2003-08-01 / Community

KidsmART Brings Art and Fun to Rockaway’s Kids

By Elizabeth Roth
KidsmART Brings Art and Fun to Rockaway’s Kids By Elizabeth Roth


Tara Scannell, Marina Callahan and Chris­tine George.Tara Scannell, Marina Callahan and Chris­tine George.

Quietly, but with quality in mind, one of the most interesting programs in the city has brought 200 very lucky kids to Gateway National Park for the KidsmART Program, a creative day camp run right in our backyards.

Walk into the main building in Gateway and what first strikes a visitor is color and enthusiasm level. If there is an inch of space on the walls not covered by the campers’ creations, its very hard to find-and you don’t really want to. Sculptures, paintings, masks, dolls, beads, the inside of the whole building seems to have been chosen for a mural in primary colored paint. The organized chaos of the camp is packed with fun and high-energy activities for a range of ages, and everyone, from the kids to the teen assistants to the counselors looks focused and happy.

The camp, which has been running for four years, is definitely something special. All stripes of creative activity are encouraged. Theater and music are both major parts of the day. However there are benefits to being based in the middle of a National Park. Nature walks and sports are also features of the curriculum. One of the most amazing parts of this program is how much they manage to pack into a time span of only five weeks. They also have a number of special needs children, who are fully integrated into the camps daily life.

With a ratio of only ten kids to one counselor and assistant pair, the camp numbers 260 people total. They want more- Christine George, education coordinator for the main sponsor, the Rockaway Artists Alliance, claims that one of the hardest parts of the job is turning people away, both kids and prospective teen assistants. But they don’t have the money to supply the demand, and the fee for the camp is already higher than they would like. They do have a number of kids attending on scholarships, but again, not as many as they would if they had a bigger budget.


Wonder personified.Wonder personified.

The kids are usually the focusof a story like this, but another aspect of KidsmART is the teens who assist the counselors. KidsmART receives over 100 applications each summer. They take only a quarter of them, and all have creative specialties. All are screened to be great with the kids. Among the teens are specialties like piano, sculpture, and theater. Their contributions include running their own programs and ideas like the Good Deed Beads, necklaces given as a reward for things like sharing, or volunteering for an unpleasant task, an idea credited to Kalin Callaghan, an artist and sculptor.. One of the most impressive things to be seen at the camp is the kids who run over to the counselors and cheerfully report, that not they, but one of their friends, has done a good deed and needs to be rewarded. The selflessness is totally unconscious, and all the more special for it.

While the camp is obviously a complicated undertaking, the adults seem to be having the time of their lives. The counselors are usually in the creative arts and enjoy getting to work with the talented kids the program attracts. Bobby Abrahamson a photographer who used to teach at the university of Georgia comments "It gives them {the kids) a chance to express themselves creatively, and I love being a part of it." The co-coordinators Marina Callahan and Tara Scannell are equally enthusiastic, raving about the talent and dedication of the people involved at any opportunity.

Visits from a roving exhibit from the Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Zoo, music crafts and "Wacky Water Wednesdays" make this program a diverse, entertaining and educational place to send your kids during the summer. Lets hope the camp gets the funding it needs to include as many kids as they can.


Fun with Paper Machie.Fun with Paper Machie.Some of Kalin’s Creepy Crawlies and Betty’s Butterflies, two groups from the camp.Some of Kalin’s Creepy Crawlies and Betty’s Butterflies, two groups from the camp.

Teen Assistants Mikki Krakaur, Justin Werner, Christopher DeCarmine and Counselor Khadyjah Alleyne perform.Teen Assistants Mikki Krakaur, Justin Werner, Christopher DeCarmine and Counselor Khadyjah Alleyne perform.Circle of Friends.Circle of Friends.

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