The young, upcoming artists were ushered through the gallery with teachers and parents at the St. Nicks Alliance’s newly renovated art space at 211 Ainslie St. in East Williamsburg.
Michael Rochford, executive director of the St. Nicks Alliance, welcomed students, parents and teachers from P.S. 18 and P.S. 19 to the center for the grand re-opening event and praised the art group for their hard work in keeping the place a vibrant commodity in the community.
“Not only did they work with our students throughout the course of the semester, but they mounted the show,” Rochford said. “The student-teachers are able to give our children an ability to believe that they are artists.”
Natalie Beall, an art teacher with the foundation, works with two afterschool groups at P.S. 19, and said this show is the culmination of endless hours of hard work and imagination.
Students in second and third grade drew pastel hybrid animals, using watercolor paints and oil pastels, while her kindergarten class focused on the basic shapes of their favorite animals with pastels and paints as well.
“There is less stress and they’re exposed to different tactile experiences,” Beall explained of students in the afterschool program. “It’s structured, but they’re allowed freedom within that structure to explore their imaginations.”
She added that the program is also important for those students who also do not have art programs built into the current curriculum.
“They’re learning skills here that they’re not being taught in their schools,” she said.
John Gonzalez has a daughter in the program and said he would recommend that all parents ensure their children are involved in some form of the arts.
“It gives the kids something to do, and I’m just really surprised with the stuff that she comes home with,” Gonzalez said. “It really gives them an outlet – whether it’s sports or art – to show them there is more out there than the streets.”
Assemblywoman Maritza Davila recalled her schooldays in North Brooklyn at P.S. 106, I.S. 291 and Bushwick High School, and explained the importance of staying involved in afterschool activities.
“When you’d go there you would meet new people from the entire school that you haven’t met before,” Davila recalled. “It’s a place where children should congregate and learn other things besides just reading and writing. They’re children, and they need time to relax and express themselves.”
Davila said that with the advocacy of Mayor Bill de Blasio, she is confident that more students will be able to take part in these types of afterschool activities in the years to come.
“I wish we had more spaces like this to accommodate this,” Davila said. “The mayor is headed in the right area and he has promised to bring in more afterschool programs, as well as universal prekindergarten.”
Following the nearly two years of rebuilding the basement space where the art event was held, Rochford announced that St. Nicks Alliance plans to reopen the gallery for both seniors and youth in North Brooklyn.
“We will have bocce ball, a pool table and there is also a kiln in here for ceramics and an art studio,” Rochford said.
While developers, who recently bought the building, have pushed to eliminate the senior and youth space from their new acquisition, Rochford added that the pressure is still on through the help of numerous North Brooklyn elected officials.
“We’re confident in the end that we will be able to keep the building, either in city ownership or in community ownership,” he said. “That is our goal.”