whitney for the Fellows. To finish out the day, the Fellows had the opportunity to explore Henry Taylor: B Side: an exhibition recommended to the Fellows by Adam Weinberg. 

On Tuesday, the Fellows set sail to Governors Island to explore the work of New York City Audubon. The day began with a scenic ferry ride and an Island welcome from Jessica Wilson, Executive Director of NYC Audubon. NYC Audubon Fellow Jesse then led a tour of the organization’s seasonal environmental center, including the building’s bird-friendly glass displays. Fellows then had the opportunity to hear from Jessica Wilson, Executive Director, Saman Mahmood, Director of Advocacy and Engagement, and Roslyn Rivas, Public Programs Manager in a career-focused panel discussion followed by lunch at an Island eatery.

Afterwards, Fellows competed in an Island-wide scavenger hunt inspired by NYC Audubon Artist in Residence Carolyn Monastra’s Divergence of Birds exhibit. After traipsing the 172-acre urban island, Fellows headed back to Manhattan to explore Chinatown and Little Italy. Fellows ended the day with a Cantonese, family-style dinner.

On Wednesday, the Fellows began the day at Jumpstart with a discussion with Kate Warren Barnes, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations, focusing on how Jumpstart’s direct service and systems change efforts work in conjunction. Fellows were then led in an interactive session with Anita Emama, Director of Education & Research. Finally, Adanech Makey, Director of Civic Engagement & Advocacy, led the Fellows in a “Developing Ourselves as Community Change Agents” training.

Following the site visit to Jumpstart, Fellows walked the Highline to lunch at Chelsea Market with the option to listen to a queer history audio tour created by the Whitney Museum. Fellows then enjoyed a guided tour of Inheritance, a Whitney museum exhibition, led by exhibition curator Rujeko Hockley. Fellows closed out the day with an alt-text writing workshop led by Whitney Fellow Sarika. 

On Thursday, Fellows started the day at Year Up with an overview of the organization at the national level led by Malik Williams, Associate Director of Program. Fellows then evaluated the elevator pitches of 16 Year Up trainees followed by a networking session with trainees. Wil Valezquez, Program Director and Nadine Sylvester, Site Director led Fellows in a debrief of Thursday Forum and Year Up model. 

Next up, Fellows headed to the Museum of the City of New York for a guided “field trip” of the Museum’s centennial exhibition This is New York: 100 Years of Art and Pop Culture led by MCNY Fellow Natalia. The Fellows had the chance to hear from Stephanie Wilchfort, Director of MCNY about the mission and history of MCNY and her own career path. Wrapping up at the Museum, Fellows wrote their “personal mission statements” and explored more of the exhibitions.

Thursday evening was full of celebration as the Fellows connected with Fellowship alumni and trustees at a gathering at the FAO Schwarz toy store at Rockefeller Center. Current and former Fellows bonded over shared experiences and found connections in interests and career paths. 

On Friday, Fellows returned to Year Up for a morning of professional development led by Malik Williams. The Fellows identified their personal leadership style and explored their strengths and challenges as a leader. Finally, the cohorts gathered for a group reflection on the retreat before heading back to their respective cities after a long but rewarding week.

Picture of Jesse McLaughlin

Jesse McLaughlin

Jesse McLaughlin (he/him) is the Advocacy & Engagement Associate FAO Schwarz Fellow at NYC Audubon in New York City.