Nonprofit Community and Arts Programming

Over the past twenty years, Maureen has worked with grassroots arts organizations to provide funding, staff, equipment, and programing for under-served communities in New York City. She formed partnership with hospitals, universities and schools, hired staff and trained teaching artists, who have reached thousands of participants. The focus is always on social justice, self-empowerment through the creative process, and teaching authentic artistic skills. Maureen also promotes mentoring and volunteering as powerful life-changing tools.

Maureen’s nonprofit career began in Development and Education at the South Street Seaport Museum. In 2001 she became the Director of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, and six years later, moved to the Anne Frank Center USA as Education Director. In 2012 McNeil earned an MS in Nonprofit Management from The New School and became Executive Director of the Josephine Herrick Project until 2016. She now consults with a variety of nonprofits in New York City and Hudson, New York.

Josephine Herrick Project

One of Maureen’s first initiatives at JHP was to work with the board of directors to rename the organization in honor of its founder, photographer Josephine Herrick. For the organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary, Maureen researched Herrick’s life and, together with art historian Bonnie Yochelson and designer Anke Stohlmann, created an exhibition celebrating Josephine Herrick’s life. Clarence H. White, Herrick’s teacher, promoted women photographers in the 1920s, and Josephine and her business partner opened a portrait studio on the upper east side. During WWII, she was tapped by Dr. Howard Rusk, father of rehabilitative medicine, to train teachers and organize photography programs for wounded servicemen. This became her life’s work: helping communities in-need learn self-expression through photography. Learn more about the Josephine Herrick Project.

Akeem

Maureen met Akeem as an intern after he had participated in JHP’s photography program through Birch Family Services. Using a Canon Rebel, he explored NYC’s historic financial district, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the East River. Maureen asked him to write about his photographs, and they created an online book combining photographs and writing. Akeem was introduced to Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York at a JHP photo exhibition. Brandon posted a photo of him on his website and Maureen suggested that Akeem create his own blog site. That spring, Akeem won an award from President Obama for his volunteer service at NY Cares, and a standing ovation from youth in detention when he spoke at the Brooklyn Public Library. After job training, Akeem was hired by the UN Post Office to take portraits and make stamps of tourists to mail a letter home. Today, Akeem travels by subway to all five boroughs, taking photographs of street fairs, parks, and neighborhoods throughout the city, which will be included in his next online photo book. Learn more about Akeem.

The Anne Frank Center USA

Anne Frank, the most famous teen writer in the world, is primarily known as a Holocaust victim. But understanding the sad facts of WWII through the arts helps students of all ages deepen their reading of Anne’s story. At The Anne Frank Center USA, Maureen created a diary writing program with PEN America for US prisoners; visual arts programs where students painted self portraits; and wrote twelve interactive one-woman performances using Anne Frank’s words. PS 43 in the Bronx is one school that benefited from Anne’s story. Students in grades three to to five enjoyed Anne’s sense of humor and gained resiliency through their own self-discovery practicing the creative process. When it came time to interview for middle school, and they were asked about their favorite book, they had a lot to say about The Diary of a Young Girl. Learn more about the Anne Frank Center.

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute: Method acting

During Maureen’s six-year tenure as Director of the school, she was inspired by the Strasberg Method of teaching actors to use their senses, memory, emotions and imagination to perform. She worked closely with Artistic Director, Anna Strasberg, sixty teaching artists, and enjoyed nurturing students from around the world, Tisch School of the Arts, and the young actors. Learn more about the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

The South Street Seaport Museum

One of Maureen’s early leadership successes was running a summer camp at The South Street Seaport Museum. Teaching artists and Department of Education teachers were hired. The curriculum included a poetry program derived from old sailing ship’s signal flags; print making, inspired by Bowne Printing Company, part of the museum; mosaics of sea creatures after a field trip to the Staten Island aquarium; and archeology at NYC Unearthed in lower Manhattan. The free camp served elementary and middle school children from public schools on the Lower East Side and Chinatown, and culminated with a sail on the 19th century schooner, Pioneer. Learn more about the South Street Seaport Museum.

Mercedes

Mercedes was eight-years-old in 1987 when she and her family moved next door to Maureen who was renovating a house in Red Hook, Brooklyn with her husband. When Mercedes turned twelve, she started to babysit Maureen’s young children while she wrote. But Mercedes was diagnosed with Lupus and her family moved into the Red Hook Housing. When her mother passed away, Mercedes started calling Maureen “Mami Mo.” At twenty-one, Mercedes suffered renal failure, and Maureen suggested she write her autobiography to take her mind off dialysis. Mercedes received a transplant from a beloved cousin two years later, and today she lives with her husband, their twenty-one-year old son and sixteen-year-old niece in Connecticut where Mercedes continues to write.

Girls Write Now

Maureen met Amalie at Girls Write Now, a nonprofit that mentors young women to find their voices through the power of writing and community. Even as a high school student Amalie was an amazingly original poet, full of vitality and humor. They met once a week and attended monthly group workshops and public readings. When Amalie attended Smith College, Maureen became co-curriculum chair and helped plan the GWN workshops. Amalie and Maureen continued to meet during Amalie’s holidays and throughout her first job at Teach for America. Amalie is currently pursuing an MFA writing program. Learn more about the Girls Write Now.

Prison Public Memory Project

Prison Public Memory Project in Hudson, New York, founded by filmmaker Tracy Huling, is an organization that brings together stories and people surrounding the closings of women’s prisons in America. Huling introduced Maureen to Luz, who, as a teen, was a resident at the NYS Training School for Girls. Maureen and Luz meet in NYC twice a month to discover the city and share stories. They are currently writing and working on an art project to celebrate Luz’s remarkable life, including becoming a boxer at age sixty! Learn more about the Prison Public Memory Project.