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Villa Maria College Partners with Get Fokus’d Productions to Launch its First Artist-in-Residence Program; Brings Founder and Nationally Recognized & Buffalo’s Poet Laureate Artist Aitina Fareed-Cooke to Campus

By March 25, 2024Academics

Photo Credit: Kristy Tasca Photography

Villa Maria College launched its inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program in collaboration with the award-winning media arts production company, Get Fokus’d Productions led by artist Aitina Fareed-Cooke.

As part of the program, Get Fokus’d has offered their 12-session, project-based program to a cohort of the College’s Digital Media and Communications students.

As a result of this partnership, Villa Maria’s students are gaining hands-on experience working alongside the Get Fokus’d team as they develop and roll out their digital marketing plan for their 2024 “Tales from the Porch IV: Art is a Language” series. The series will open on June 28 at the Buffalo Art Studio; it will run through August 3.

They are working on projects with the national recording artist A.I. The Anomaly as well as with professional artists who live and work in Western New York.

“Working with Aitina and Get Fokus’d Productions has enhanced the DMC student experience in so many beneficial ways,” said Jessica Longson, Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Communications. The team’s hands-on approach has allowed students to work on and contribute to projects that will have high visibility and reception out in the community—which means they are continually adding new experiences to their resumes and professional pieces to feature in their portfolio.”

At the same time, students are creating and expanding their network of digital storytellers at a local and national level, developing a broader perspective of their field of study and its real-world applications as they go.

“Students are also getting the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the field—helping Aitina and her team to cover events out in the community and create engaging storytelling content using different media,” continued Longson. “Aitina’s leadership and educational approach not only support the mission of the College but has inspired DMC students to push themselves and focus on what they want out of their college experience while learning highly tangible skills along the way.”

Upon completion of the program, students can expect to have a greater understanding of communication, logistics, social media management, content creation, collaboration, storytelling through digital media, and more.

“My experience with Aitina has been enlightening,” Onji Brown, ’25. “They have strengthened my education by allowing me to work with “the real thing.” As a Digital Media in Communications major, being able to use the knowledge I already have and combine it with the things I am getting taught allows me to not only execute what needs to be done while showing my creativity. The technology we’re working with is everywhere, so as I work towards my career path, I am getting comfortable using the equipment in a comfortable environment without judgement.”

“Villa Maria College has become a hub for Western New York’s creative economy,” said Dr. Matthew Giordano, Villa Maria’s president. “We are only a few weeks into this pilot program, and we are already experiencing an increased vibrancy on campus. We want students to have the opportunity to meet artists in their field of study and learn more about the profession. We hope to bring more diverse, creative individuals, from a variety of artistic fields to campus to continue to work with our students and our community partners.”

View photos of Villa students working alongside the Get Fokus’d team:
Photo credits: Kalvin Booker of Through His Lens Photography

About Aitina Fareed-Cooke

Aitina Fareed-Cooke was told at a young age that she would be a “failure to thrive” as a result of her biological mother’s substance use disorder. As a result, she and her two older siblings were placed into the foster care system and due to addiction and substance misuse, their mother passed away. Despite being labeled “emotionally handicapped” and a “failure to thrive” by the system, Aitina refused to be defined by it. Instead, she found solace and empowerment through her faith in God and her voice within the creative arts, rewriting her own narrative. Her unwavering commitment to her family and community became a testament to her resilience and determination.

Currently, Aitina Fareed-Cooke “A.I. The Anomaly” is a Creative Arts Strategist, National Recording Artist, and founder of Get Fokus’d Productions (GFP), an international award-winning media arts production company that has been recognized for its exceptional work within the community of Buffalo NY and beyond. Get Fokus’d Productions is a company in which creatives partner together to capture ‘human-first’ stories, a method that prioritizes empathy and connection. In collaboration with a with a diverse cohort of creatives, and through the mentorship of emerging artists, Aitina amplifies community voices using a social design approach, creating a ripple effect of positivity within the creative arts.

To learn more Aitina, please visit:

To learn more about Get Fokus’d, please visit: or

Villa Maria’s Artist-in-Residence program was made possible by a grant through the St. Francis Fund of Felician Services, Inc.