Longtime actress and teacher Sandra Bowie of Weehawken has just been named as the new vice president for NJPAC's Arts Education program.
"The [arts education program] at NJPAC is excellent," said Bowie. "They have the finest staff and group of teaching artists I have ever seen, and I want to bring my experience, my background, and my commitment [to the program]."
An established actor and teacher for over 20 years, Bowie first applied for the position at NJPAC after close friend and former colleague Geoffrey Newman told her about the job opportunity.
"Geoff has worked with Larry Goldman [president and CEO of NJPAC] and NJPAC for years," said Bowie, who worked with Newman at Howard University. "[Newman] thought this was the right thing for me."
Bowie applied and just recently found out that she was picked for the job.
"It was a wonderful experience getting to know the people there, and I am delighted that I will be working with this great organization," said Bowie. "Larry Goldman has [also] been so pinnacle in this transition for me. He is a human dynamo and has been dynamic in bringing urban and suburban audiences to the performing arts."
Bowie currently serves as the managing and administrative director for the Department of Drama in the Tisch School of Arts at New York University, where she has worked since 1999 and first served as a member of NYU's senior leadership team in the drama department.
"I have been at NYU for almost nine years," said Bowie. "I am the managing and administrative director of one of the largest undergraduate drama programs in the world."
Prior to working at NYU, Bowie was the assistant director in the Teacher Education department at the New School University; she also taught in the Theater Studies Program at Yale University, and is a tenured professor in the department of drama at Howard University in Washington D.C.
From the biology lab to the stage
Born and raised in South Carolina, Bowie received her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in theater from South Carolina University.
"That was where I decided to become an actress," said Bowie, who originally wanted to major in biology and pursue a medical career.
However, that changed in a speech class when the professor, who was the director of the theater program, asked his class to perform monologues.
"He asked me to audition [for a school production] and I got the role," said Bowie. "I decided to change my major and my life, and I have never looked back. It was the right choice for me."
After completing her Master of Arts degree at Illinois State University, Bowie began working as an actress and as a teacher.
Bowie has performed on stage, film and television for the past 20 years.
"I integrated my teaching career and my acting career in Washington D.C.," said Bowie, who lived there for 12 years. "I did a lot of work there, and in regional theater around the country."
Bowie's stage career has included performances in well-known productions such as "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," "Media," and she played Ruth in Lorraine Hanberry's famed play "A Raisin in the Sun."
Bowie was also a recipient of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical for her performance in "A...My Name is Alice" at the Horizons Theatre in Washington D.C.
In addition, Bowie did extensive film and television work in the New York area including an HBO original series called "Tanner '88," where she portrayed a campaign advisor in a mock presidential campaign.
"It was quite wonderful and Cynthia Nixon [Miranda from "Sex and the City"] was part of the cast, she played Tanner's daughter," said Bowie. "It was also quite wonderful working with Robert Altman, who was the director of the film."
Bowie said she has enjoys living in Weehawken.
"I have been living in Weehawken for about 16 years, and I love Weehawken," said Bowie, who first came to the area when visiting a friend. "I was living in New York at the time and I thought it's such a beautiful place as I was driving up the hill from the Lincoln Tunnel. I knew I wanted to live in Weehawken and I plan to continue living there. It's a wonderful place and a wonderful community."
Bowie's teaching career flourished along with her acting career.
"When I was teaching some workshops at South Carolina State University I realized somewhere down the line I have the soul of an educator," said Bowie. "I love teaching."
Bowie realized how well the two careers worked together, and enjoyed watching young aspiring performing artists hone their craft. She also felt it helped nourish her own experience as an actress.
"I felt like I was a better teacher when I was acting," said Bowie. "They are both loves for me."
With her new position, Bowie hopes to reach more students in the state, including Newark and to work with the government to make arts education and creative learning a possibility for every student in the state, she said.
"I just believe so deeply that when children know and own their creative potential, and when that is expressed and [nurtured], their lives transform," she said.
In addition, Bowie hopes to see the performing arts as part of the regular academic curriculum instead of just an extra curricular activity.
She will officially assume her new position as vice president of arts education on June 2.
Bowie is a member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, The Black Theatre Network, Actor's Equity Association, The Screen Actors Guild and the National Association of Academic Advisors.
While based in Washington D.C., Bowie co-founded the Takoma Theatre, a professional resident nonprofit theatre company. She also served as a panelist for a number of years for the Arts Education division in the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
"The arts cannot be just an add-on in this changing world; they are a part of the academic world," said Bowie.