CMA Stories

“Through becoming different characters and telling stories, children learn what life is like in someone else’s shoes” — 5 Minutes With Teaching Artist Mackie Saylor

CMA Community and School Programs Manager and trained thespian Mackie Saylor is bringing theater back to CMA! In addition to leading free CMA Live! sessions Creative Movement and Creative Dance, Mackie teaches the 7-week course Beginning Theater: Page to Stage, which introduces emerging thespians to the art and craft of drama. Can’t make Mackie’s live sessions? Check out her video art lessons for family-friendly art projects to do at home. Get to know Mackie below!

Tell us about yourself and your art practice. Where are you from and how did you make your way to New York City and CMA

As a teaching artist and arts administrator, I am committed to building and celebrating community through the arts. At CMA, I manage our school programs, which include in-school artist residencies and field trips to CMA. My personal arts practice is in directing, writing, and teaching theater. I studied voice and music while growing up outside of Des Moines, Iowa, and went on to earn a BFA in Musical Theater from the Conservatory of Theater Arts at Webster University in 2014. After graduation, I moved to New York City to pursue acting, and performed regionally and on tour before working as a teaching artist throughout the city. I also spent summers teaching with Ashworth Theater Company, a summer theater program I co-founded with my sister in 2012. My interest in arts leadership grew after seeing the impact of school-based arts programs as a teaching artist. In 2018, I joined the School and Community Programs team at CMA, and I graduated with a Masters in Educational Theater for Colleges and Communities from NYU in May!

What is your favorite part about teaching creative movement and theater classes at CMA?

I’m happy to continue isolating at home in New York City to help keep everyone safe, but it’s hard to be away from loved ones and the children and families who visit CMA! My favorite part of teaching creative movement and theater is getting to connect with members of the CMA community despite the physical distance. I also love that these classes make “screen time” an active and engaging activity that encourages kids to use their imaginations and express emotions!

Why is studying theater important to a child’s development? 

Participating in theater helps kids develop so many important skills such as communication, literacy, confidence, teamwork, and expressing and acknowledging feelings. To me, the two that are most important are building empathy and perseverance. Through becoming different characters and telling stories, children learn what life is like in someone else’s shoes. Through taking risks like trying something silly or speaking up in front of a group, children learn to navigate failure and challenging emotions in a safe environment, making hurdles in real life a little easier to jump. 

How does working with children inspire you?

Children have such innovative and clever ideas, and I love collaborating with them to create really exciting projects. They push me to be a better teacher and leader, and their tenacity gives me real hope for the future! 

Can you share an artwork, artist, or performance that inspires you to make art?

I love the Story Pirates Podcast! They bring original stories created by kids to life through the voices of grown-up actors and comedians. It’s a really fun family-friendly podcast.


While our doors are closed, CMA is here for you and your family with at-home art projects to keep children entertained and engaged. However, every day we’re closed puts the future of CMA in further jeopardy.

Will you be there for us? Every dollar you donate directly supports the Museum and ensures that CMA will remain a pillar of educational and artistic leadership in New York City. Click here to donate.

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