DOWNTOWN PEOPLE: Renaissance Man
Painter, illustrator, photographer, musician, writer, graphic designer, educator, fundraiser — Adam Levi does it all.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Painter, illustrator, photographer, musician, writer, graphic designer, educator, fundraiser — Adam Levi does it all. It’s no coincidence that as the Rye Arts Center’s Senior Director, he also oversees and manages its art school, gallery, and operations.
Destined to work at what is the largest multi-arts center in Westchester, Levi began his tenure at the Center as an administrative assistant right out of college 15 years ago. “It was totally my dream,” he recalled. “Even though I wasn’t directly involved in all aspects of the Rye Arts Center at that point, the fact that we had a gallery, performing arts events, as well as art and music classes was inspiring. It was all happening here.”
Having plunged into the arts as a youngster, the Pace University graduate felt entirely at home at the center. As a prolific visual artist, he has always appreciated working in a myriad of mediums. As a music lover ever since he can remember, Levi took guitar lessons and taught himself how to play the piano and drums.
“I wanted to be able to write a song, so I needed to learn to play different instruments to make that happen. It was an exciting moment in my life when I realized I could,” he said. In his mid-teens, Levi played original music with a band called The Excuse. Although he downplays their accomplishments, they managed to snag a gig at CBGB, the renowned East Village music club.
“My wife has always wanted me to go to the next level by putting out an official CD, but I’m content to create,” said Levi, who still writes music and lyrics today. He and his wife Christina, an art teacher in Pelham, have spawned equally creative daughters in Emma, 12, and Dharma, 7.
Undoubtedly, it is the creative process and the collaboration that fuel their dad. His passion and expertise have served him well on his journey at the RAC as Development Coordinator, Arts School Director, and now Senior Director.
From his office, cluttered with framed works of art stacked against a wall and a picture of Bob Dylan hung by his desk, he is constantly extending the arts frontier. “I always ask myself what we could do to expand the programs to meet the community’s needs,” he remarked. “How could we put them into play? How could we introduce new mediums that we haven’t yet explored?”
To that end, the center’s state-of-the-art Media Arts program is largely due to Levi’s commitment to the STEAM movement, integrating the center’s innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum with the arts. “STEM doesn’t make sense without the creativity part, the A of art,” he suggested.
Having been instrumental in writing one of the grants for the RAC’s first media arts lab, Levi created this “maker space,” where children and adults design and create together by experimenting, reusing everyday materials, and powering works of art via science and computer technology.
“This was a great sense of accomplishment,” he admitted. “The real payoff is being able to offer very different programming and seeing both children and adults make use of a variety of mediums. They can learn everything from 3D printing, digital photography, and digital animation to coding, robotics, and circuit design.”
Levi has seen the RAC grow in leaps and bounds since he’s been here. He is grateful for the faculty and staff’s dedication to Rye, which he calls his second home, and to the neighboring communities.
“I have yet to see an Arts Center that is as comprehensive as this one and goes as far as we do. Our mission is to diversify and offer maximum participation through outreach regardless of economic status,” he noted.
During the interview, Office Coordinator Vicky Blank couldn’t help but pop her head in to speak on behalf of her boss. Later, she confided, “Adam is so knowledgeable about the arts and the latest technology. He’s also so down-to-earth and approachable. All these factors make the Rye Arts Center what it is today.”