OPPS #ONSCENE with Patreece Jackman, Former Intern at BAM

Tell us about yourself:

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Early Experiences with Visual Art

My name is Patreece Jackman and I’m nineteen-years-old (soon to be twenty this September). I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised along the sandy coasts of Queens. My appreciation for the arts began when I was seven, under the love of a father with an artistic streak and a West-Indian mother who has a love for books and is a soca music enthusiast. 

My dad began to draw at an early age. My grandmother’s closets are still safeguarding works and awards of his dating back to the 80s. Whenever his pencil would touch paper - even when it was just a sketch - there’d be this look of concentration on his face as he tried to bring to life what he’d imagined. My father and I spent many sacred moments together at the dining room table where he’d teach me methods of shading, or how to symmetrically draw a face. I remember in elementary school my father helped me to create a little community made from Styrofoam, cardboard, plastic, and wood; to show the ways drain systems are used in the case of a flood. 

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As a kid I continued to draw and use different mediums like clay and papier-mâché. My favorite teacher, Mr. Scott, who will always be a beacon among others, would have me sign my work and would occasionally ask if he could keep it to give to his wife. She’d frame them and put them up on her wall in her office. I was traditionally trained and did these things out of pure enjoyment, but these early experiences with art along with others made me feel as though my work was validated and had value.

Books, Soca, and Mother-Figures

I’m an avid reader and writer, largely due to my mother. Reading has helped cultivate my writing, for which I’ve won numerous awards, grants, and scholarships.

My book shelf is close to breaking with the autobiographies, textbooks, mythologies and other fictional works that I’ve collected over the years. And my desk at work is filled with papers inked with words detailing stories, some complete and others incomplete. These collections and blackholes of endless writings began during my early years that were filled with mostly books instead of toys. I spent my free time writing short stories that grew into something longer, delving deeper and deeper into the worlds of hobbits and dwarves, gods and monsters, and children who traveled through space and time to save the world from a terrible force. My mom would take me to Barnes & Noble for my birthday where I would choose a book of my liking and if we had the time or money, she’d take us to the movies right after. One year we’d gone to see “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” and at the time I was clueless that it was a series until I went home on the computer and found the books. A month later I was already halfway through “The Sea of Monsters.”

I believe music tells a story and soca, my mom’s favorite genre, is no different. A native to Barbados, my mother came to the United States in the 70s at the age of eight. Her Bajan roots remain remnant in the dishes she cooks, her values of hard work, and the early Saturday mornings that involve the stereos blasting music and the smell of bleach and pinesol, with the sound of dishes crashing against each other as a way to tell me to wake up and get to work. If you’ve listened to soca before, you know it has a way of livening up a space. The artists singing of home, bringing people together for a good time, breakups and moving on, and living your best life because you can be here today and gone tomorrow. My mom can’t sing but she believed she could and that was more than enough for her as she’d belt out lyrics and prepared a bucket to mop the floors and gave me a sponge to scrub the walls in the kitchen. From home to school, music followed me into chorus and African dance.

My mother always pushed me to be the best that I could be, with tough love with undertones of tenderness and supporting my passions so that I could have access to things she didn’t.

Tell us about your internship experiences with BAM:

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I always keep my eyes open and seek professional and personal opportunities through research, classes, volunteer work, and networking. I was in high school when I learned about the Brooklyn Interns for Arts & Culture (BIAC) program at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). This is the same program that I currently coordinate. 

My dance teacher in high school recommended that I go to a recruiting session BAM held at my school, and by the end of the presentation I was eager to be a part of the program. It involved real work experience that was paid, a one-on-one mentor, trips to performances, and career readiness workshops. There are few programs like this for high school students in New York. The idea of working in a department at the oldest performing arts organization in the United States made me think of all the doors of opportunity that I’d be able to access and how appealing it would be to college admissions officers.

I joined BIAC because I was interested in government work pertaining to the arts and aspired to find a career in that industry as an advocate for the arts and culture in the future. I gathered my recommendation letters and transcripts, and whatever else I needed from school in two weeks and was called in for an interview. As it turned out I was too young and was denied, but a year after during my junior year I tried again and was accepted!

As an intern in the BIAC program I worked in the President’s Office and with DanceMotion USA, an eight-year cross-cultural exchange partnership and the BAM and the US Department of State. I was responsible for creating travel guides for the American dance companies who were going to countries like Laos, Colombia, Mozambique, and Turkey. There was also an end-of-year project that entailed the BIAC cohort created a two-day event, one for prospective applicants to come to BAM and learn about the program while engaging in activities and the second being the specifics for the graduation.

My expectations for BIAC versus the reality cannot compare. Being in the program was more than I thought it was going to be. I thought that I would’ve been limited to one space and had to do tedious tasks like getting coffee for people in the office, copying documents, and would have a hard time fitting in, but it was more than that. I was able to be myself and embrace my individuality while connecting with students from all over Brooklyn whom I would not have met otherwise. I learned skills that are transferable and networked with established professionals. People were so incredibly kind and willing to help, not because they had to but because they wanted to. It was a different world from my high school where you had to have your parent speak for you because the adults at school wouldn’t take your needs seriously. 

After completing the high school internship in 2017 I applied for the position, and became the college intern in the Education department and worked with all the after-school programs BAM offered. Apparently I did such a great job, I was called back in the fall to officially coordinate the BIAC program!

The Brooklyn Interns for Arts & Culture performed as a pipeline for me to become the Program Coordinator, and partially motivated me to travel abroad for cultural enrichment programs in Spain. I am proud to be a BAM employee of three going on four years, and I am happy and honored to be able to open those same doors and many more to high school students. Once my time at BAM is complete, I would like to utilize my International Business degree by interning at a company or government agency oriented toward arts and culture that works closely with international communities to ensure their voices can be heard and their stories can be properly told.

How to Apply to the Brooklyn Interns for Arts & Culture

For those who are interested in applying, the Brooklyn Interns for Arts and Culture (BIAC) program provides a year-and-a-half arts-management internship for 11th grade students attending Brooklyn high schools. High school interns gain real world knowledge, career preparation and college preparation and one-on-one mentoring from a BAM staff member. During their senior year, students are placed in a department under the guidance of a BAM staff member according to availability and the intern's interest. Program perks include: college tours, site visits to other organizations, opportunities to attend BAM performances and events, and networking with professionals. For more information, click here.