December 17, 2014
A couple weeks ago, Arts For All’s Executive Director, Anna Roberts Ostroff was interviewed by Allison Plitt for an article in NY Parenting Magazine. You can read the entire article below.
By Allison Plitt
After years of seeing funding for arts education slashed from their budgets, New York City public schools got a big surprise this past summer when Mayor DeBlasio promised $23 million dollars would be spent on arts education for the 2014-2015 school year. Besides stating that the money would be used to hire 120 new, certified art teachers, DeBlasio also said the financial support would also be appropriated to improve art facilities in schools as well as create “new partnerships with cultural institutions.”
The city’s public schools aren’t the only recipients of this much-needed funding. Non-profit organizations that bring arts education into public schools have also received additional money from the city for this school year. One such organization, Arts For All, has been bringing free arts programming into public schools and youth organizations for nearly a decade. Seventy percent of the clients that Arts For All serves are public schools that lack access to an arts curriculum.
The services Arts For All provides are free of charge to its clients, so the organization has to focus a lot of effort on fund-raising.
“We’re always working really hard to get funding wherever we can,” admits Executive Director Anna Roberts Ostroff. “We have a number of wonderful private donors. We’ve also now secured city and state funding, which has been really helpful, and also corporate sponsors, and family foundations. We’re always out there looking for fund-raising opportunities to offer more quality art programs to the children we serve.”
The story of how this non-profit was created is an inspiring story in itself. According to Ostroff, Arts For All started as a small club at New York University and taught at a couple of organizations at the time. When Ostroff and the club’s other founder graduated in 2003, they realized no one was going to take over the club, but they really believed in the work they were doing and decided to try to continue to sustain the club.
For four years Arts For All worked with two established non-profit organizations that helped it expand its programming and grow.
“Back when we were first getting started, there was certainly a lot of us introducing ourselves to youth organizations,” recounted Ostroff. “It really did take a while for people to realize what we were doing. We weren’t trying to sell anything. We were trying to offer accessible programming to organizations that may not have had the opportunity to offer that to their students. We now have a waiting list of clients.”
By 2007, Ostroff said, “We realized we were ready to branch off on our own and became our own non-profit. As a non-profit standing on our own, we’re still pretty young, but we do have a history with some of our clients, our schools, and our programs that go back beyond 2007.”
In addition to increasing in size, Arts For All increased its clientele. Through an application process, a public school or youth organization can apply to have Arts For All come teach arts education in the classrooms. The board of directors reviews the applications to get a sense of what the organizations specifically need, who their students are, and why these organizations need arts programming to be accessible to children.
When Arts For All approves the organization that it knows will fit its mission, the staff works one-on-one with the individual school or youth organization.
“We basically will discuss with each of these organizations what age group is most in need of our programming and specifically what art forms the students would most respond to,” says Ostroff.
Arts For All offers a wide range of art programs from visual arts to dance and music to drama and film. The organization hires teaching artists who are not only talented in the artistic discipline, but who are also comfortable teaching their art form in challenging learning environments.
“We work really hard to then pair the right teaching artist with each school,” explains Ostroff. “We do work really closely with the schools and youth organizations to create unique programs that work for them whether in terms of the artistic disciplines, the lengths of the residency, and the specifics about what that teacher might want to focus on to enhance what they’re already learning in the classroom.”
Arts For All also does academic-based art programming. For instance, its Literacy through the Arts Program, which is one of its strongest programs, works with kindergarten through second-graders to help improve their reading, writing, and verbal expression. Literacy through the Arts Program also has a teaching artist tie the lesson plans in with the Common Core Standards and what the teachers are doing in the classrooms.
Giving an example of another academic-based program, Ostroff offers, “We’ve also recently created a haiku program that blends haiku poetry of the late Sydell Rosenberg, with either visual arts or music. This program is made possible because of a very generous donor, Amy Losak.”
Arts For All changed its mission statement two years ago to one that is now more specific about arts education helping children mature through the arts. The mission statement reads, “Arts For All offers accessible artistic opportunities to children in the New York City area who face socioeconomic, 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.”
Ostroff explained the reason for the change.
“What was really important to the organization and to the board of directors was to put out our core values in our mission statement, so people had a really strong understanding of what we were doing through the arts,” she says. “We believe very much in art for art’s sake. However, our staff is doing a little bit more than that in teaching life skills through the arts.”
She adds, “We may or may not have someone in one of our classes that one day becomes a Broadway star or a famous painter, but that’s really not the goal of the work we are doing. We want all children to have access to the arts and feel all students, even if they don’t necessarily do this as a career going forward, can gain so much from having accessible arts programming.”
As for the mayor’s current support of arts education in public schools, Ostroff says everyone in her field is “very excited” to see an increase in funding, although she thinks there is still more work to be done.
“The biggest hope is that it can sustain and we can really start to see those results,” Ostroff observed. “As New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently stated in his State of the Arts report, last year, 419 schools in New York City still lacked one full-time, certified arts teacher, so we still have a long way to go.”
For more information about Arts For All, visit www.arts-for-all.org or call (212) 591–6108.
Allison Plitt is a freelance writer who lives in Queens with her husband and young daughter. She is a frequent contributor to New York Parenting.
November 12, 2014
AFA: Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kaia Rose. I was born and raised in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. A few things I can say about myself, is that I am a visual artist, as well as a “fashionista”. Children, art and fashion are the three most important areas in my life. I express my love of art through my artistic skills, design aesthetics and personal style, which keeps my spirits high all the time! Traveling to other cities and countries, to experience different cultures is apart of my life that I truly enjoy. Currently I speak English, French and I am learning Spanish. I am an Early Childhood Education/Special Education major at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Attending art galleries, museums, curating fashion shows and working with children allows me to be an extremely driven, hands on and a positive-minded individual. More so, I am one who believes in continuous growth and improvement.
AFA:What three words best describe you?
Creative, Sanguine, Wanderlust.
AFA:What is your artistic background? What background do you have in arts education?
I fell in love with art when I received my first paint set as a little girl; that’s when the magic began. My artistic background has always been my ability to have a keen eye for color and coordination in any design I have worked on. Since I was a child, working on color palates and using all types of materials to model my ideas has always been my strong parts of my diagrams. My background in fashion has been creating visual window displays, personal styling for clients, styling of photo shoots for artists, magazines and brands I have worked for in the past. Along with curating art and music showcases, I have personally assisted several visual artists with art shows, auctions and events.
As far as arts education, I have taught after school art classes at PS. 287 in Brooklyn. I have worked as an Assistant Coordinator and Art Instructor for NPO (non profit organization) Skraptacular, located in Washington Heights. At Skraptacular, my job consisted of the facilitation in the planning, development and delivery of the overall program. Through the organization, I have taught environmental art workshops at the Cooper Hewitt Design Center, created arts & craft lesson plans and curriculum for art fairs and scheduled workshops for underprivileged children programs at The United Palace Cathedral located in Harlem.
AFA: Why did you want to become an intern at AFA?
Art has always been a major factor in my life. Growing up, it kept me interested and focused on my other studies. My craft and passion to teach art and share with the youth is something that allows me to give as well as gather fresh ideas, while providing leadership and great morals to our future generation. There is nothing more rewarding than working with children; they allow me to channel my inner child and bring back memories of the joyous feeling that art gave me when I was a kid. Knowing that art programs are becoming eliminated in schools and that children will have no access to expressing their creativity is disturbing to me and I plan to be a part of that change.
As a student majoring in early childhood education, searching for an internship where I would gain a great deal of experience that would further enhance my current skills was a compelling reason for wanting to be an intern for Arts for All. In researching art based NPOs in the New York City area I came across AFA and their aim to provide artistic opportunities to underprivileged children and schools, this instantly drew me towards the organization. Working towards my goals while helping organizations such as AFA will not only bring out the best in me but also bring to AFA a young woman who wants to help and provide quality service to those in need. A true quid pro quo.
AFA: What’s your favorite piece of art? Be it theatre, a painting, a song…and why?
One of my favorites is a three-piece series created by artist Mathamatics Patterson called Queens. The representation on a royal Egyptian queen is what intrigued me the most in the series. In Queens, the artist depicts Egyptian queen Nefertiti on three different canvases. The focal points of the three canvases are powerful woman, and Mathamatics displays his view of woman through his modern day image of Nefertiti. A collage of words cut from newspaper articles surround the figure of the royal queen. Mathamatics uses the words to describe the qualities of a strong woman by defining every woman as a queen, and Nefertiti is his muse in the art pieces. The viewer is captured by the detailing used to exhibit the distinct features in Nefertiti’s silhouette. I admire the techniques and materials used to create the mixed media canvases in Queens. The overall layout and presentation of each piece tells a different story from the next.
Queens by Mathamatics Patterson
Check out this great interview with 94.7 Nash Matters host, Kelly Ford, and Arts For All’s Executive Director, Anna Roberts Ostroff and teaching artist, Robin Cannon Colwell!
Mark your calendars and please join us Thursday, December 4th through Monday December 8th for our annual fundraising event at the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca. We are thrilled to partner with Barnes and Noble again this year for this event.
Arts For All will receive a percentage of all purchases made at the store, over the phone or online during these dates when Arts For All is mentioned. Please remember to mention Arts For All at the register (or over the phone or online) in order for us to receive a percentage.
The best way to support us is to come to the store and purchase books, music and other items or to place an order over the phone.
To purchase over the phone, please call the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca at (212) 587-5389.
If you’re unable to come into the store or order over the phone, you can also order books online and we’ll receive a smaller percentage. To order online, visit www.bn.com/mybookfair and enter the voucher number: 11454279
We hope to see you at the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca at 97 Warren Street in NYC December 4th-8th!
October 2, 2014
I am currently an undergraduate student at NYU Gallatin. I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. I have been involved in the arts for almost fifteen years. I love strawberries, paella, and pasta! My favorite color is blue. I speak two languages: Spanish and English. My favorite activities include, but are not limited to: reading in Washington Square Park, performing, watching Netflix when I can find the time, and painting with acrylics.
AFA: What are three words that best describe you?
Enthusiastic, motivated, and activist
AFA: Why AFA?
I found the mission of fostering creativity, teamwork, confidence, self-expression, and resilience to be something that is extremely important. The arts are a stepping stone for the enrichment of our youth. I know that from personal experience the arts were a truly eye-opening and critical component to my development as a human being. I also have a keen interest for supporting the underprivileged.
It is these passions that drew me to becoming involved with AFA. They uniquely serve the needs of many children who may not have had exposure to the arts.
AFA: As you stated earlier you are currently an undergraduate student at NYU? What are you studying?
Currently the plan is to study molecular biology and theatre. I know, I know, completely different! But my wish is to somehow connect these topics. In molecular biology, I am specifically interested in protein structure. Each function that the body carries out is the product of a specific protein in the body.I want to see what genetic mutations in DNA lead to a proclivity to certain mental illnesses and what the effect of these mutations has on protein structure.
On the theatre side of my interests, I am extremely passionate about acting and storytelling. It is one of the most powerful messages that a human being can possess. And that is why I think theatre would be an excellent form of therapy. I am specifically hoping to utilize theatre as a form of therapy for the mentally ill to promote confidence and resilience. These are especially important skills for people who have mental illnesses because every day they face some sort of discrimination due to social stigmas. I want to help change people’s way of thinking.
AFA: What’s your favorite piece of art? Be it theatre, a painting, a song…and why?
This is such a difficult question for me. Since I was three, I have been immersed in the arts. But two major pieces stand on in my mind. The first is Marc Chagall’s I and the Village. I have been fascinated by his work from the moment I came across his self-portrait in an art textbook in the seventh grade. After being tasked with creating a self-portrait based upon another artist’s creation, I was immediately drawn to Chagall’s use of color and space. He divided the image up into four subsections, which represented a vital part of his life. I loved how I could incorporate the subtleties of my life into a self-portrait like Chagall. Anyway what I love most about this painting is his authentic portrayal of Russian culture at the time. It’s simply superb.
My other favorite piece of art is a musical called Next to Normal. The musical deals with a family’s ability to cope with the circumstances and effects of mental illness. A close family member of mine suffers from schizophrenia. When I saw this musical, I immediately had a connection to the piece. So much of what happens throughout the musical mimicked moments in my entire life. The anguish and fear of the family resonated with me. I knew what it was like. Next to Normal is an extremely important piece of art that highlights the inequalities and injustices within the mental health system. One of the reasons I joined the AFA team was that I wanted to serve the underrepresented people of the world: to speak for those who cannot. Next to Normal achieves that message.
This past June, Arts For All partnered with Smart Design, an innovative design firm in Manhattan, and brought some of our students from PS 163 on a field trip their office in Chelsea. Smart Design employees, in consultation with Arts For All Teaching Artist, Marissa Woolf, lead students in a visual arts workshop in which the students designed their favorite super hero’s accessories and superpower tools! The workshop also offered our students insight into what one possible career in the arts looks like up close.
Arts For All students and Smart Design employees alike thoroughly enjoyed the day. A huge thank you to Smart Design for sponsoring this day!
Here are some great pictures from the field trip!