2010-05-21 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Celebrating KidsmART
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

Before a room of supporters, families, government and community representatives, kidsmART after-school participants perform “We Are the World.” Photo courtesy of John J. Grillo. Before a room of supporters, families, government and community representatives, kidsmART after-school participants perform “We Are the World.” Photo courtesy of John J. Grillo. May 6, the last day on the kidsmART 2010 calendar at the Fort Tilden site:

Walls brimming with creative stimuli – prints by famous artists; kidsmART kids’ paintings, papier maché, writings; art of all colors and ‘stripes.’ Overflowing but not chaotic. Never chaotic. In huge bold letters the word “IMAGINATION” declares its presence over the room. There is an unbounded enthusiasm here, always tempered by self-discipline and respect for others – two of the cornerstones upon which this program has been built. This program that fosters character and self-esteem and so much more.

The electricity of sound inside building T-149 in Fort Tilden is joyful, not jarring.

Youngsters sit at tables engrossed in their latest projects, oblivious to time passing. Grandparents and parents have today joined their children to share in those projects, for this is a special day. It is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of the year and to display them to guests. Visual arts and performing arts.

The last day of the year for this most loved after-school program. All are aware that this may be its last day, ever. Yet, though all are sad and disbelieving that this could happen, the overlying mood reains happy, positive and enthusiastic, as is every day at kidsmART.

Parents and grandparents, as I go around the room asking questions, ask me a question – repeatedly. “How can they cut this program?” “Don’t they know how important it is?” “Outrageous. What will the kids do instead?” I have no answer for them, except to say, “Write, call, email your politicians and all those I listed in the April 30 column.

Call the RAA office to find out what you can do to help.”

My eyes glance around the room. I see the diverse faces of those who have grown to maturity through kidsmART. Children in the program, once, have been prepared to be entrusted with the responsibility of being teen assistants, artistic instructors and even an RAA board member and the assistant director of kidsmART. Employed in jobs that help to build lives in a community with few employment opportunities.

But they don’t see it as simply a job, they see it as a calling. After a poignantly uplifting performance by the children of “We Are the World,” Program Director Marina Callaghan and Education Director Christine Mullally invite those who wish, to come up to speak.

“I feel really proud standing in my most favorite place on Earth.”

“My favorite is that I can work on homework here.”

“My daughter is going to La Guardia. kidsmART is in part responsible for that.”

“I come all the way from Jamaica because my child needs the art, but also the socialization.”

“It’s the soul, the feel of kidsmART, the social code – that’s what makes kidsmART different.”

“This is a place where parents can leave their children and know they are safe, loved, cared for, nurtured.”

“I was a rowdy kid. Marina took me under her wing like a mother. It changed my life.” (This young man is now a teen assistant.)

“We asked some of the kids what they would be doing if they didn’t have kidsmART? They answered, ‘Nothing. Video games.’ ”

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer vows, “We’ll do everything we can in government to save the program.”

Ciara Donley from Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office says the Councilman is “continuing to fight in City Hall for funding next year.”


Phone: 718-474-0861; Fax: 718-474- 4373; e-mail: info@raa116.org; website: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org.

kidsmART corner

Attn: teens 15 years of age by July 1, 2010. Unpaid internship positions are available at camp kidsmART for youth 15 years of age only. Contact the RAA office for applications.

camp kidsmART parents: camp packets are available in the office 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fort Tilden Highlights

FINAL WEEKEND: “40 Shades of Green” in sTudio 7, Rockaway Center for the Arts (RoCA) at Fort Tilden. On view through May 23. Gallery hrs: Sat. and Sun. 12-4 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission.

NEXT WRITERS GROUP MEETING: Sun., May 23 in sTudio 7, 4 – 6 p.m.

sTudio 7 GARDEN PARTY: Sun., May 23, 11 a.m. till sunset. Come help clean sculpture garden, flower beds, etc. Bring favorite foods for grill. We have the tools, you have the brawn. Come dressed appropriately.

PAINTING CLASSES FOR ADULTS: “Painting With Geoff Rawling”: Tues. 7-9 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-12 noon. sTudio 6. $15 per class, supplies included. “Experiencing Watercolor With Bob Bainbridge”: Wed., 7:30-9:30 p.m. sTudio 6. $20 per class or sign up in advance for four consecutive classes in one month for $75 (a $5 value), supplies included.

THURS. NIGHT OPEN MIC: Performing artists of all disciplines invited. sTudio 7 stage. Sign-up: 7:45 p.m.Start time: 8 p.m. Join us. Free.

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