Art programs for 3,500 in-need New York children

Feb 19, 2014

Creative Works and other spring programs.

Children in an LTA class.
Children in an LTA class.

Arts For All’s 2014 Programming is off to a great start. Programs are up and running at PS 69 on Staten Island where we provide music and drama workshops for First Graders in a Special Education class and an after-school drama program for Fourth Graders who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford an after-school program.  Both of these residencies are taught by veteran AFA Teaching Artist, Robin Cannon Colwell.

Literacy Through the Arts is also underway at PS 15 and Hamilton Heights Elementary. Our Literacy Through the Arts Program increases students’ reading, writing, and verbal expression skills through a multi-arts curriculum incorporating theater, literature, music, visual arts, and dance.  This program is also aligned with the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.

This spring, we are excited to offer our Creative Works Program again at New Alternatives for Children. Creative Works is a self-expression program for in-need youth ages 10-­16 to discover their own stories and express them in a public performance. AFA partners with New Alternatives for Children (NAC), an organization working with children in the 5 boroughs with medical disabilities and/or chronic illness. Through the Creative Works Program, the students create their own original play and perform it for an invited audience of their peers, family and friends. We have offered this program several times throughout the years at NAC and it is always met with great enjoyment by students and staff members alike.

We’re also gearing up for Arts For All’s Annual Day at the Met. Every year, we take a group of 50-60 children on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum. In the morning, children take part in a museum highlights tour lead by a Met tour guide. Children later receive free lunch, and then participate in an exhibit-specific tour in the afternoon led by an Arts For All artist. This year’s Day at the Met will take place in early May. Stay tuned for more details.

Thank you once again for your belief in and support of our free arts programs for over 3,500 in-need children in the New York City area. From everyone at Arts For All, we wish you a creative, productive and healthy 2014!

Students in a drama workshop get into character.
Students in a drama workshop get into character.
Students in an after school drama workshop.
Students in an after school drama workshop.
Students in a creative movement and music workshop
Students in a creative movement and music workshop


Dec 3, 2013

Happy Holidays from Arts For All

A piece of student artwork from our Haiku Program.
A piece of student artwork from our Haiku Program.

On behalf of everyone at Arts For All, we’d like to wish you a happy holiday season!  This year, Arts For All worked hard to refine our mission and vision to better support our aim of offering accessible artistic opportunities to kids in the NYC area who face socio-economic, physical, or emotional barriers to exploring the arts while building self-confidence, self-expression, teamwork, resilience and creativity in the children we serve.

We’re excited to share some AFA highlights from 2013.

Thanks to the generosity of many individual donors and a $2,400 prize from Global Giving, we produced a children’s theater tour this fall.  Arts For All presented E. Gray Simon’s version of the classic tale Pinocchio for over 2,500 students all over New York City.  Each student and teacher received a study guide to further explore the themes of teamwork, learning right from wrong and the importance of family and friends presented in the play.

We are excited about our new partnership with Sobro in the South Bronx.  This summer, five teaching artists taught residencies in dance, poetry, visual art and drama at two sites. Our relationship has continued into the school year with an after-school chorus program for teenagers.

We also held our first documentary film program, lead by Teaching Artist Franklyn Strachan, for youth at the Incarnation Children’s Center, a nursing facility that provides specialized care for children and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS. This program was a huge success and we’re seeking funding to offer this program at the Incarnations Children’s Center again in 2014.

This fall, Arts For All was thrilled to collaborate with Amy Losak, a Senior Vice President at Ketchum Public Relations in New York, on a new program for second graders at P.S 163 in the Bronx which brought to colorful life the lyrical poetic legacy of Amy’s late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, a public school teacher, ESL teacher and published American haiku poet who lived in New York City.  Arts For All Teaching Artist Vidho Lorville led six visual arts workshops that used several of Ms. Rosenberg’s haiku as teaching tools. Under his instruction, the students created visual art inspired by the short poems. Teaching artist Shawn Shafner, who presided with Vidho over the first and final workshops in the series, also helped facilitate the children’s understanding of haiku, telling them that they should try to “see” poetry everywhere, even in the small moments around them, and make art from those moments.

With over 30 workshops each month, we are reaching over 3,500 children in NYC each year. Without your dedication to Arts For All, we’d never be able to reach as many in-need children.  This December, Arts For All is excited to participate in a Global Giving fundraising campaign.  Organizations that raise the highest amount from at least 30 separate donors throughout the entire month of December stand to win cash prizes of up to $3,000.  This holiday season, please consider making a donation to Arts For All on our Global Giving page.  Your gift will truly go a long way to support the students we serve.  Thank you for your continued support.  We look forward to another great year of Arts For All programming in 2014.

Teaching Artist, Robin Colwell, with students.
Teaching Artist, Robin Colwell, with students.
Photo from "Pinocchio," our Audience Project tour.
Photo from "Pinocchio," our Audience Project tour.
Student artwork from our Haiku Program.
Student artwork from our Haiku Program.
Elementary students in an AFA drama workshop.
Elementary students in an AFA drama workshop.
Sep 27, 2013

A busy fall at Arts For All!

A participant in Literacy Through the Arts program
A participant in Literacy Through the Arts program

Happy Fall!  School is back in session and Arts For All has a full season of programming underway, thanks to your generous support!

Our Literacy Through the Arts Program is in full swing at both PS 15 and Hamilton Heights School. Literacy Through the Arts is an ongoing program which focuses on increasing kindergarten through second grade children’s phonemic awareness and letter recognition through a multi-arts curriculum focusing on movement, music and visual arts in order to improve their reading, writing and verbal expression.

Some of our other programs include a Haiku and Visual Arts Workshop for second-graders at PS 163, run by artists Vidho Lorville and Shawn Shafner, an after-school drama program for fourth-graders at PS 69 in Staten Island and on-going dance and drama workshops for second-graders at Weeksville elementary school in Brooklyn. Special events this fall include hosting a mask-making table at Halloween parties for both New Alternatives for Children and the Puppetry Arts Theatre’s Halloween Carnival in Park Slope.  Also, this fall our annual Audience Project will bring a professional production of “Pinocchio” to over 2,500 under-served children in New York City. For a complete list of our fall programs, click here.

Earlier this year, Arts For All Teaching Artist, Franklyn Strachen, spearheaded our first Documentary Creation Project at Incarnation Children’s Center.  The 3-day intensive workshops taught young people living with HIV/AIDS the tools to express themselves through video.  Franklyn shared his thoughts on the overwhelming success of this program in a recent post on Arts For All’s blog

Here is a snippet of that blog. (click here to read the entire post.)

FS:I recently worked with the Incarnation Children's Center in Washington Heights. The center houses children living with HIV/AIDS. I worked with a group of about 10 students ranging from the ages of 7 to 21. The hardest part of working on this project was my own fears and expectations of what these children would be like. Sick, angry and upset with the world is what I was prepared for. What I encountered were kids. Regular kids. AIDS was a part of their life but it wasn't their life. They were very opinionated and considered the space theirs. It made it easy for them to show me around and document what they felt was important.  

AFA: How did this experience affect you?  Are there any moments that stand out?

FS: My preconceptions about living with AIDS were shattered. Considering how much information I have lived with concerning the subject I have never interacted with people who have it so intimately. These children have the same dreams and flaws that all kids have. I was happy to learn that. I learned that not only do they want children they can have AIDS free children. When I returned a week later to drop off the DVD the comfort level and excitement to see me again stood out for me.” 

 Read the rest of this interview here.

In addition to our usual fall programming, Arts For All hosted a Professional Development day for all of our teaching artists, key volunteers and staff on September 8, 2013. The overriding refrain of the day was “we’re here for the kids.”  The PD day was informative, community-building and overall, a huge success!  Arts For All is fortunate to have such a talented, committed and professional team of teaching artists, staff and volunteers.

Thanks so much again for your belief in the work that we do.  With your help, Arts For All is bringing artistic opportunities to over 3,500 in-need kids in New York City this year!  We welcome any feedback you might have on programs or any ideas you might have for bringing our message to a wider audience.

All the best,


Jessie Kilguss
Development Associate
Arts For All

LTA Teaching Artist, Robin Cannon, with students.
LTA Teaching Artist, Robin Cannon, with students.
Jul 8, 2013

Literacy Through the Arts Extended Day

School is at an end for the 2012-2013 year, but we were lucky to be able to extend our Literacy Through the Arts program an extra day at PS 15.  Shawn Shafner, the Program Manager and Grade 2 Teaching Artist, updates us all on how:

Second graders at PS 15 enjoyed an extra day of Literacy Through the Arts this year, on June 19. I was incredibly humbled when their teacher, Ms. Sarah, suggested the idea and offered a generous donation to make it possible. In the past we've taken second graders to Central Park; this year we decided to give them a taste if their own community.

We started at a community garden across from their school called Orchard Alley. Ayo Harrington of LUNGS agreed to show us around and talk to us about how the Lower East Side community organized to turn empty lots into gardens like that one. Then we headed to the Kenkeleba sculpture gallery, and their indoor gallery across the street. Back to the school for lunch, and then off to the Metropolitan Playhouse where artistic director Alex Roe showed us the inner workings of his theater. From there, we headed to Cafe Odessa for pierogi (a follow-up from their trip to the Ukrainian museum), and playtime at Tompkins Square Park. It was quite a day!

I could say more, but Ms. Sarah said it all better in an email to me, as below:

"Of course they asked "Where is Mr. Shawn?" the moment you left.  You would have loved seeing Edwin and others counting on their fingers at the end of the day all the places they had gone and saying, "I can't believe we went on SIX TRIPS in one day!  This is the best day EVER!"  I think it was my favorite day ever, too.  The glow remained today.

During the morning share they said what they enjoyed most, and why, giving specifics.  They all chose different parts of the trip, so it was extra worthwhile to have gone to so many spots.  Ayani said she loved the gallery most, because she saw the artwork of so many different artists, and how they had made their art with different materials and feelings.  Bianca and others spoke about the theater and the lighting, and some enjoyed the sculpture garden because a specific piece of art was so exciting.  It was gratifying to hear that you reached so many learners by offering a variety of experiences.  Of course the restaurant and playground figured in there, but the vast majority mentioned the art experiences over sour cream and applesauce (but there was some discussion about how sour cream also tastes good with hot sauce).

It was a day of superlatives. I loved that you were teaching about negative space and they were acting it out, that you analyzed the artwork in the gallery in such a deep way, and you were acting off the cuff in the theater... your instruction continued as always in these new settings for them. The whole day made art ever more real for them."

Check out Arts For All's interview with Sarah Strong for more information! Sarah Strong is a Grade 2 teacher at PS 15, and generously supported the extra day of LTA programming this spring.

AFA: What made you want to be a classroom teacher?

SS: I became a classroom teacher so I could give back and be on the front line of education, where the good stuff happens.  Much time, talent, money, and sacrifice went into my education.  I have been lucky and privileged.  We do not get here alone, and I wanted to pass on what had been given to me.  I also have satisfaction knowing my overtime profits children, my taxes pay my salary, my dollar earned is 100% gender equitable, my organization has a transparent payroll structure, and my union has a history of protecting women from age discrimination.

I am a Cohort 6 Teaching Fellow, and volunteered to meet the needs of the city’s most vulnerable students.  I started my career at a special education middle school in Brownsville, and have served needy children since.  At the end of the day, I know I earned my keep and it has been a good excuse for a life.

That's beautiful.  What have you learned in your work as a Grade 2 teacher at PS 15?

Second graders are capable of deep and meaningful discussions and social interactions.  Keep your expectations high and prepare to be amazed.

Wow.  Thank you for sharing that.  What made you decide to support Arts For All financially?  In your opinion, what does Arts For All add to the classroom?

After paying off my capitalized-interest student loans this May, I didn’t want to get too used to having  pocket change, and AFA was my first priority.  Shawn and I did not get to our trips this year because the children needed more time to practice our Skyrella performance, a Cinderella story they wrote that took place in the Empire State Building.  I wanted them to see the sculptures and tableaux they had studied

Contributing to AFA helped extend Shawn’s stay, and he put together the most wonderful tours of community and sculpture gardens, a gallery, and a theater, all with the founders or directors.  Shawn’s lessons included acting out negative space with hands and bodies (imagine a 40-person ensemble in a sculpture garden really looking like we belonged there), and facilitating a gallery talk with the children about how they related Jackson Pollack’s techniques to the lines, style, and colors of other prints and paintings.

I wanted to support Shawn and AFA.  How do artists and actors afford NYC?  Let’s keep art in NYC for everyone, and long live AFA for helping.  You do such good work, AFA.  We are far from a rich school, yet we have AFA.  We are a small school, and the arts education from your talented artists makes a big impact.  AFA provides us weekly art support and accessibility, and all for free!  You also have generosity of spirit.  It is a true pleasure to support you.

Read more of Sarah Strong's interview.

Thank you all for your geneorus support of Arts For All's ongoing programs!


Apr 4, 2013

Documentary Creation and Literacy Through the Arts

Photo by Deb Marcano for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Deb Marcano for Literacy Through the Arts

Arts For All is pleased to be gaining recognition throughout New York City for the work that we do with over 3,500 in-need students annually!  Mad River Grille reached out to us to develop a fundraising event for our new Documentary Creation Project at Incarnation Children's Center, and our longtime consultancy partner, Catchafire, sponsored a photo shoot of the ongoing Literacy Through the Arts program.

Thanks to your generous support and our partnerships with organizations like Catchafire, Arts For All is able to continue to provide free arts programs this year, even as school budgets are cut and costs rise.

Documentary Creation Project

On February 27, Mad River Grille in Manhattan hosted a Drink for A Cause Fundraiser for Arts For All - and it was a huge success!  All proceeds of the fundraiser will support our Documentary Creation Project at Incarnation Children’s Center.  The 3-day intensive workshops will teach young people living with HIV/AIDS the tools to express themselves through video.  The teens will learn filming, writing, and editing skills, and use them to create original documentaries about topics that are important in their lives.  Teaching Artist Franklyn Strachan will guide the young people through all stages of documentary creation

Arts For All met our goal for Drink For a Cause - thanks to all of you who joined us!

Literacy Through the Arts

On March 21, two Catchafire photography professionals Hayley Samuelson and Deb Marcano joined Literacy Through the Arts Program Manager Shawn Shafner and Kindergarten Teaching Artist Robin Cannon in the Hamilton Heights classroom to volunteer their time and talents to the organization.  The photographers took photos and participated in the class, helping Kindergarten students to paint using water colors and warming up with the group. In the class, students explored the sea and sea creatures using music, watercolors, and creative movement.  Everyone had a wonderful time!  The photos, shown below, will be used in Arts For All promotional materials and on Catchafire social media.

Literacy Through the Arts increases students’ reading, writing, and verbal expression skills through a multi-arts curriculum incorporating theater, literature, music, visual arts, and dance.  The program runs in Grades K-1 at Hamilton Heights School.  Teaching Artists work closely with classroom teachers to create a comprehensive multi-arts curriculum that supports literacy and learning.  This semester, Kindergarten students focus on syllables and phonic recognition, and in a few weeks they will make their own instruments from recycled materials.

What's Next? Our Annual Benefit!

Broadway star Aaron Lazar hosts Arts For All's 5th annual cabaret benefit on April 21, 2013 at Joe's Pub - Arts For All Goes Public: Celebrating 5 Years!  For more information, please visit the website.

Photo by Deb Marcano for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Deb Marcano for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts
Photo by Catchafire for Literacy Through the Arts


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Project Leader

Anna Roberts Ostroff

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New York, NY United States

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