Profile- Rachel Brown, Cycling Into the Arts

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Hunter College– Locking her bike up in front of the school’s North Building, Rachel Brown, 35, strides into class, bike helmet in hand. Wearing denim shorts and a purple tank top, ear piercings lining her ears, she’s ready to teach her media-film class after biking to work from Astoria.


With a passion for cycling, Brown, a filmmaker, has found a way to combine her love of the sport with her passion for the arts and youth development. Leading bike tours, making films, and teaching media to students around the five boroughs, as well as finding time to work for a non-profit, this avid cyclist has found a way to make all of her hobbies intermingle.



“I think that if you are spending a lot of time in a particular community, or thinking about a specific topic or just doing the same activity on a daily basis, it becomes a part of how you see the world. For this reason, feminism and biking have been the focus of several of my films, and it feels very comfortable for me because they are things I understand, things I embody,” Brown said.



If there’s one thing that the people in Brown’s life can agree on, it’s that her dedication and passion in all aspects is extremely applaudable.



“She cycles no matter the weather, it’s impressive to meet up with her in cold or inclement weather and find out that she cycled. On days that I would be hesitant to get on my bike, she still rides. I think that speaks to her determined and persevering nature,” said Siji Kompanal, a friend and fellow cyclist.


Biking to her various teaching gigs around the boroughs, Brown also found a way to combine her passion for cycling with her love of film, having made five films now about cycling, trying to show women’s perspectives in the cycling community, a voice that is not heard much.


“My most recent cycling film was about women who cycle through winters in New York. There are a lot of cyclers who stop in the winter months but there’s a special breed who still cycle through very cold, very windy winters.  So I found women that shared that same crazy passion and made that film,” she said.


Brown wasn’t always certain of the route her career would go in. Born in what she calls the “middle of nowhere” Ohio, Western Ohio to be exact, Brown and her family moved around the Midwest a lot- from Ohio to Michigan to Missouri, ending back in Cleveland for middle school and high school. Through those moves, she lived in both the country suburbs and the city. Brown moved to New York when she was 17 for her undergraduate degree, attending Hunter College and double majoring in political science and film production.



Moving around a lot, one constant in Brown’s life was her bike. Her older brother, a bike mechanic and bike messenger, always encouraged her to keep riding. Like a lot of kids growing up she had a bike, and remembers the training wheels coming off and having her first bike ride around the block. “I have an older brother and one of his friends had a bike and I had a mini crush on him and I remember being so proud of myself that I went to wave at him and wiped out because I didn’t have a sense of the bike yet as a new rider. I totally lost it, lesson not learned,” Rachel said holding back laughter.


Coming to the city as a young adult to study as an undergrad, Brown wasn’t sure what path to take. “I don’t know why I chose film except that I was doubting myself as a performer and thought it might be easier- it’s just a different art form,” she said. Brown had always been into the arts, and thought the performing arts were where she was going to head. “It happened in the beginning of my freshman year at Hunter College, I went into film because it’s not an innate talent but a more skill based talent that I could learn.”



Brown’s new found passion for film would later be incorporated into her love of cycling and youth development.  Coming to the city, she didn’t ride at first because of the fear of traffic, but Brown has now been a year round commuter for about 12 years, riding her bike to every job and gig all over the city, rain or shine.


Kaija Siirala, a fellow professor and friend of Brown’s, recalled first seeing her colleague carrying her gear into the classroom on a beautiful September day and thinking “it was cool” that she’d biked there. “When I learned that she bikes all over the five boroughs, I was impressed. It’s pretty hardcore, but Rachel always seems to power through,” she said.



Strapping her bike in front of Hunter College and lugging her big red backpack up the stairs to her fourth floor film class, this is just one of the teaching jobs Brown cycles to. Along with teaching in classrooms around the city, Brown works with Mouse, a national youth development nonprofit that believes in technology as a force for good. Brown is passionate about passing on media skills to the younger generation so people who aren’t represented are able to put their voices out there through the arts, similarly to the way she was able to give a voice to women cyclists in her film “Yes I Rode Here”.  “I would never see myself being a math professor because I don’t see it as being important, I’m more interested in finding solutions to social issues and I feel like the arts are a better way to do that than math. How we experience the world is very different and through the arts, you touch on things that are not quantifiable and there’s more room there to be heard,” she said.


Patrick Weaver, Brown’s supervisor and friend at Mouse, describes her as having a “really interesting perspective and approach” both creatively and academically.  “She brings the perspective of someone who’s learning while teaching, and she’s passionate about it, which helps develop new projects and ideas,” Weaver said.



Rain or shine, snow or wind, Brown will be rushing by on her bike, pedaling away to one of her many teaching jobs, camera in hand and a fire in her heart. Brown has been working on being more experimental lately with her films, trying to not be as “on the nose with a topic” and following a less traditional form. Her new film has dance in it, another one of her loves.



“As for combining passions, it feels natural to me. I don’t think people are moved to create art about things they aren’t interested in; artists want to express or capture something unique about subjects that move us.”



Rachel’s Website:


NYT Observation

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Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Stepping into the lobby of the New York Times building, there’s an instant sense of prominence that fills the space, like the light that beams through every floor to ceiling window. Crisp floors, glass doors, and bright hallways shine, mirroring the history and esteem that lives in these walls.

Bright colors and sunshine make the New York Times building seem to radiate, glass windows and walls making the space seem inviting and open. The building is clean and crisp, exuding minimalism- a fresh breath of air. The floors of the lobby sparkle upon entrance, reflecting the sunlight being let in through the floor to ceiling glass that surrounds the building’s open-air garden. Birch trees and green ferns smile at the sun, casting dancing shadows into the lobby. The building has a calm friendliness to it, the distant clicking of tiny screens lining a bright orange hallway greet passerby’s.  A ride up on one of the building’s energy-efficient elevators is smooth and quiet. The higher floors alternate between bright orange or crisp white walls. Framed photographs and newspaper articles are aligned perfectly, making the space feel welcoming, homey. Bright green conference chairs nestle themselves under clean, round office tables, glass walls hugging the space. The distant sound of printing and the shuffling of papers can be heard, leading to the newsroom where white cubicles are spread out like the lines of a crossword puzzle. There’s a slight murmur of phones being answered, pens being put to paper, but the space still maintains a quiet to it- a calm. Cascading red stairs line the room, like bright red Lego pieces leading to a different floor. Lights dim themselves as sunlight is let in through the grand glass windows, bouncing off the blue, green, and orange seats in the cafeteria space.

Americans Worry About the Presidential Candidates, Poll Shows

This year’s presidential candidates are leaving people in Manhattan unsure and worried about the future of the country as national security is threatened and Donald Trump continues his atypical and to many offensive campaign, according to a poll conducted by Hunter College students last week in New York City.


Nine out of ten people surveyed agreed that threats to national security and stopping ISIS should be the country’s top priority. The poll suggests an overwhelming uncertainty about the candidates and a hope that problems surrounding terrorism and threats to national security will be swiftly addressed, ninety percent of those polled unsure of who they will vote for.   “I have been following this year’s elections, it’s bad,” said Sarah Bernstein, 42, a Republican who runs her own driving school in Brooklyn, said in an interview. “All of the candidates are not respectable and don’t seem capable so I don’t even know who I will be voting for, it’s worrying.”


Younger voters also shared similar views on the candidates. Jordan Shay, a 24-year-old working in real estate, described this year’s election as a “shit show”. “I least hate Bernie so I registered as a Democrat so I can vote for him,” Shay said.



Donald Trump’s forward campaign strategy, Bernie Sanders’ past in politics, and Hillary Clinton’s scandals, though labeled as one of the more entertaining election years, have left voters unsure of the country’s future elected president.  What most voters are sure of however, is that the issue of terrorism needs to be handled and dealt with promptly, as national security is being threatened and Americans feel the government is focusing their energy on less important issues.  “Security needs to be amped up. The extremists who commit these strikes obviously don’t care about anyone and don’t discriminate on who they kill so even though this may be discriminatory towards Muslims, they should be highly secured. It’s still absurd that those on the suspect lists are committing crimes and the FBI just say there are too many to keep track, it’s their job to keep track of those people and instead we are more concerned with small issues,” said Alex Markel, 22, a Republican student.


Ninety-five percent of the 30 adults polled said that they would prefer Bernie Sanders to win if they had to choose, but would vote Clinton as the “lesser of two evils”, if she ran against Donald Trump.


Ninety-eight percent of those polled agreed that they weren’t fans of any of the candidates, but would chose the lesser of two evils. Haylie Wilkins, a 21-year-old student in New York who described herself as a Democrat, was part of the 1 percent who would vote for Hillary Clinton. “I have been following this year’s election and the Republican candidates are terrible. The whole campaign for that party is a mess. Their ideas and policies are regressive and harmful, a hundred steps back for our country. On the Democratic side, it’s a bit more sane. Bernie is passionate but doesn’t have realistic ides of how to get anything done, nor does his history in congress show him to be a strong dealmaker. Hillary Clinton has the most experience and seems most likely to get the nomination and win in a general election.”


Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed said that they would not vote for Trump under any circumstance. “I don’t care to elaborate on Trump, if we give him more attention he will get worse, he is a reality star,” said Irissa Cisternino, 23, a Democrat who works in the city.


Ninety-eight percent of the adults polled were for equal rights and 95 percent believed the issue of abortion should be kept out of politics all together. Despite differing personal opinions, Americans agreed that women should have the choice to do what they please with their bodies, and are glad gay people are being allowed equal marriage rights as straight people.



John Fiacco, 27, a Democrat working as a researcher in Washington, expressed that Trump was only inciting more issues and making things even more turbulent for the United State’s reputation.


Ninety-five percent of those polled said they worried about ISIS and the worsening terror attacks. “The issue of terrorism is scary, seems like nothing is getting better, only getting worse and worse- I don’t know what we can do to better the situation if I’m honest but something needs to be done because these bombings are getting out of hand. Innocent people are dying and I’m tired of hearing about a new terror attack everyday, it’s terrifying. We need to focus on these serious issues regarding public safety instead of the debates surrounding abortion and gay marriage,” said Lea Vardan, 22, a Democrat who studies finance at Pace University.



The 2015 Paris attacks were a brutal reminder of the danger of terrorism to the West, mainly from jihadist groups such as ISIS. In 2014, 32,700 people were killed in attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013, according to The Economist. With stats like these, three-fourths of those surveyed agreed that they are hoping the new president is equipped to find a solution. Rachel Bergen, a 22-year-old student in New York, said she hoped the new president would continue to better the country. “I just hope whoever the new president is deals with terrorism first and tries to keep our country out of any wars.”


Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed agreed that Trump’s campaign tactics were offensive and regressive to the country’s image.  “Trump will sever our foreign alliances and ties,” said Yonique Providence, 27, a Liberal who works as a family court specialist in Canada. “Trump will only make the issue of national security worse, ISIS is more arrogant and deadlier than Al Queada and Trump is just taunting them.”


Thirty people were surveyed throughout Manhattan. Eighteen of those polled were women and 12 men, 15 Democrat, 6 Republican, and the rest unsure and not registered.








A Quaint New Space for Hunter College


Hunter College’s quaint new space, Baker Hall, is located just a block away and is booming with possibilities for the Theatre Department.


Baker Hall, located at 151 E 67th Street (between Lexington and 3rd Avenues), has opened its doors this year for Hunter College’s theatre classes. The newly renovated brown-stone is a promising space welcoming creativity, a part of the school’s ever expanding campus, a new space to build community for the Theatre Department. The 26,000-square foot building holds six floors of clean, new classrooms and places for students to lounge, for meetings to take place and for the arts to flourish. The Baker Building is named after Patty and Jay Baker who donated $15 million to Hunter to purchase the building for the theatre department. Now a welcome edition to Hunter College’s campus, the building had previously been home to a school owned by the Archdiocese of New York, the Kennedy Child Study Center. Because of this, the building’s sale required Vatican approval.

The Bakers’ ties to Hunter date back to when Patty attended the school and its theatre course sparked her interest in the arts- she’s now an honored Broadway producer. Her husband, Jay Baker, is the retired president of Kohl’s. The hefty donation has given the department a new space to impact the theatre program, to build a community beyond Hunter’s loud and crowded doors. “In general it is very exciting to have a space to centralize all our activity and it will be great for building community. Theatre thrives in environments where activity and people are able to work together. We are looking forward to many ideas for future renovation and how the building may be connected to the campus and offer spaces that will really serve all types of activity from design to rehearsal to performance”, Professor Louisa Thompson Pregorson of the Theatre Department stated.


Baker Hall is a quieter home for students in contrast to Hunter College’s main campus which is always packed and bustling. Nestled away on a one-way street, the distant sound of cars is the extent of the noise that rings through the building. “I like having class here so far. It’s more spacious as compared to Hunter, but I’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of classes here, it’s quite empty”, Karen Galo, a theatre student, noted. Indeed, the inside of the building looks and feels nothing like the usual school atmosphere, and nothing but quiet is heard, a calm that’s unparalleled to the usual bustle of the college’s main buildings. From the carpeted stairs, to the quaint white classrooms and tiny restrooms with quirky wooden doors, the space is a breath of fresh air booming with possibilities. One tiny, out-of-service elevator and a place for students to lounge, greet people as they enter the space, reminiscent of a quiet office rather than a busy school. Still being renovated, the plain white walls of the classrooms are booming with possibilities and ideas for future prospects for the department.


“The elevator doesn’t work in the building so that’s inconvenient, but the classrooms themselves are nice, the new desks are clean and comfortable. It’s a nice space”, says theatre student Khristina J Williams with a calm smile.