Archive | February, 2010

Creative Arts Workshops for Kids

24 Feb

What: work on educational art projects with kids, through New York Cares

Where: El Faro Beacon School, East Harlem

When: Saturdays, 11:30am-3:30pm

When you first get to the Beacon School, you’ll sign in and head downstairs to the basement cafeteria. Besides that one detail, I’m pretty sure what awaits you will be different every time you volunteer with the Creative Arts Workshop Saturday Art Works program. The project we had for the day I was volunteering was to make a giant-sized puppet of an iconic African-American, in honor of Black History Month. The volunteers spent the first 45 minutes or so sorting through scraps of fabric, markers, crayons, and putting together the wood bases that would serve as a skeleton of sorts for the puppet. We then got a brief introduction to the program and some guidelines on working with children (don’t go anywhere alone with a child, ask for help from a program staffer if a child is being difficult, etc.). While this was going on, about 30 kids filed in and waiting for the program to begin.

Averaging about 8 years old, the kids gathered in a circle to hear about the project for the day. We then broke into groups to read about 10 different historical figures from Black History. After this, each group had to pick one person to turn into a giant puppet; our group chose Frederick Douglass and got to work making the best-dressed puppet in the place, thanks an imaginative 7 year old with fashion sense beyond his years. At around 2:30, everyone gathered again in a circle to present their characters and put on a brief play using the knowledge they learned from the books we read earlier in the day.

According to their website, “CAW is a nonprofit organization that utilizes the visual and performing arts to teach life skills to children and teens while enriching communities.” Though I volunteered through New York Cares, you can volunteer directly with CAW, who offer the workshops three Saturdays out of every month in East Harlem and Washington Heights. The workshops use the arts to promote creativity through a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, montage, sculpture, dance, singing/rap, theater, music, reading, writing, gardening and any other practices that allow for creation and self-expression. They also have a number of other programs that serve the community and it’s children: Summer Art Works, After School Art Works, and the Giraffe Path, which is an annual arts project taking place this June. For more information about the Creative Arts Workshops for Kids, visit their website.

When the day started, I was slightly nervous about being able to mentor a child and display a certain level of intelligence. For some reason, I find the honesty of children extremely intimidating; the disapproval or ridicule of a 9 year old I’ve never met has almost the same affect on me as the disapproval of my own parents.  I know its probably an unwarranted, ridiculous fear, but one I have none the less. And I’ve got to be honest: Black History is not a topic I’m an expert on. How do I teach kids about something I know nothing about? The books we read to them had some popular names of course, whose history I’m well aware of, but I wasn’t going to pretend that I knew where Frederick Douglass was born. If there was a quiz at the beginning of the day I would have undoubtedly failed with flying colors. But i digress…. As with every other time I volunteer with kids, it only takes about 5 minutes for me to realize that they are there to learn and have fun, and anything you do can only help them achieve that. They’re not nearly as judgmental as adults, which is a nice departure from reality if only for a few hours. One of the great things about mentoring kids is that you can both pick up a book and learn along side each other. Some other things to know:

  • Eat a big breakfast. You’ll be here for a while, and although you’re given the option of taking a juice-box and small snack,  6 mini pretzel sticks won’t cut it as a lunch for me personally, since I’m no longer 3 feet tall and 30 lbs.
  • The projects vary, but there’s a good chance markers, glue and/or paint will be involved. You’ll also be sitting on the floor and moving around a lot. Dress appropriately.
  • The Creative Arts Workshops students and volunteers have painted some pretty cool murals around Harlem in the past few years. After the project, take a stroll down 124th Street and see if you can find some; if you don’t  have time, check out the pictures I took above or head to the their online gallery.
  • This project seems to attract a lot of artistic volunteers; including myself, the group of volunteers I worked with were all employed in graphic design. It’s not a surprising fact- the project is called Creative Arts Workshop. I’m just saying…this is a good activity for artsy-fartsy volunteers like myself.
  • For those now wondering, Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland.

Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series presents “Dark Days”

18 Feb

Dark Days, a seminal documentary on the underground homeless network in New York City is screening this Monday, February 22nd at Tribeca Cinemas. As part of the Tribeca Cinemas Presents: Doc Series -an exciting new series of innovative and thought-provoking documentary films- Dark Days sheds light on the vast underbelly of the city and the thriving community of people living inside. Director Marc Singer, who himself lived underground for two years in order to capture the vivid snapshots and footage used for the documentary, will be in attendance Monday night. You’ll be able to grab a cocktail at the Tribeca Cinemas bar before and after the film and mingle with other doc lovers and like-minded people. With a soundtrack put together by DJ Shadow, Dark Days is sure to please your curiosity of the underground as well as your ears.

This film is the winner of three Sundance awards, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary and an LA Film Critics Award for Best Documentary. After reading a synopsis and interview with director Marc Singer, it seems like this documentary has the potential to blow anyone away; stories of people living underneath the city for years, surviving and thriving, seem truly unbelievable and moreover, the entire (completely inexperienced) film crew consisted of the very people he set out to document, using borrowed equipment on loan or credit. If the reviews on IMDB are any indication, Dark Days is a must-see for anyone hoping to gain insight (or in NEED of some insight) into the lives of New York City’s homeless community.

You can buy tickets online here:

Enter the special promotional code TCDOCS10 and you’ll receive $2 off general ticket prices!

Healing Arts for Haiti

12 Feb

Head to the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt on E. 42nd St today from 12-8pm and receive some very special spa services from Healing Arts for Haiti. According to their press release, “Healing Arts For Haiti is a collaboration bringing together over 200 professionals from the spa and healing arts community and the health and beauty industry of New York City metro area for an event to bring the art of healing to the act of giving all in one location.”

Once inside, you should be able to find a slew of healing activities to partake in, from massages and facials to express acupuncture and yoga. 100% of the proceeds from the entire day will be generously donated to Unicef, chosen for their long-standing commitment to helping children around the globe. In addition to getting pampered today, you can purchase products and services (for up to 75% off retail prices) to pamper yourself at a later date. There will also be live music all day by various artists, a silent auction and raffle prizes from big names in beauty (L’Occitane, MAC, and Bliss, just to name a few).

So take an extra long lunch break today and go get a massage for Haiti. And with all those beauty and spa treatments on sale, it’s the perfect place for you guys out there who haven’t gotten your ladies Valentine’s Day presents yet. Just don’t tell them how much you paid for it…

Fundraiser for Haiti Relief

4 Feb

Come have a drink and meet fellow OneBrick volunteers at Sidebar. 15% of food and drink purchases and 100% of direct donations will go to Partners in Health for their relief efforts in Haiti. If you’d like to RSVP, you can do so on the OneBrick website.

According to their website,”Partners In Health is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation based in Boston, Massachusetts, and active in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Russia, and the United States. Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. Through service, training, advocacy, and research, and by establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations, PIH strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.” Partners In Health (PIH) has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years, and has been providing emergency medical services in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region since the earthquake.

Cocktail For A Cause: Fresh Water for Haiti

4 Feb

Cocktail for a Cause will be collaborating with Earth Rights Institute to raise funds for water relief in Haiti. Safe Water Today will be providing emergency supplies to the Tulip Siphon Water Filters: a high quality, low cost unit home water treatment system which can be used for water purification in emergency situations. The great thing about these filters is that the use of one filter over a 24 hr period could provide enough clean water to service up to 40 people.

Taking place at Kush Lounge from 6-9pm tonight, you’ll be able to make a donation at the door to this cause and receive drink specials all night. To buy tickets in advance for $15, click here.