New Victory Arts Break: Play like ChelseaDee Harrison

Last week, we explored how New Victory LabWorks Artist ChelseaDee Harrison has been creating work from home. This week, we’ll play with some creative practices inspired by ChelseaDee’s process, and we’ll also meet another of this season’s LabWorks Artists—Nambi E. Kelley.

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New Victory Arts Break: Play like ChelseaDee Harrison


From local nature and monuments to teatime with a good book, we’ve seen ChelseaDee Harrison gather inspiration from all over. We’ve also seen her transform areas of her home into cozy creative spaces, like her blanket fort recording studio and her at-home library, where she can take her inspirations and channel them into new art-making.

A triptych of images of ChelseaDee Harrison at home

Do you have a space where you get creative? Let’s think about what the perfect, personalized creativity zone might look like and then design it!

Step One: In your New Victory Notebook, write down all of the places or rooms where you spend time and list the ways you get creative in each space. Do you draw at the kitchen table? Sing in the shower? Act out stories in your bedroom?

A handwritten list of creative spaces

Step Two: Now it’s time to design your dream creative space. In your New Victory Notebook, spend some time drawing a cozy space where you could comfortably do all the creative things you love to do. Would there be…

  • A comfy couch covered in pillows?
  • Twinkle lights and ceiling decorations?
  • Musical instruments?
  • Infinite paper and crayons?
  • A stage and seating for an audience?
  • Games? Legos? Snacks?

Step Three: Write a sentence or two under your drawing to explain why you love this space and what you will do in it.

A hand drawn design of a personal creative space

Step Four: Bringing your dream creative space to life might be a bit ambitious, but there are simple ways to cozify an existing space. Find one or two items that you can add to one of the spaces where you currently get creative, like a pillow or stuffie to curl up with while journaling or drawing, or a sign that tells other folks that this zone is for art-making only!

Here are some examples of creative spaces New Victory staff members and their families have created for at-home art-making of all kinds:

A collage of images of New Victory staff in their at-home creative spaces

You can create almost anywhere, but having a place where you are surrounded by comfort and joy definitely makes a difference. Have fun perfecting your creativity zone!

Use Your Noggin!

Brilliant ideas can come from anywhere… and at any time. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Sam Jay Gold as he shares some fun ways to collect inspiration as it happens and organize random creative ideas into a finished story.

Big or small, run-of-the-mill or out-of-this-world, there are no bad ideas. Get ready to fill your own Noggin Box and create a story you didn’t even know was floating around in your head!

Materials: Paper; a writing utensil; a box, folder or other receptacle

Step One: Set a timer for one minute. Grab your New Victory Notebook and write down anything and everything you are interested in right now. Go, go, go! Then pick one idea from your list that feels the most interesting or inspiring. This will be the central idea of your story. For Sam, it was plant spores!

Step Two: Create your very own Noggin Box! This could be any box you have lying around, large or small, but it could also be a folder or even a drawer. Feel free to color, paint or decorate it however you’d like.

Teaching Artist Sam Jay Gold holding his cardboard Noggin Box

Step Three: Place your box in a central location, and set pieces of paper in all the places where you spend time. For the next week, whenever an idea comes to mind, jot it down on the closest piece of paper and put it in your Noggin Box. If you’re on the go a lot, carry some paper with you!

Step Four: One week later, pluck five ideas out of your Noggin Box. Arrange and rearrange them until a story starts to take shape in your mind—you’ll need a beginning, a middle and an end.

Step Five: The final art-making step is up to you! You could pen a poem or short story, stage a play, make a movie or even write a song. Pick a form and get your story ideas across the finish line.

BONUS: Are those five ideas not enough? Change or add to your story by picking more ideas out of your Noggin Box!

Thinking Outside the Box

The ideas you place in your Noggin Box can be anything: words, phrases, images—even objects, if they’ll fit. Here are two examples from New 42 Youth Corps members William Porter and Amy Castanos using ideas other than words.

A collage of images of William Porter holding objects from his Noggin Box

William collected objects in his Noggin Box and then wrote a story inspired by five of them—a branch, a trash bag, a leaf, a hanger and the box itself! In his story, you’ll notice that the objects take on new forms in bold, followed by their inspirations in parentheses.

One day, I went to the park and I came across a dragon bone (branch). I wrapped the dragon bone and put it in my backpack (box) to keep it away from prying eyes. I ran home, went to my room and closed the door behind me. I placed a “do not disturb” sign (hanger) on my door. I placed the dragon bone on my desk and began to examine it with my magnifying glass. I noticed that the bone had scales (leaves). I took the dragon bone and made a wish. I wished that I could turn invisible, and a magic cape (trash bag) appeared. With it, I could become invisible whenever I wanted!

Amy collected images in her Noggin Box, finding them online and printing them out. Then she created a story based on five of them—fire, water, flowers, spoons and a box of fruit snacks!

Images of the contents of Amy's Noggin Box

There once lived a small community of gnomes and fairies. They were very happy and loved to explore and go on adventures. As they were exploring they found a box and were so amazed by it, because they’d never seen one like it before. At that very moment, their community caught on fire, and they needed to escape! They used the box as a boat, and everyone climbed on. They used spoons to push the box into the water of a nearby river and ride to safety. It had begun to rain, so they used flowers to protect themselves from the rain and stay dry. All the gnomes and fairies were saved and were able to get away from the fire!

Whatever you gather as inspiration, have fun filling up your Noggin Box and creating that masterpiece that’s already inside you, waiting to be pieced together.

Fill up, then give.

The artists of New Victory LabWorks are all busy creating new work, and we’re lucky enough to be witnessing their creativity in action! That creative spark lives in all of us, but it can be challenging to stay creative. How do artists do it?

Nambi E. Kelley headshot

Let’s meet another of our 2020-21 LabWorks Artists, Nambi E. Kelley. An award-winning actress and playwright, Nambi has performed across the country and on television, and her adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son had its New York premiere at The Duke on 42nd Street in 2019. Nambi is also the writer of Jabari Dreams of Freedom, a play for young audiences in which a Black boy struggling with fear in the present visits the Civil Rights Era through his paintings and learns lessons about courage and freedom from the young people of the past. Let’s hear from Nambi to learn more about what keeps her creative gears spinning.

Part of Nambi’s artistic practice is to fill herself up—practicing self-care and reflection, hydration and nutrition—before going out and sharing her creativity with other people, “because otherwise you don’t have anything to give.” Wise and practical advice! Let’s spend some time caring for ourselves to boost our moods and recharge our minds so that we’re ready to greet the world and give to others.

Materials: A piece of paper or your New Victory Notebook, drawing utensils, glue or tape, a picture of yourself

Step One: Grab the photo of yourself and your New Victory Notebook, or a blank piece of paper, and glue or tape the photo to the center of a page. Don’t have a photo of yourself? Draw a rectangle in the center of the page instead, and fill it with a self-portrait.

Step Two:: On a separate piece of paper, write down all of the positive words you think other people would use to describe you. Not sure? Ask some friends and family members. Exchange some positivity!

Step Three: Write out those positive statements and words in the empty space on the page surrounding your photo.

A hand drawn self portrait

Step Four: Now add what you love about yourself! Continue to fill the page until there is barely any space. Write down what makes you you—what you’re good at or love to do, your favorite personality traits, your proudest accomplishments, anything that makes you feel good about who you are.

Step Five: When you’re done, sit down and read all of the things that make you your amazing self. Then take a deep breath in and with your breath out say, “I am awesome. I am me.”

Into the Future!

Now that we’ve taken a moment for self-care, let’s think about issues that mean something to us and brainstorm ways we can help change the future for the better. In the thought bubbles on the template below, or drawn in your New Victory Notebook, write or illustrate four dreams you have for your future. Think big, and consider dreams that might improve the future for lots of people rather than just yourself.

Dreams for My Future

Is there one dream that you could take action on right now? If not, what are some smaller action steps you would need to take first? In your New Victory Notebook or underneath your thought bubbles, brainstorm some ways you could start to make your dreams for the future a reality.

Completed Dreams of My Future worksheet template

Creating art like a piece of theater is a great action step, because everyone who experiences that work of art has the chance to learn from it and take action themselves. For instance, in Jabari Dreams of Freedom, 10-year-old Jabari is afraid to leave the house after his close friend is hurt by police. Writing the play was Nambi E. Kelley’s action step toward the dream that Black and Brown kids not live in fear of police violence. As Jabari gains lessons in courage from his visit to the Civil Rights Era in the play, the young people experiencing the show can learn from those same lessons and leave the theater inspired to take action for themselves. The dream inspires the art, and the art spreads the dream.

An image from Jabari Dreams of Freedom

Thanks for joining us this week as we continued playing with the inspirations and practices of this season’s LabWorks Artists! Next week, we’ll connect ChelseaDee’s podcast storytelling to the art of the interview and meet up with New Victory Usher Annalisa D’Aguilar.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New Victory LabWorks Supporters

New Victory LabWorks is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by grants from the Madeleine L’Engle Fund of the Crosswicks Foundation, The Ford Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.