By VICKY SANTOS
Published February 9, 2023
It’s an entertainment venue, a study space, a backdrop for photos and an innovative and creative hub for students, performers, faculty, staff, volunteers and the community. But did you also know that UB’s Center for the Arts (CFA) is also a learning space where student workers gain valuable career experience through the Here to Career program?
Here to Career is UB’s student employment program designed to provide students with meaningful on-campus work experience that will set them apart in a highly competitive workforce after graduation.
“We’ve always had student assistants as part of our team, but we wanted to continue to make it a better experience. Having the students involved throughout the center is an essential component of our involvement in the Here to Career program,” says CFA Executive Director Jamie Enser.
“Our students are CFA ambassadors and are important to every activity the center hosts,” says Enser, who worked in television production management before coming to UB more than two decades ago. “From answering the phones and greeting visitors in the main office to selling tickets in the box office to assisting on video shoots and in the front of the house, our students are trained to work in a variety of positions, which offer practical, real-world training and resume-building experiences.”
Enser, who oversees all of CFA’s programming, planning, and operations, and her staff develop training and orientation programs for new student workers and employees.
“Our student assistants are given a wide range of responsibilities and are exposed to various positions and areas of the center. We strive to create an environment and experience to train students to be their best,” she says.
Julia Miskines, an arts management graduate assistant at CFA, was initially drawn to the multidisciplinary aspect of the center.
“My background is in theater, so I was looking for a position that would allow me to continue working in that discipline but would also give me experience managing other art forms as well,” Miskines says.
Working backstage with the production team has given Miskines the opportunity to collaborate with industry technology under the guidance of industry professionals.
“I have built upon my existing knowledge of theater and now know much more about the logistics of touring productions and maintenance of large theater spaces,” she says. “In addition to that, I have accomplished my goal of expanding my familiarity managing multiple art disciplines. Through my work at the CFA, I have learned so much about each art form that is housed in the building — as an arts management student this is incredibly valuable.”
Enser’s focus on student engagement has led to four CFA student assistants being named UB’s Outstanding Student Employee of the Month.
“We are here to create a shared memorable experience for everyone. Each performance and program we offer has student involvement and provides the opportunity to highlight their impact being made at UB,” Enser says.
Taking part in these types of events is a large part of the reason Miskines chose UB for her postgraduate degree.
“The CFA team is very good at creating experiences for both students and the surrounding community, so to be involved in the planning and execution process with them has taught me so much,” she says. “The skills I have learned here have prepared me for most aspects of the arts and cultural field. I am sure that in my career I will wear many hats, so whether I end up on tour or as an administrator at an arts organization, this job has definitely helped to prepare me for that.”
Graphic design senior Aidan Clarke, who works with the production department at CFA, agrees with Miskines.
“Being a student worker has been an incredibly fun and engaging experience. Being employed here has prepared me for a large number of job opportunities — from production assistant to administrative work and more,” Clarke says. “I have gained lots of practical knowledge and skills, but I have also developed a network of wonderful people who have incredibly supportive and helpful — that includes classmates, co-workers and CFA staff.”
Engaging opportunities for student employees will continue in 2023, as CFA maintains a compelling schedule of multidisciplinary events and performances. From art exhibits and student performances to alternative rock bands like Third Eye Blind and distinguished speakers like Sherrilyn Ifill and Selma Blair, CFA is hosting programming that offers something for everyone.
As a follow-up to last fall’s Art in the Open event, Enser is planning to host Spring into Art, a senior showcase across the arts in the atrium. She is also planning to host The Center POP-IN later this month, which is a follow-up event to The Center Scoop — an opportunity to meet fellow students, faculty and staff, and learn more about the CFA.
Serving as a bridge between the university, the arts and the community has been CFA’s mission since it opened its doors in 1994.
“We want to be a gathering space for the university and local communities to make and experience art,” Enser says.
CFA is home to five different theaters, two art galleries, the departments of Art and Media Study, studios and offices, as well as an exquisite atrium.
“Our theaters are the learning labs for performers and designers, and the atrium is the space that encourages students to gather,” Enser explains. “In addition to maintaining our public venues and hosting university activities, we are now producing student-focused events and presenting renowned touring artists and performers with new experiential learning opportunities and using it as a platform to expose our audiences to showcase UB’s artists.”
To ensure performers and students are working with the most current technology, CFA has undergone significant sound and lighting updates, including incorporating more sustainable LED technology.
Enser says the CFA is a buzzing hive of artistic and creative activity.
“Walk through CFA on any given day and you’re likely to hear musicians practicing their latest work, or you’ll spot one of our student artists getting ready for their next dance class,” she says. “Being the university’s arts hub and helping amplify and support UB’s arts departments is our first priority. We enjoy bringing students, faculty, staff and the community together.”
Enser says she’s also adding more communication vehicles to connect the multidisciplinary parts of the center.
“We have a monthly e-newsletter that promotes all arts performances and exhibitions that we are consistently adding subscriptions to. We are also launching our How Art Gets Made video series highlighting the arts at UB,” she said.
CFA currently is offering $5 off on up to six tickets purchased by faculty and staff, as well as a $29 student ticket for this spring's CFA Presents shows — MacMaster & Leahy, Third Eye Blind (student ticket is $29.25) and Napoleon Dynamite. Tickets must be purchased at the Center for the Arts ticket office and buyers must present a valid UB ID.
To learn more about CFA and its programs, events and exhibits, visit the website.