Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kyle Ryan and I am from a rural village in Ireland called Dromcollogher, however, I moved to Kennebunkport, Maine about 8 years ago. I just finished my freshman year at Duke University where I am still undecided as to my major but am considering both Neuroscience and Public Policy. I have two sisters, Kellie (18) and Jessica (6), as well as two dogs—Max, a golden retriever, and Skippie, a German Spitz.
A requirement of your scholarship through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is to complete a Summer of Service. What were your goals and wants with your placement?
When I was considering where I wanted to go, I definitely wanted to be somewhere where I hadn’t been before or where I may not have the opportunity to spend a significant time in the future. With my specific placement, I wanted to have some amount of freedom with solid guidance. I wanted to be able to explore my interests in the context of whatever work I was doing. I didn’t mind as much what the job itself was but was rather interested in its ability to challenge me. Delta Arts Alliance has definitely done that for me so far and has truly been inspiring place to work.
How did you arrive to the decision to make Mississippi your summer placement site?
I was attracted to the Delta because of what I’ve heard from older scholars about the intriguing culture, music and incredibly friendly people that populate this area. After talking a little to Rori on the phone, I knew that this would be the perfect internship for me and I am so glad I came. Every location offered a unique set of challenges, intrigues and quirks, but for some reason, that really wasn’t clear to me until I actually got here, I kept coming back to the Delta as I was thinking about where I ought to go, and here I am.
You have a background in the arts. Tell us a little about that.
I grew up with an extended family that was very into music. In reality, much of the culture of Ireland centers around the traditional music. Most get togethers that my family has almost invariably end with my dad singing a rousing rendition of “Botany Bay” or everyone joining in to sing with pride “Amhrán na bhFiann,” the Irish national anthem. More than that though, I got into music at a very young age playing the tin whistle and eventually playing the accordion and the violin. I love Irish music and find it to be an incredibly freeing way of expressing myself. I also enjoy making videos and telling stories through the lenses of a camera as way of sharing cultures and appreciating our diverse but often similar values. I hope that I can continue to explore my love for music and filmmaking not only this summer, but in the next few years as well.
Do you think that background in the arts has aided your time here with Delta Arts Alliance?
Absolutely—not only has it given me an interesting perspective on the interests of artists and how to ensure their support, but I have also been able to continue to hone my video making skills through the work I have been doing with DAA.
What has been the most eye-opening part of this journey, thus far?
It would definitely have to be the need for Arts in this region. I didn’t quite realize the issues with funding and lack of adequate access to mediums of creativity for students in the Delta, and am grateful to work with an organization that is trying to correct that in a meaningful and long term way. For me, music has been monumental in my development—I can’t imagine a life without it. The fact that there are regions like the Delta that have institutional obstacles to letting kids have an education that is integrated with arts is frustrating and my passion has become only more clarified with the more that I have learned.
What has been the favorite part of your summer residency?
My favorite part has absolutely been the people I have met. I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a group that are so willing and interested in engaging with us and hearing our stories while giving us a taste of theirs. I love being around people that are so welcoming—Thank you Cleveland! It has also been a blessing to work with Rori; she is an excellent mentor who is tough, and challenging, while being endlessly kind and loving.