$32,000 Infused Into Staten Island Schools for Arts Programming

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With arts funding, and in particular arts education funding in decline, many schools are losing the arts as a part of their curriculum. With help from local funders, COAHSI is able to bring much needed funds to arts-in-education programs to Staten Island schools.

These are vital programs that help bridge local schools and the arts community in order to greatly enrich our children’s educations.

The Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) has distributed $32,000 to bring exceptional art programs to five local schools. Made possible by funding from the Staten Island Foundation, the Arts Investment Regrants provide residencies with local artists for students from Kindergarten through high school, encouraging local schools to make a greater investment in the arts as part of every student’s education. Laura Jean Watters, Program Officer for the Foundation, points out that these residencies “produce vivid evidence that arts education is essential for all students -- and for some students, is life-changing.”

The following exemplary partnerships received support:

P.S 1 and Janice Patrignani, for Through An Artist’s Eye: First and second graders explored how themes from the visual arts can be expressed in every subject in the curriculum – science, social studies, math, and literature. With exceptional parental support garnered by the teaching artist (every meeting had several parent volunteers), the children created artwork that strengthened their connection to all of these subjects, through active, hands-on learning. The students’ work is soon to be displayed in the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

P.S. 13 with Dimitar Lukanov, PS 13’s Museum of Art, Archeology and Investigative Research: Third and fourth grade students embarked on a veritable time travel voyage, researching social studies themes across time and place. Students made drawings based on world art images and archeological finds, and culminated in creating four large canvas murals to display in the school’s common areas, and a richly dynamic wall mural in the hallway.
One fourth grade student explained the process: “We drew sketches first, and copied them onto the mural. The third graders did all of this lower part themselves; I painted the sky because I’m one of the tallest 4th graders. If you look carefully, you can see a comet streaking across the sky.”

P.S. 373 with the Noble Maritime Collection and DB Lampman. Multi-disciplinary Explorations of Local Maritime History: Kindergarten through 2nd grade students at a self-contained special education public school learned about the maritime history of Staten Island, and made a field trip to the Ferry Terminal. They created viewfinders to learn about looking at parts of a whole, and observed vessels in the harbor, in preparation for taking photographs and creating collages and prints.

According to PS 373 visual arts teacher Elena Seminara, “The majority of our students have limited, if any, cultural opportunities outside of those provided by the school. The grant enabled my special needs students the chance to partner with a Staten Island Artist and visit a museum for the very first time … there was no one better for this project than The Noble Maritime Collection and DB Lampman. My students learned invaluable lessons to carry with them as they move forward."

Blessed Sacrament with Susan Guthrie. Working Class Poetry: Students in grades three through six worked on lively, creatively-based poetry analysis, bringing the words to life. Acting, recitation, comedy games, and stage combat were incorporated throughout this lively residency; as the program developed, students engaged in peer tutoring and mentoring. This active approach to learning engaged many different learning styles, and made sophisticated literature accessible to young students.

Concord High School with Sundog Theatre. Soundtrack of Life: Students in Staten Island’s only transfer alternative school focused on art from two time periods that shared themes of repression and expression: the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 30’s, and Beat Poetry from the 1950s. Concord teachers report that their students are often interested and surprised to learn that people in other places and times experienced the frustration that they sometimes feel in their own life situations. Engaging with this art, and creating artwork of their own, encourages students to see themselves as active agents of change. As Susan Fenley, Executive Director of

Sundog Theatre, put it: “This project helps teens work together and support each other at an age when they feel most separate and alone … helping them resolve conflict and express ideas through artistic expression, just as professional artists would.”

Support for these projects comes at a time when school budgets are facing severe challenges, particularly in the arts. Despite increasing evidence that arts education is socially and academically essential, last year 32% of parents surveyed by the New York City Department of Education report that their children receive zero arts education. As Ms. Watters puts it, these are “Vital programs that help bridge local schools and the arts community in order to greatly enrich our children’s educations.”

The mission of COAHSI is to cultivate a sustainable and diverse cultural community for the people of Staten Island by: 1) making the arts accessible to every member of the community; 2) supporting and building recognition for artistic achievement; 3) providing artists and organizations technical, financial, and social resources to encourage the creation of new work. COAHSI does extensive outreach to communities that are underserved geographically, ethnically, and economically. The organization works hard to impact the arts across all borders.


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Kelly Kuwabara
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