Community Highlight: AICA Class of 2024 - The Theatre Lab

Wondering what students in the Arts Institute for Creative Advancement have been up to this year? We sat down with three students in the 2024 cohort to discuss their experiences in the program so far. Here’s what they had to share:

Muttaqi Daniels (20 years old): 
“I was working a dishwashing job out of high school. I was working long hours, doing the work of about 4 people at once. A friend of my aunt had a flyer about the opportunity with the AICA so I applied. During the interview, I was almost moved to tears. I went home and told my mom that this might be it. All throughout high school, I had friends but I didn’t really have people I could be myself with. Meeting people in this program, I feel comfortable walking up to anybody and talking to them. It’s not what I’m used to. This program made me realize how much goes into media production. From Angelo to Natalie, everyone in the program goes out of their way to be helpful. When we go on site visits, I find myself becoming familiar with the things we have been learning and it’s motivating. This program is making me feel like I have a second wind.”

Noah Wesley (25 years old): 
“I heard about the opportunity to apply for the program through my case manager at my housing center. These first few weeks in the AICA have introduced me to a such a great community of people. Through Color Me Community, we felt like we had a safe space to be vulnerable and welcome many diverse personalities. We’ve been learning so many useful skills that can be applied to many different areas in the field. I’m personally interested in learning more about festival planning and entrepreneurial skill-building. Theprogram gives each of us the training needed to pursue our individual interests and I think that’s really special.”

Taariq Saadiq (24 years old): 
“I had been searching for jobs for awhile. The first few weeks in the program have been a whirlwind. I didn’t know anything about theatre coming into theprogram. It’s been a busy few weeks of learning but through the shadowing I’ve been doing recently, I’ve learned that I actually knew the material better than I thought. The audio engineering space has been really intriguing to me but I’m staying open to all opportunities. Getting to know my classmates has been great. We do a lot of things outside of class as a group. A group of about five of us created our own “writers club” since some of us like to write creatively. We each read each others work and discuss in a group once a week. It’s been nice having this community.”


Meet the AICA Program Director: Natalie Pertz (she/her) is the Arts Institute for Creative Advancement Program Director. Most recently she was Head of Education at The Kreeger Museum between 2021-2023. Natalie holds a Master’s Degree in arts administration from Goucher College and a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and communication arts from Gannon University. In addition to her academic studies, Natalie has trained at The Eugene O’Neill National Theater Institute, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, and The Globe Education Center in London, England. Following undergraduate graduation, Natalie spent the 2014-2015 season as an Education Apprentice at Hartford Stage, a Tony-award winning regional theatre in Hartford, Connecticut. As a teaching artist, Natalie has taught and supervised the implementation of STEAM curriculum with pre-school through aging adult students in multiple states and districts such as Erie, Syracuse, and Hartford. She returned to Hartford Stage in 2017 after working as a STEAM enrichment teacher in Syracuse, New York. Natalie remained at Hartford Stage full-time as Education Associate until Summer 2020. Outside of the hustle, Natalie is an ultramarathoner who loves pasta dinners, strong coffee, and conversation. Since 2021 she has resided in Washington, DC, with her partner, Conor, and their two cats (‘Memphis’ and ‘Reese’).

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