The After School Arts Program in Washington Depot has a new face on its Board of Directors. Dr. Michael John Williams has taken over the helm as the board’s new president. Williams is taking over for Jill Lloyd, who stepped down in February.
“My role is to help the organization develop strategically, which includes supervising the development of programming as well as fundraising, both of which are done in conjunction with my fellow board members,” said Williams. “ASAP has an amazing board, and I am pleased to work with such great people.”
ASAP believes in the appreciation of the arts is the hallmark of both a complete person and a healthy society. Its mission is to enable children to engage in artistic and cultural activities that otherwise would not be available to them, according to the organization’s website.
ASAP programs and workshops include literary, performing, visual and culinary arts designed to not just teach particular skills, but to nurture individual creativity, encourages group collaboration, and give participants the chance to explore new and sometimes life-changing experience in the arts.
JoAnne Torti, executive director of ASAP said with Williams in his new role, it is more about strengthening and fortifying what the organization has.
“We started 17 years as an afterschool arts program in Region 12 to fill a need,” Torti said. “We started with 72; last year we provided programming for10,000 kids from over 100 towns in Connecticut.”
Williams is the clinical professor of international relations and director of international relations at New York University. He has a Ph.D. in international relations at the London School of Economics & Political Science. He has particular interests in U.S. foreign policy, transatlantic relations and civil-military relations and the intersection between war, technology and society.
Some of his publications include “Science, Law and Liberalism in the American Way of War,” which he co-authored with Dr. Stephanie Carvin (Ottawa), the “The Afghan War, 2001-2012” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History (Oxford 2012) and “The Good War: NATO and the Liberal Conscience in Afghanistan” (Palgrave 2011). He has also the co-editor of the edited volume “Power in World Politics” (Routledge 2007).
Williams is a Stephen M. Kellen term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on the Armed Forces and Society and an alumnus of the International Summer Policy Institute at American University, among his many other accomplishments.
Torti said the organization has a lot going on with all different kinds of programs. In addition to that, ASAP hosts events that communities from all over come to see.
For example, on June 4 is the 11th annual Celebration of Young Writers at The Gunnery in Washington, an event that encourages children to share their love of writing.
“When you have someone new leading an organization, they bring new ideas and new perspectives and new people,” said Torti. “We are a community organization, a nonprofit; we are here to provide arts and culture to our communities.”
Williams said the arts are hugely important in the development of children. They provide for a creative outlet and encourage independence and learning.
“I feel lucky to have had great arts programming in my local schools as a kid, and I’m so pleased to get to help offer a similar opportunity to the new generations,” said Williams.
Torti said one of the immediate plans with Williams in his new role is to streamline the Celebration of Young Writers event to focus on the children.
“We thought we would eliminate the live and reverse auctions so that we are spending time before the event to raise money, so when we are at the event they can focus on enjoying each other and the extraordinary talent of our young writers,” said Torti. “We are making it more focused and not such a long event. I think that is huge for us, and it is really a good change.”
Other changes with Williams on the board will include redefining board roles and educating the board, she said.
“I feel very fortunate that he is at the helm of our organization now. He has such a vibrant and fun can-do personality,” said Torti. “Jill was a dynamo, really terrific and a lot of change happened with Jill at the helm, it was wonderful. It is exciting to have Michael, because of his history, his intellect, his use.”
Torti said every year the organization always looks at everything they do and they reach out to the community for feedback.
“We are always looking for ways to improve and that will never stop,” said Torti. “We are here as a service; we want to be as fresh and enlightening as possible.”
Williams said his goal as president of the board is to help the organization refine its core programming, to expand its involvement in the urban areas around Region 12 including Danbury and Waterbury and most importantly to broaden the sponsorship base.
The biggest challenge right now for ASAP is meeting funding goals. Williams said ASAP is heavily reliant on financial support from the residents of Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater.
“We are very sensitive to this fact, and we don’t want to tire our donors out, so we are really working to involve new people and new donors,” said Williams. “We also need to expand geographically and diversify our engagement a bit more. “
Williams said ASAP is now involved in Torrington, but the organization wants to do more in surrounding communities and in doing so not just fill a critical need for arts programming, but they also hope to bring kids from different areas together in a common learning experience where they can build new friendships.
“Following in the footsteps of Jill Lloyd is a big task,” said Williams. “Jill has been so important to ASAP’s development, so in all honesty, I hope that I can just live up to expectations. ASAP is quite simply an amazing organization and I am flattered that the board felt confident to trust me to steward the organization over the next few years.”
For more information about ASAP, visit www.afterschoolartsprogram.org.