Purchase Alum Brian D. Hills (Acting, ’05) recently took some time from one of his busy days at The Police Athletic League in NYC, where he serves as the Director of Theatre Arts, to answer a few questions for our Community Partner Stories.
Can you give us a brief description of your organization’s mission and goals?
The Police Athletic League, together with NYPD and the law enforcement community, supports and inspires New York City youths to realize their full individual potential as productive members of society.
Describe in a few lines what you do and what your typical day looks like:
I use the preforming arts of acting, music, and dance to help high school and college students engage in the world in a greater level. Helping them understand the principles of these disciplines can be used in the stage that is their lives, for “all the world’s a stage…”
A typical day for me would be doing outreach to high schools in one of the five boroughs and teaching an ensemble building workshop. I plan outings around the city of New York organize speakers, meetings with current and potential partners, and meetings with parents. We do a lot to assist on the college front, I reach out to a number of colleges and universities to create summer experiances on their campuses, development days, see productions, etc.
What quote do you live by? Or, what/who inspires you the most and why?
I have a number of quotes that I really fancy but two the stand out in my mind often are:
No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it. -George Washington Carver.
Where there is no vision the people perish. -King Solomon.
In doing the work I do the person that inspires me the most is my mother, Belinda D. Hills. I never had any idea that I would go into the world of Youth Development, but I spent a good portion of my life watching my mother do it in a small town in the south with little to no help. She did the work in a place where open racism is the order of the day and African American youth were at the mercy of ravenous prejudiced wolves. My mother understood that she had to be the door by which these African American youth could see that there is so much more to the world, and that they had as much a right to it as anyone.
Have you ever been an artist or performer?
Yes I am. I am an actor, but I like to call myself a life artist.
When did you first become involved with The Performing Arts Center, or Purchase College?
I first became involved with Purchase College and The PAC in 2001 when I became a student in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film.
Describe in a few lines how your organization engaged with The Performing Arts Center in the past year.
The Acting Conservatory allows the students that I work with to see their productions at no cost. The PAC organizes on and off campus opportunites for our students to engage and have workshops with artist that are performing at the Performing Arts Center and be a part of festivals.
What surprised you the most about the partnership?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the willingness of The PAC to collaborate on events off campus.
How does your work tie into The PAC’s mission to discover, enlighten, and engage?
Working together with The PAC helps students see the world in a larger way and thereby helps them to be in the world in a larger way. Because it is hard for anyone to engage in the world if one does not feel it is for them. The collaboration with The PAC is another tool through which my students can exercise the muscle of engagement.
What artist inspires you and why?
The artist that inspires me the most is Mr. Tony Danza. I have had the honor of working with him for the past nine years. I have seen the undying selfless passion that he has for the youth of this country. I have seen the work that he does in Philadelphia and here in New York City, and I know it is his life’s mission to leave the world a little better than the way he found it.
Tell us a about an event or project you would love to see at The PAC.
I would like to see projects that are created by and feature artists of color that are alumni of the conservatories at Purchase. Projects that have the objective of creating conversations for change.
What is the best advice you have received or what advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time?
The best advice that I have received was given to me by the late Chief Apostle William Lee Bonner, “Take God with you.”