Arts for All

Arts For All offers accessible artistic opportunities to children in the New York City area who face socio-economic, physical, or emotional barriers to exploring the arts. Through Arts For All, professional artists work with youth organizations to build self-confidence, self-expression, teamwork, resilience, and creativity in children.
Aug 10, 2012

Summer Programs Update from Arts For All

Arts For All is committed to providing programs in the summer as well as the school year.  This summer, Melissa Smith is on of our Teaching Artists working with New York City youth.  She is leading summer AFA workshops at New Alternatives for Children, a center for children living with disabilities, teaching theater skills and preparing the kids for final presentation for family and staff.  

What are you up to?

I’ve been doing a theater workshop at New Alternatives for Children for the past 4 weeks.  The sessions are 3 hours with a break each week.  We are able to work towards a presentation at the end of each session. 

What has that been like?

The first few weeks the challenge was to get the group to reveal things about them selves that related to the group, make bold choices and take leadership positions.  Some did not even want to share their name on the first day.  I have also been working on getting them to release their voice.  Literally – in the beginning it was the quietest theater workshop in all of the land.

This past week the new set of challenges were quite the opposite! The group is starting to gel and open up and are clearly having lots of fun, building healthy relationships and self esteem while learning.  This week, the challenge is quite different.  We are focusing on collaboration in the group.  In the last session, every single kid wanted to take the lead, so we worked on giving in the group, not always being in control or being the leader.  What a difference from the first class!

Through the games and exercises, they are learning to make negotiations and compromises with their peers and exploring ways to express themselves.

How do you organize your curriculum?

I introduced storytelling the first week and have layered in theater techniques and terms each week as we progress. With very few materials – simple scripts, scarves,  and of course their IMAGINATIONS – they have put together some very elaborate and creative stories each week.

What about you?  What’s your reaction to seeing all of this?

It’s so fun to see their imaginations take the lead and watch the elaborate stories they build around these simplistic scripts!

Thank you for letting Melissa lead her students at New Alternatives For Children in self-expression through story telling and theater, and thank you for keeping Arts For All thriving in 2012!


May 23, 2012

Step Right Up

Maka’s Biggest Challenge: A Review by Bonnie Pipkin

Ladies and gentlemen! Step Right Up! Feast your eyes on the creatures and creepers that run wild through the imaginations of our students! See for yourselves: a direct glimpse into the dreamscape! A tour of the mind of a child! We’ve got werewolves, vampires, angels, crocodiles, great balls of fire, a giant Claw Reaper named Bob, some Michael Jackson dance moves, and a journey to the top of a mountain on Challenge Island!

Everyone is a winner!

On Thursday, May 3rd, at PS 15 Roberto Clemente Elementary School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the students of Arts for All’s Step Right Up program put such a thing as was just described onto the stage. It was our sixth Step Right Up Production at that school (I can’t BELIEVE I’m even writing that!) and it was the latest and greatest of original masterpieces created in this inspiring program.

The Step Right Up Program is a ten-week residency during which students write and produce an original work of theater. The students are involved in all steps of the production: from the creation of the script, to acting, to creating costumes and sets, and finally to performing.

This time around, Robin Cannon and I (Bonnie Pipkin) worked with ten 4th and 5th grade students in the after school program. We wrote a story called MAKA’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE wherein an angel named Maka, her best friend Bleach, and her faithful dragon companion named Crystal, had to get through a series of challenges and reach the King of Light… or the world would grow dark. A cunning vampire named Rachael and a slick werewolf named Justin are on their tails trying to thwart them at every turn. For they- being creatures of the night- are of course more at ease in a dark world. But the strength and perseverance of friendship and courage are what save the world.

And I can’t make that kind of stuff up! That is pure 10 and 11 year old imagination come to life.

We did a lot this round with choreography, thanks to the expertise of Robin Cannon. And overall, the 25 minute show was a visual feat! I was so very proud of the ten students that stuck it through and really committed to making this show amazing. During Step Right Up, we try to teach resourcefulness as well as commitment. It takes a commitment to put up a show as each rehearsal builds upon the last. These students amazed this old veteran who usually has to pull out a few teeth (metaphorically, of course) to get the students to memorize their lines. Many of these particular students knew EVERYONE’S lines. I’m not kidding.

So yes, we wrote a play. We choreographed. We rehearsed. We painted a giant painting of a volcano. We made some costumes. Clayton Colwell wrote us some tunes to dance to. And then we did it. One rehearsal, the students were so inspired that they wrote a song that goes a little something like this:

This is impossible! This is impossible! This can’t be! This can’t be!
This IS possible! This IS possible! Look at me! Look at me!

When students are given the opportunity to tell the stories swirling around in their brains- and then see them come to life- it is truly inspiring for everyone involved. These kids constantly remind me that this IS POSSIBLE!

MAKA’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE came to life on May 3rd. And all the kids went home proud of what they created and what they accomplished.

So did I.

Feb 22, 2012

Winter Program Overview - Arts For All

We’re excited to be starting 2012 off with a bang! Already this year, we’ve offered a number of exciting programs, and we’re still going very strong as we approach the end of February.

Teaching artist Mèlissa Smith kicked off January by teaching weekly movement and dance workshops to students K-1 at Project C.O.O.L. after-school program in the East Village. Teaching artist Robin Cannon took Arts For All to the outer boroughs with weekly drama programs at PS 69 in Staten Island and The Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights.

We’re also thrilled to be further developing our Literacy Through the Arts program- an initiative that serves students K-2 and focuses on improving reading, writing, and verbal expression skills through a multi-arts curriculum of music, dance, and visual arts.  Teaching artists Shawn Shafner, Lena Moy-Borgen, and Robin Cannon are scheduled to teach LTA programs each week through May 2012 at PS 15, and this program is also expanding to Kindergarteners at Hamilton Heights Elementary in Harlem!!

This February saw the return of teaching artist Bonnie Pipkin’s Step Right Up program. Over the course of ten weeks, Bonnie and fellow teaching artist Robin Cannon will work with 5th graders at Project C.O.O.L. to create original productions of theater, dance, music and art. The residency ends on April 27th with an original theatrical production written, produced, and performed by students!

Get Involved, and let’s stay on track to hold on to that momentum through the rest of the year. Help us achieve our goal of serving more children than ever before! Learn more about these and other programs on our Current Programs page, and don’t forget to check our new website that launched in January at

- The Arts For All Team

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
~John Dewey

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