How Neighborhood Studios Shaped Me As An Artist

Gina Salvatore speaks at the Arts Council’s 2016 Annual Celebration

By Gina Salvatore

It’s hard to believe that my first day at Hartford Stage for Breakdancing Shakespeare was eight years ago. Yes, you read that correctly. Eight years. It has been an absolute whirlwind since that day but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I spent my first five years as a member of the cast before I was invited to join the other side of the table as the stage manager. I graduated from UConn with my BFA in Acting and if it weren’t for Neighborhood Studios, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pursue a career in the arts. From the staff at Hartford Stage, to the teaching artists that were brought in to work with us, to seeing all of the creativity that my fellow apprentices were doing in other studios, my passion and love for the arts grew. The community here is so supportive and made me realize that you absolutely can create a career for yourself in the arts. I learned more about myself and my capabilities as an artist in six weeks each summer than I did in a whole school year and that’s because the people here care; they care about your growth as an artist and helping you find how to be the best you can be. The programs encourage, challenge, and cultivate in each of us a definition of art that cannot be defined by others, it is our own.

Sitting on the other side of the table as the stage manager has been an eye opening experience. I have been to countless auditions and always wondered why I wasn’t getting cast for some companies. Being involved in the audition process with Breakdancing Shakespeare has given me a greater insight into the casting and show development process. There is so much that goes into creating a show than many people know about!

It  isn’t just the creative aspect of this program that helped me realize that I can be a successful artist. A large part of being an artist is knowing how to market yourself, how to network, how to create a budget for yourself, among many other things. I learned all of these things through the career skills days. I had no idea how to create a budget a few years ago (and boy has a budget come in handy now that I’m out of college). I didn’t know how to network and if I did make a connection with someone I didn’t know how to keep it. If I didn’t learn how to network and create connections with people I wouldn’t be standing before you today. I wouldn’t have my job at Hartford Stage if I didn’t create meaningful relationships with the people around me.

I’ve spent my life hearing “You’ll never make it”. Thanks to the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Neighborhood Studios I know now that I will make it. I would not be who I am today without the arts and the unmeasurable support that Hartford Stage has given me. It would be a great disservice to the Greater Hartford area if programs like Breakdancing Shakespeare did not exist. Whether you are a performer or an avid theatregoer, the arts bring joy, light, friendships, and laughter that is beyond our wildest dreams. But most importantly, for myself, the Breakdancing Shakespeare program and Neighborhood Studios have given me a place that I can, even after eight years, truly call home and that is absolutely irreplaceable.