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Photos by Miria Sabina
L-R: Ava Lehrer, 92Y Director of Center for Arts Learning & Leadership; Citizen-Artist Awards winners Marcel Bryan (Staten Island); Naima Ryan, Frank Sinatra High School (Queens); Javy Polanco (Manhattan); Emerald Lloyd (Bronx).

BY BENJAMIN MANDILE

92Y, a community center located in the Upper East Side, recognized a Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School student for his contributions in increasing accessibility and inclusivity in art institutions in the city Monday, March 2.

Naima Ryan, a senior at the Astoria school, said that he wasn’t aware of how big of an impact he had made and that he was shocked to learn he won an award. 

Ryan interned as a youth ambassador at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019, when he was tasked with sharing with the museum how it could improve its environment to be more inclusive of  a younger audience and for creating events for teenagers and improving its educational programming.

In the past, “The Met” and other institutions have had a problem with inclusion in terms of racial and economic biases, according to Ryan. 

Ryan said these same feelings of “exclusivity” continue to be present at these institutions, especially if someone doesn’t consider themselves an artist. Now, these institutions are making attempts to improve in this regard, he said. 

Ryan will continue his work at the museum through the returning internship program which recently formed to allow interns to come back — something that the museum did not allow in the past. 

“I’m really excited,” Ryan said. “I love working there.” 

Naima Ryan with his mom Jeanine King.

He said that the biggest take-away from his first internship at “The Met” was that there is room for people like him. Ryan has been creating art since he was 4 years old when he started drawing with his mom at museums in New York City when she was attending art school herself. 

He finds a lot of his inspiration for his work through Greek mythology, he said in an interview with QNS. This inspiration comes from the mythology he learned when he was younger and his attempts to connect those stories and their moral teachings to modern-day politics. It also comes from the nostalgia he feels around Greek mythology from when his dad would tell him old Greek mythology stories and watching Jim Henson’s Greek mythology as a kid, he added. 

Moving forward, Ryan plans on pursuing a degree to work as a graphic designer. He hopes to work for a company but said he also would want to branch off and possibly start a business of his own. 

Ryan encouraged any teenager who is looking to get an internship in art in New York City to start by visiting museums and applying for teen leadership roles. He said that art in the teen community in the city is prevalent and that many teens use art to express their daily struggles and political struggles. 

He is currently working on a piece for the Ron Hubbard scholarship.

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