When Gaby Moss ’93 and Alysia Reiner ’88 joined the Resistance Revival Chorus, neither of them imagined they’d find not one but two connections to the Ethical Culture Fieldston School: Abena Koomson-Davis, Ethics Chair at Fieldston Middle and Resistance Revival Chorus Musical Director, and to each other as ECFS alumni. Their chance meeting over a shared interest in art and activism led to a collaboration that supports the commitment to living an ethical life that these two alumni learned as ECFS students.
What do you remember most from your time at ECFS?
Moss: My mom was drawn to the mission of ECFS and the way that the School is committed to diversity. For most of my childhood, she was a single mother, and it was important to her that I was able to receive a great education where I would feel welcomed. Looking back decades later, I still think about the atmosphere that all of my teachers worked to create for the students.
Reiner: Something that sticks with me to this day is learning about ethical dilemmas in 1st Grade at Ethical Culture. I remember realizing, “Wow, there isn’t always a right and wrong. Sometimes it’s way more complicated than that.” That concept blew my mind and is something I still grapple with today.
What was your path after graduation?
Reiner: At Fieldston, I loved theatre, science, and math, and I even wrote my college essays about how psychoneurobiochemistry and acting were related. I went to Vassar College, where I was a biopsychology major, but I overloaded my courses so that I could take a year abroad and study theatre in London. I came back to New York, where I continued acting and slowly began to have a couple of big breaks, including the movie “Sideways” and the television show “Orange Is the New Black.” I’m now still acting (most recently in “Ms. Marvel”!), producing female-driven stories with primarily women behind and in front of the camera, serving on the board of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and continuing to look for ways to bring art and activism together.
Moss: After Fieldston, I majored in cultural anthropology at Wesleyan University. I loved that my classes were discussion-based and that they covered a variety of subjects such as religion, psychology, and sociology. I did a lot of exploring right after college — I traveled, worked in a preschool, spent time as a dance instructor, and worked as a project manager at an advertising agency. In my late 20s and 30s, I served as the executive director at a nonprofit focused on youth impacted by chronic illness. But no matter what else I was doing, I was always making art of some kind. In 2020, after lots of encouragement from friends and family, I built a jewelry studio in my home and launched my jewelry business, Gaby Moss Designs, with an homage to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a piece I call the Dissent necklace, inspired by the collar she would wear when issuing a dissenting opinion to the court.
How did the two of you begin working together on the current Dissent necklace project?
Moss: I’m always thinking about what the next step is for my business. Working with precious metals — gold, rose gold, sterling silver — has been on my list for a long time. I knew I wanted to leverage that opportunity to raise awareness and support for reproductive rights, which is one of my top activism priorities. I decided that creating a limited-edition version of my original Dissent necklace in precious metals, with 20% of the profits going to the National Network of Abortion Funds, is a way for me to contribute to a cause I feel strongly about.
It seems perfect that Alysia and I connected because of Abena, who is a wonderful inspiration and a beautiful leader in the community of artists and activists in the Resistance Revival Chorus. Alysia and I started to become friends before we even realized that we were both ECFS alumni! I wanted her to model for my business ever since meeting her, and this piece was a great opportunity to work together. She’s been a real partner and collaborator in all areas of the project.
Reiner: One amazing thing about Gaby’s work is that when you create wearable art, you get to tell the story about the piece. Every time I’ve had the opportunity to wear it, I can tell people the story behind the necklace and the impact that it has. There’s something really magical about that.