Hopkinton POS

HCA Spotlight Series: Instructors

 HCA Spotlight
 Learn more about the people who call the HCA 'home'.


Joy Donohue, ESL community member, fundraiser 

How and why did you choose to become involved with HCA? For brief background, I have been active in sports, the community and fundraising throughout my life including 13+ years running the high school athletics Booster store (as well as working in corporate communications for many years prior to that). When my sons became college age I turned my focus to improving my own abilities to run and compete as I had encouraged them to do their entire lives in their various sports like family favorite football! It was now my turn—so I had to find a way to combine my passion for running with my passion for helping people and definitively decided on running the Boston Marathon.  First year I ran to raise money for the rebuilding of the Hopkinton Public Library – and caught the Boston Marathon fever and fervor. After that, my neighbor Mary-Beth Elliot kindly connected me with Kelly Grill at the HCA and working with her has been a dream ever since.  Her leadership, all of you, the work being done each year at the HCA and the increasing numbers of people who are positively impacted by its presence in our community—continues to inspire me to even greater heights. This year will be my fifth consecutive Boston Marathon race.
Share a story about your HCA moment.  What comes to mind? When I think of the HCA, I think of the many amazing cultural opportunities right in our own backyard—thanks to the efforts of strong leaders who run the organization and for that I am grateful. At an early age, I was regularly exposed to classical and other kinds of wonderful music at home, theater such as Broadway shows, art appreciation, visiting museums both here and aboard, the value of libraries, books, travel, all within a context of prayer and spirituality—things that enhance the quality of life and promote optimism / a CAN-do attitude through tough times.  (My dad was a Methodist minister who interestingly came here from Baghdad, Iraq in the early 1950s to attend college.) Though at the time we couldn’t necessarily afford a lot of these things—my parents somehow found a way to make it happen. Years later, I have tried to instill similar values in raising my own family and appreciate all the HCA has done to make these kinds of programs available here in Hopkinton.

One favorite HCA moment—in which I was actually “star struck”—is from a few years ago, when I took my family to a classical music concert Easter weekend. It was a performance on par with any concert I had seen at Symphony Hall in Boston and very much felt that way. Two very talented and beautiful young musicians – SoYoung Kwon on violin and Keun Young Sun on concert piano – performed highly complex works by Kreisler, Mozart, Dvorak and Schumann. They are internationally renowned, having played with symphony orchestras both in the U.S. and abroad, so imagine our delight to be able to sit back and enjoy this level of quality in a relaxed setting. All of my boys who are regularly active in sports, school, business and all sorts of other kinds of activities completely enjoyed every minute of this as did I. The concert was free for students and $15 for adults and included a delightful tea and cookies.  

Another favorite moment happens every summer when we can hear the sounds of the HCA free summer concerts simply while sitting outside on our deck in our backyard since I live nearby. It’s more than wonderful and reminds me how blessed we are to live in a community that offers the gift of music to everyone. Music played live, free and open air for all to listen for miles around certainly has to be a top 10 HCA glorious moments for a lot of people living in Hopkinton.
Why are spaces like HCA important for communities? In today’s age of school cutbacks in the arts and especially now during crazy times, classroom and performance space like this takes on a whole new meaning.  Whether it’s housing students after school who have nowhere to go or training them for a successful future by exposing them to culture or even offering adults lifelong learning and listening opportunities – these are all central to a well-lived life.
As a marathon runner how does it feel to support the arts through your passion? Every step of the way is fueled with the knowledge that someone is supporting me and in turn, I can support the HCA and others through my running.  It feels amazing and empowering especially when trying to complete a task of this magnitude. It’s not easy.  Every inspirational minute and moment counts during the 26.2-mile hilly trek especially when things get tough down the road. It’s a mind and body effort requiring a 100-percent “It CAN be done” mentality. Knowing I can accomplish this while also helping others in an area that’s typically underfunded is an amazing opportunity that I greatly value.
If you could shout a message about HCA from rooftops what would it be?
It would be one of encouragement and gratitude: Go get ‘Em Hopkinton Center for Arts!  Continue doing your very best to provide the very best to our community and THANK YOU. You’re on a roll and doing great year after year. The HCA is a top provider of quality programs and I believe each of us can do more to support its mission—either by taking classes, volunteering your time, making a donation, attending a concert, peeking in on an exhibition or even a running road race and fundraising through other means like me. Let’s Go—Support HCA today without question! It is a non-profit supported by private donations (not taxpayer supported), gem in the community and we each have the power and ability to make a difference.



Judith Smith, Art Instructor


Can you share with me a little bit about your background? Art Training?

I have always wanted to be an artist and teacher. When I was 12, I was running classes for neighborhood kids at my Mom’s kitchen table. I also danced, sang and acted. I spent one year at Emmanuel College in Boston, studying piano, French and Drawing, however, I did not have the money to continue and transferred to Bridgewater State University as an Art Major. Graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Art and minors in music, education and theater, I earned teaching certificates in Art K-12 and General Music K-12. I travelled to Europe after graduation, seeing the great works of Art for a few weeks. I then worked at Harvard University Le Corbusier Center before landing my first Art teacher job at King Philip Middle School. On my second trip to Europe, I met my husband of 40 years in Corfu, Greece. I moved to England for a year, then returned to the States and worked at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. Fast forward twenty years; after raising 2 children, owning a floral and special event design business and an art lesson business under the name of Kreative Kids and Talented Teens, I found myself drawn to the field of special education after working as an arts teacher on the pediatric psych floor of Floating Hospital for Children. I earned my Masters of Education degree and teaching certification in Special Education, moderate disabilities from BSU and worked as the art teacher at League School for Autism in Walpole for 9 years. After moving to Medway to be near my grandchildren, I found the Hopkinton Center for the Arts where I have been thrilled to teach for 4 years.

How do you approach teaching?  Do you have a particular philosophy?

My philosophy is to “meet the child where he/she is that day.” All children have special needs each time you see them. It is my job to connect with them emotionally first, so that instruction flows easily. My philosophy is to provide structure so that thinking and creating can take place in a developmentally appropriate way.  This means that I am well-prepared for class and able to communicate the learning objectives clearly and concisely in a relaxed, non-stressful manner.

What made you want to join HCA’s faculty?

First, I was amazed that such a place existed. I have never been to such a lovely community building that houses theater, art, music, dance, performances, exhibitions, education and more. The instruction offered is extremely high quality and I definitely wanted to be included!

What has been the most memorable experience thus far at the HCA?

The mural making last summer was extremely moving.  It was my first time teaching unknown students at the Framingham “Y” via zoom. Collaborating with other teachers and administrators to make it happen was most exciting. When I finally saw the finished work and worked on piecing it together, I was emotionally drained. It took my breath away. Bringing art and materials to students in a pandemic was truly a loving work that helped us cope with the magnitude of the pandemic.

How have you adapted to teaching during the pandemic? 

I am excited and proud that I have come a long way technologically in a short amount of time. The teachers at the HCA bonded together last spring to get through the quarantine and share their expertise and emotions. We were all focused on getting art to the students. Now that I have some data to look back upon, I have adjusted my zoom teaching according to my student’s needs. They need less zoom time (only 60 minutes) for young students, but more directed. I also allow time for free choice, creativity and student feedback, depending on how students are doing. The key is to keep communicating and reassuring students that it is ok. They don’t have to be perfect.

On a personal level, do you feel art has helped you adjust during these tumultuous times?  If so, how?  

Yes indeed. It has given me the drive to keep going. Some days were very frustrating and sad, but keeping it together for my students kept me learning, creating and even growing in a positive way. I am an emotional person, so sad news does affect me. Art has helped me to give a voice to all the many emotions that have happened since last March.

Anything else you would like to add? Want the HCA community to know about you?

During quarantine, I walked at Medfield State Hospital taking photos. I felt I could feel the spirits of the inmates…perhaps their frustration and feelings of being trapped in a helpless manner resonated with some of my own pandemic feelings. I felt an odd sense of comfort there. Thus, my next series of paintings will be inspired by those photos. Finally, I cannot wait to see everyone in person again. I am really quite a social creature!


Alyssa McQuillan, Dance Instructor

Tell us about yourself? I grew up and still live in Bellingham, MA.

What led you to the Hopkinton Center for the Arts?  I began working at the HCA in 2018 when I was told about a front desk position opening. I was originally hired for that position but was later asked if I could teach a pre-ballet class and that's when I slowly started teaching more and more dance classes here at the HCA! I absolutely love dance and teaching children, so being a youth dance instructor is a dream job for me.

Have you seen yourself grow as an artist since participating in HCA classes and performances? If so, how? I have definitely seen myself grow in the art of dance since I began teaching at the HCA. The HCA has allowed me an opportunity to find my own style of teaching and I am so grateful for that. 

What value do you think the HCA brings to Metrowest? The HCA brings such wonderful things to the MetroWest area. It allows children all the way up to adults the ability to explore all different styles of art and I think it is an amazing benefit to the community. In my opinion, every form of art can have such a positive impact on people's lives and its great to have one organization offer so much to people of all ages in the area. 

What is unique about the adult student experience at HCA? What's unique about the adult student experience is that it offers such a variety of classes to adult students which I think is greatly appreciated by adults in the area. It can be hard to find fun adult classes with convenient times and the HCA offers just that.

What is your fondest memory at the HCA? I have lots of fond memories of participation here so it's hard to choose just one. One of my favorites would be watching the children I taught all year long dance in the spring showcase back in 2019. Seeing how much fun the kids were having brought me such joy and pride that I never felt before.

What has teachinga the HCA been like during COVID? I taught online hip-hop and creative dance classes online this past spring and summer. I loved being able to provide kids with some structure in their days and a lot of them told me how grateful they were for the classes. It was definitely different not being able to teach in person, but I had the chance to get really creative in the way I taught and I learned a lot!

What suprises you most abou the HCA? The ability for instructors to get creative and offer classes that you might not normally see other places. There is such a wide variety of fun classes taught by some of the most creative instructors!

Learn more about the HCA dance program here.



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