Last week marked the culmination of St. Nick’s Alliance’s afterschool youth art program. Once again the occasion was marked with an exhibition of the students’ drawings, paintings, and sculptures, on display at 211 Ainslie Street.
“It’s a really proud feeling for parents to be able to see their children’s work displayed in a professional way,” said Chris Henderson, the program manager at Arts@Renaissance, St. Nick’s arts program. “It’s giving an opportunity to young people to receive high quality instruction in art, which is a critical part of their education, but something that is not readily available.”
The program is run in partnership with the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Each year, the organization’s afterschool arts program pairs up two professional artists with students in Brooklyn and Queens, specifically from neighborhoods and schools where arts education is underrepresented in order to provide them high quality arts classes and to teach them about art production in various media.
Over the course of the year, the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s afterschool arts program offers 40 classes each week to about 800 students throughout the city.
The program is open to students in kindergarten through high school, and this year the students were taught and mentored by over twenty Artist-Teachers, including two, Natalie Beall and Anne Polashenski, who were the show’s exhibitions coordinators.
“The goal is to ensure that high quality arts education is not only restricted to the privileged elite,” said Travis Laughlin, the Art Education Director at the Foundation. “It is also a way for our artists to connect with the community and share their work. It is a way to show young students that the arts can be a viable pathway in life.”
In fact, such programs are critical to the sustenance of arts education in a city where arts education provisions are continually faltering on part of the administration.
Of the 419 schools in the city, 28 percent lack a full-time, certified arts teacher, according to a report released by New York City Comptroller’s Office on Arts Education in the City. Furthermore the report states that in the last seven years public schools experienced a 47 percent decline in funding to hire arts and cultural organizations to provide programs or supplies for students.
“New York is home to some of the finest museums, theaters and cultural institutions in the world,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “With new leadership at City Hall and at the DOE, we have a unique opportunity to make arts education equal for all – by defining the challenges that currently exist and coming up with lasting solutions to move our city forward.”
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