IU Northwest student finds his niche with Chicago arts collective internship
When most people think about a performing arts degree, they often imagine starring in plays or taking the stage as part of an orchestra. But the reality is that the possibilities for a career in the performing arts are endless.
Nana Asabere, an IU Northwest performing arts student, experienced that firsthand through an internship with Chicago’s Cabinet of Curiosity. The organization staged a huge performance in January as part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. This event featured more than 100 performances and events, one of which Asabere had a hand in.
"So far in my internship, I have been able to network with many different artists, polish and refine my craftsmanship as a carpenter, and learn more about the organizational aspects of putting on a production," Asabere said.
During his time working with Cabinet of Curiosity, Asabere has been tasked with selecting set materials, building the set, and incorporating some of his own ideas into the design. Beyond performing, he has had the opportunity to see much of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a major production.
"The caliber of work that was demanded from my internship was eye-opening," he said. "I have been able to see what really goes into the budget of a production."
While his Cabinet of Curiosity internship was one of his first roles working with a Chicago arts organization, it certainly wasn’t his first taste of working in the arts industry. Prior to this semester, Asabere worked with IU Northwest Exhibition and Project Coordinator Cathy Feeman on exhibitions, community pop-up events, and other projects for the School of the Arts.
"We quickly discovered Nana's ability to meaningfully engage with event visitors and utilize logistic skills in managing projects and directing teams," she said.
Networking pays off
And it’s thanks to his experience working with IU Northwest staff that he had the chance to build his network and land his Cabinet of Curiosity internship.
At a School of the Arts event in 2021, he met Frank Maugeri, the founder of Cabinet of Curiosity, and they hit it off. Then one day, Lauren Pacheco, director of arts programming and engagement, asked if Asabere was interested in working with Maugeri. He responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes!"
"Working with Nana was extraordinary," Maugeri said. "He was inventive, curious, resourceful, and resilient. The team and other apprentices found him inspiring, disciplined, and trustworthy. He brought with him a roll up your sleeves and work hard attitude, which I think is born from being a resident of Northwest Indiana."
"Cabinet of Curiosity has long believed that an institution's art should reflect its community," Maugeri added. "Our community is the city of Chicago, which demands that we have practices which offer equitable and respectful opportunities and authorship to people of all ethnicities and genders. This has long been first and foremost in our mission and practice."
Since he accepted the internship, Feeman has witnessed immense growth in his artistry and potential. "I have seen Nana become more assertive in responding to and pursuing new opportunities, stepping out of his comfort zone, and making connections in the arts industry," she said. "It has been a terrific season of growth for him."
Beyond growing his skills and knowledge of the arts industry, Asabere said that the best part of his internship is the people. Not only has he had the chance to network with creative professionals, but he’s met exceptional people along the way.
"I have been blessed to be around really great, wholesome people which really makes working a lot of fun," he said. "I also really enjoy seeing different parts of Chicago and learning the history behind the many different communities."
From her perspective, Feeman is excited to see where Asabere goes next. She hopes that he will continue to pursue new experiences and keep networking with creatives and organizations throughout Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. “I look forward to seeing what he will create, and I will follow his work!” she said.
Asabere is hoping to keep his options open when it comes to employment after graduation. But with so much real-world arts industry experience under his belt, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think he will go on to outstanding success.