Neighborhood Studios Part 5: Truth

This post is the fifth in our Neighborhood Studios blog series to share the journeys of seven people who have participated in Neighborhood Studios, the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s summer teen apprentice program. Each one of their stories is a different perspective on the way this program can shape you and prepare you for college, your future career, and a life that’s connected to the arts. Each post will highlight a specific skill they gained or growth they experienced as an apprentice, as a teacher, or as a staff member.

Today we’ll meet Sten. Sten is a Junior at UCONN and a former Neighborhood Studios apprentices. In 2015, Sten returned to Neighborhood Studios to intern in the Mark Twain House’s Write to the Point! studio. 


Guest Blogger: Sten Spinella, Neighborhood Studios Apprentice (2014) Neighborhood Studios Intern (2015)

As a former Neighborhood Studios apprentice (part of the Write to the Point! Creative Nonfiction program at the Mark Twain House), then an intern the following summer working in the same program, I’ve seen firsthand how important evidence is to the apprentices and the program in general.

Now, specific to the creative nonfiction writing program, the number one rule is to show rather than tell. This goes hand in hand with valuing evidence. To simply tell is not to prove, while to show with your words is self-evident. This may apply purely to the quality of writing, but it also functions as a practicable philosophy. Everyone involved in Neighborhood Studios is smart, and you can talk about it, you can tell everyone all the things you’ve done, but my peers and I always adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards this. Show me what you can do. Prove to me you’re capable. That’s how my teacher, Julia Pistell, treated us, and that’s how we treated each other, which led to rewarding work and trustworthy friendships between apprentices.

It also led to the apprentices – both in my summer as an intern and an apprentice – digging deeper into themselves for pieces of writing than ever before. We told deeply personal stories in an attempt to provide evidence of our collective humanity.

The value of evidence can also be seen in the end-of-the-program performances from all the Neighborhood Studios. First, prove why you were chosen. Second, prove why Neighborhood Studios is so essential. Even though one is for individuals and the other is for the entire program, each objective passed with flying colors. Well-prepared songs, essays, dance routines, photographs, and videos were displayed for all the apprentices. Evidence of the immense amount of talent in the room abounded, and the competitive camaraderie of the apprentices was never more apparent.

There is nothing more important than evidence in creative nonfiction writing. As a junior in college now and supposedly somewhat removed from my experience at Neighborhood Studios, I know just how true that sentence is. A lot of us in Write to the Point! had to learn how to back up our statements and not just spout philosophy or empty labels. This holds true in my writing for UConn’s literary magazine and newspaper now. Neighborhood Studios taught me to combine my background knowledge, viewpoint, and natural ability with interviews, facts, context, and other important forms of evidence.

To value evidence is to value truth. I can only speak about the other programs to a certain extent, but the main concern in Write to the Point!, as evidenced by the name, is to get to the truth. To write yourself to the truth, even. A lot of us admitted things in writing we had never said out loud in our lives. There is a danger there – too much information, too much evidence that you’ve been through a lot, but that was tempered by incredibly descriptive, evocative writing that made the truth so much easier, and meaningful, to swallow. Whether the proof is in the writing or the content, what was important in my experience in Neighborhood Studios was the truth.


Experience Neighborhood Studios for Yourself!

Visit the Greater Hartford Arts Council website for more information about how you can apply to become a Neighborhood Studios apprentice in 2016!

Apprentices must be between the ages of 14-18 and reside in the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s 34-town service area. Additional eligibility requirements are listed in the Apprentice Guidelines. Neighborhood Studios applications are due by April 29, 2016. Apprentices will be selected and notified by the end of May.



Part 1: See how the Knowledge Brandon gained in Neighborhood Studios has helped his career in the arts and beyond. 

Part 2: Learn how Molly gained Independence through Neighborhood Studios.

Part 3: Read about how Stacey witnessed Self-expression and Self-reflection in the Amistad  Center’s SNAP! Photography studio.

Part 4: Find out how Poppy gained Perspective while participating in the Mark Twain House’s Write to the Point studio.

Part 5: Learn why Sten’s most important Neighborhood Studios experience was all about the Truth.

Part 6See how Daisy built a connection with her audience while Performing in Breakdancing Shakespeare at Hartford Stage’s Neighborhood Studio.

About Neighborhood Studios:

Neighborhood Studios, the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s award-winning, nationally recognized summer arts apprenticeship program, will enter its 18th season when it kicks off in June 2016. The six-week summer program provides area teenagers between ages 14 – 18  with an immersive, hands-on education in the arts, as well as career-skills training

The experience of Neighborhood Studios aligns with the Common Core’s description of students who are college and career ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, & Language. Additionally, all Neighborhood Studios align their work with the Common Core State Standards as well as the National Core Arts Standards.