Statera Mentorship: Meet the Ithaca Regional Coordinators

Mentorship is at the core of Statera's mission of taking positive action to bring women* into full and equal participation in the arts. Statera Mentorship is now in the Ithaca, NY Area and we’re thrilled to introduce you to the Ithaca Regional Coordinators. Here are some quick stats before we dive in:

Ithaca Chapter Founded: Winter 2019
Dates: Class I runs from July 1 - December 31, 2019
Application deadline: Class I mentor/mentee applications are due by June 1, 2019
Website: stateraarts.org/ithaca-mentorship
Facebook: Statera Mentorship

Ithaca Regional Coordinators (left to right) Kathleen Mulligan, Lucia Veccio, and Erica Steinhagen.

Ithaca Regional Coordinators (left to right) Kathleen Mulligan, Lucia Veccio, and Erica Steinhagen.

STATERA: What do you see as the greatest need and/or the most common need for mentorship relationships?

Kathleen Mulligan: There’s no one way to have a life in the arts- and I think that can make pursuing a life in the arts a rather lonely endeavor. It’s hard to put yourself out there- to put your HEART out there day after day- and know that so often that heart is going to be rejected. I’m certainly not going to say I’ve got this all figured out- but I know I had some incredibly generous mentors as I embarked on this life who made a real difference for me. They made me feel supported and SEEN- and if I can help other women feel that- well, that’s why I am doing it.

Lucia Vecchio: I believe that being in the arts, especially being a femme-identifying person in the arts, is a life path that can dig at your sense of self and your sense of community in a way that is often hard to stomach. Although it can be an endlessly fulfilling life journey it is not one that can be taken alone. There have been so many cross-roads in my artistic journey where having someone to lean on as I figured out to handle this world changed my life. In particular, having a woman to look up to and rely on as a support system as you dive headfirst into deep, uncertain waters can make all the difference. I want to be that for other women. 

Erica Steinhagen: I think there are so many valuable aspects to that relationship. The need to bounce around ideas, someone to inspire ideas to become fully realized projects, someone to be a support and ally… Perhaps someone to create some accountability for goal-setting and fulfillment.

STATERA: Tell us about your work in the theatre / or in the arts.

Kathleen: I’ve been acting professionally for thirty five years (with a little break in there for grad school), but about twenty five years ago I started teaching alongside acting, and mentoring young, emerging artists has become a strong part of my own artistic identity. I guess I’d have to say (and there’s some insecurity here about the rather cruel adage “Those who can’t do—teach” ) that I am now probably a teacher first. But I still strongly identify as an actress, as well, and I’ve added producing theatre to my passion—specifically international devised collaborations.

Lucia: I started my journey as a professional artist twelve years ago and truly never looked back. I had the opportunity growing up to take classes and perform in my hometown and began to work at a professional regional theatre in 2011 that became my artistic home and has been ever since. I identify strongly as an actor and am incredibly passionate about my work as a dancer and a vocalist. I began to venture into commercial and television/film work, growing up so close to Los Angeles, and have been able to work on some exciting projects in that genre as well. 

Erica: I am an actor and a voice teacher. I have created and performed one-woman cabarets, sung in operas, performed in countless plays and musicals and have been lucky enough to be a part of developing new work and been in world premiere casts more than a dozen times. I have a private voice studio with more than 20 wonderfully passionate students at any given time. One of the most important things I do is use theatre as a tool for social justice in my work with other amazing theatre makers in Ithaca doing anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion workshops and plays. 

STATERA: Can you share about your journey to the Ithaca arts scene?

Erica: I studied to be an opera singer, and moved to NYC after graduating from Ithaca College's renowned music program to pursue that career. Once I decided to move back to Ithaca to go to grad school, however, I realized I had really dreamed of being a musical and straight theatre actor and began working regularly as such! I feel really lucky to be doing what truly I wanted to do, but was maybe too afraid to pursue in undergrad. The theatre world in Ithaca is extremely rich and varied, and I’ve been able to grow and learn so much from so many talented and passionate mentors here.

Lucia: Right in the middle of my frantic college hunt in my third year of high school was the first time I had ever heard of the Ithaca area, particularly Ithaca College. Suddenly, as though the universe had been listening, I started to hear about IC, particularly the Theatre Department, every day from different people in my life who had some odd connection to the town or the school. After some time in that college search I decided that Ithaca would be the right fit for me. I’m happy to say I was right. Coming here was a big change from my life on the West Coast but I have gotten to meet some of the most incredible artists and be a part of a vibrant community that I never expected to find so quickly. I had the pleasure of working with The Cherry Arts during my second year of undergrad and the best gift of all was meeting Erica Steinhagen there.

Kathleen: It’s a rather surprising story for me. I first came to Ithaca twenty five years ago as a Resident Artist as Cornell University. At that time, Cornell would bring several equity actors up to Ithaca for a year at a time to teach Acting 1 classes and perform in productions alongside their students. I ended up doing that for three years, met my husband at Cornell, and discovered my passion for teaching voice. When we left in 1995, I never imagined coming back. But twelve years later, a job came up, and I found myself back in Ithaca. It’s been hard for me here in Ithaca, to be honest. I feel as if I have a lot to offer as an actress, but the local theatre scene has proved to be very difficult for me to get a foothold in. Of course, I moved here just as I was hitting an age that is challenging for actresses (I moved here in my late 40’s) and that didn't help. I hope that our Statera chapter might offer support and community for women artists moving to Ithaca in the future.

STATERA: What is your own most memorable mentorship experience?

Lucia: There is a woman in my life named Deborah Gilmour Smyth. I met her for the first time in 2012 and I could never imagine having a more intelligent, kind-hearted, astronomically talented, strong, loving woman to look up to. She, as an artistic director in San Diego, took a chance on me and provided a theatrical space where I could thrive and develop my ethic and love for the work. To me, she is family, and not only an artistic mentor, but a life mentor. I would not be half of the artist I am today without her guidance and faith. 

Kathleen: A former student of mine, a young woman named Sarah Morrisette (Hebert-Johnson) had recently studied with Augosto Boal’s theatre in Brazil when I got a grant to create an original piece of theatre in Islamabad, Pakistan focused on personal stories about the Partition of 1947. I invited Sarah to join the project, and she and I traveled to Islamabad in 2015 to work with the Theatre Wallay company there. We worked with the company to create original monologues based on interviews with Partition survivors, and Sarah worked with the actors to create workshops for college students based on the Theatre of the Oppressed techniques she’d studied in Brazil. Sarah ended up working with us through the life of the year-long project, and her participation helped to make it the most rewarding artistic experience of my life.

Erica: In my earliest professional acting days, working under the guidance of brilliant directors like Wendy Dann, Susannah Berryman, and Rachel Lampert to name a few, I managed to absorb from them what probably amounted to a full masters degree in acting from their mentorship and patience!

STATERA: How did you become connected to Statera Mentorship? 

Kathleen: The Statera team invited me to speak about my project “Voices of Partition” at the first Statera conference in Cedar City, Utah. I’ve been passionately committed to the mission of Statera ever since.

Lucia: I am so lucky to have already made connections with artists in Ithaca that I admire and default to for my big questions and challenges. Two of those women are Kathleen Mulligan and Erica Steinhagen. They are people who I feel really “see” me and my artistry and have introduced me and invited me to join them in leading the Ithaca branch of Statera.

Erica: My friend, colleague, and co-coordinator Kathleen Mulligan approached me about it, and after a couple years of witnessing and hearing of her experiences at conferences, and the I was honored to become a part of it!

STATERA: Talk to us about your leadership style and why you're called to work in this capacity for your community. 

Erica: I think I’m the big sister. I like to be the loving push towards strategizing and meeting goals. With my students I am so glad that I am someone they can trust and come to as a sounding board in addition to being their teacher. Mentorship is something I do every single day, and it brings me so much joy to work in this capacity with my students, creating a safe space for them to explore and learn. I love so much seeing the successes of that work. 

Kathleen: Ithaca has a lot of artists—and a large number of women artists. But we’re all kind of existing in our own silos. In theatre (the group of artists I know best) there’s a lot of people vying for a very limited number of opportunities (with some of the choice ones going to people from NYC, etc.) We’re not a big city—and the community can only support so many theatres. I’d guess that it’s the same in music, dance, visual arts, etc. I know some really astonishing women artists in this town (one is Erica, my partner on this Statera initiative)- and I’d love to get us out of our silos and joining together to support each other and lift each other up.

Lucia: I feel so strongly that now, more than ever, is the time to lift up women in our arts community. We need these voices and these stories RIGHT NOW and I believe that Ithaca is a place where big steps can be made in changing the way women are seen in arts environments. As someone with dual passion in activism and the arts I am so grateful to now have a space to put that energy into action. I feel that this work in the Ithaca community will allow for change and growth here, I believe that this kind of change will branch out to other communities and be a spark for big growth in our national arts mentality.  

STATERA: What recent personal projects or upcoming projects are you excited about?

Lucia: I’m incredibly excited to say that I have been asked to be a part of Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s 2019 summer season and will be performing in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in July 2019 here in Ithaca. I have never worked on genuine summer stock theatre in rep before and I am so looking forward to that upcoming work. 

Erica: I am so proud to be a founding member of the Cherry Arts Collective, and we are soon to announce our upcoming season at our Cherry Blossom Gala on June 2! thecherry.org. I will be playing a dream role this summer as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods at the Hangar Theatre June 28-July 13. hangartheatre.org.

Kathleen: I’ve been invited to perform the one woman show The Belle of Amherst in Beirut, Lebanon this coming October. So, my summer is going to be about getting that learned and produced! I’ll also be serving as a mentor in an official capacity for a rather astonishing student of mine at Ithaca College named Erin Lockett. Erin received a very competitive summer research grant from the college to create a one woman show based on the life of Lorraine Hansberry. So, my student and I will be working on parallel projects—both one woman shows- and both about women who were artistic revolutionaries!

Interested in learning more about Statera Mentorship? Visit www.stateraarts.org/mentorship.
Sign up for Statera Mentorship: Ithaca Chapter at
www.stateraarts.org/ithaca-mentorship.
And if you have questions, please visit
Statera Mentorship: Frequently Asked Questions.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all.