2006-10-20 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

KidsmArt Earns Raves From The City Rockaway Artists Alliance
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

KidsmArt Earns Raves From The City
Rockaway Artists Alliance

Commentary by
Susan Hartenstein

GIFTED , RAA's holiday member exhibit: November 4-December 10. Opening reception: Sunday, November 5, 1-3 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery, Fort Tilden. Free admission. Gallery hours: Saturdays: 12-4 p.m., Sundays 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. For information: 718 474-0861; rockart116@ aol.com, www.rockawayartistsallian ce.org


The large, airy, sunlit room was filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. The brightly colored yellow and orange-trimmed walls were covered in children's art, signs carrying encouraging, positive messages and creative ideas. Covered, that is, without being overpowering or intimidating. Upon entering one was instantly aware that the approximately 100 beaming children, dozen or so teen assistants, equal number of instructors and several guests who were gathered knew they were part of something wonderful.

The occasion was "Out of the GATE: Great Artists Teaching Excellence," a special presentation by RAA's kidsmART afterschool program as part of "Lights on Afterschool," a nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs. "Out of the GATE" showcased the myriad activities and talent involved in the kidsmART program, which is funded by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). The location was building T-149 in Fort Tilden, home of kidsmART. More than 200 children are enrolled in the 3 day per week, 26 week program. The show opened with dance, rhythm and beat instructor Khadyjah Alleyne leading her captivated audience with African drumbeats that illustrated another culture's music and means of communication. It continued with a theater game led by theater instructor Ellen Fabbricatore that involved and delighted not just the children but the adults, as well. Irish singer, actor and chess instructor Bernard Smith led a sing-along. Instructor Ross Radusky, a biology major at Queens College, presented an entertaining project explaining molecules. Who knew CO2 could be fun? The afternoon continued with the usual activities and workshops of the program. Throughout, the children were attentive, exuberant and involved, constantly encouraged, but not disruptive. Any such tendencies were gently though firmly redirected. During a normal day, children are also offered downtime in which they may do something quiet like read a book, get homework assistance, play games, go on the computer or socialize.

Invited guests included Regina Dillard, Director of the Out-of-School Time Program for DYCD, Karen Hill, Program Manager for RAA at DYCD's Out-of-School Time Program, Alicia Kemp, Program Manager for DYCD and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Their overwhelmingly positive evaluations of the showcase and the activities of the kidsmART program which they observed are informative. Regina Dillard commented that she was "very impressed" by the "dynamic interaction" and high degree of "focus" achieved with children of elementary school age. To her, it was "incredible." Karen Hill labeled the kidsmART program "excellent"; the staff "exceptional" and "phenomenal." All were impressed by their high level of professionalism and by the diversity of the talents and disciplines they bring to the program. Dillard continued that the activities offered are "creative and well-structured." Alicia Kemp insightfully observed that, though the children were full of energy, that energy was being directed creatively and there was a sense of calm in the room. She also referred to the "home-like" atmosphere, making for the sense of "one big, happy family." The good behavior of the children was recognized as being the result of their interest in the diverse variety of arts and activities offered to them. Assemblywoman Pheffer voiced the opinion of all that kidsmART allows youngsters to be creative through a wide range of visual and performing arts and even science. "Where," she said, "have you seen more than 100 kids of all ages sitting so quietly, doing things together with no bullying and with respect for each other?" Parents in the program express the same thoughts. One mother I spoke to, Patti Donnelly, said that she had brought her children to a variety of programs in the city and this is the best because of how well organized it is and because it concentrates on every aspect of a child's growth and character. The children are encouraged to participate in the arts, in sports, in science; they learn tolerance and respect for each other; teamwork and sportsmanship.

Christine Mullally, Program Director and Marina Callaghan, Program Coordinator, wish to thank the guests who attended Thursday's event. Their presence, encouragement and insightful observations made the day even more special.

Any parents who want to register their children (ages 6-13) for the kidsmART may contact the RAA office at 718 474-0861 or rockart116@ aol.com , or may come to the program at building T-149 in Fort Tilden on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 3:30 - 6:30 p.m.

MADAM RAYAH HALLOWEEN ALERT: Oh good people of The Rock. I interrupt the column of our brilliant journalist to bring you a warning !!!!!! Can you believe it? The dastardly demons coming to invade the Fort of Tilden on October 28-31 (from 5-8 p.m.) have had the chutzpah to put out a CASTING CALL! Yes. They have the audacity to believe that members of this fair community would want to participate as the fractured, twisted variations of the Mad Hatter, etc. in Malice in Underland! They ask that, if you wish to participate, come in "weirded" Wonderland character costume to sTudio 7 Gallery on Saturday, October 21 or Sunday, October 22 from noon to 4 p.m. Oh, have you good people any hope of surviving this Halloween horror? I feel the answers coming. Stay tuned next week.

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