ArtsConnection lets real-life artists share their crafts with students in NYC public schools

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ArtsConnection lets real-life artists share their crafts with students in NYC public schools

NEW YORK – Art classes in public schools no longer come as a guarantee. For more than 40 years, one nonprofit, ArtsConnection, has brought in artists to help.

This week, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the children of PS 382X in the Bronx performed a classic fan dance from Mexico, home country of guest teacher, professional dancer Alda Reuter.

“I had a child born here in the United States,” Reuter said, “and I wanted to pass on my heritage, my traditions to him. So that’s how it started, so I see in every child, my child.”

Reuter is one of 130 practicing artists who share their artwork with students at 100 ArtsConnection partner schools.

“Which is different than the art teacher or the dance teacher in the schools,” explained executive director Rachel Watts. “They bring their artistry, their actual artistry and practice to the classroom, and we think that’s important, too.”

ArtsConnection steps in when school budgets cut programming, providing enrichment that kids miss sitting at a desk.

“When language fails, music speaks,” says Madonna Lee, PS382X Art Liaison, who works full-time as an English Second Language teacher. “And I saw firsthand how these residences really built community in our classroom and engaged even the most reluctant learners.”

Lee’s second language learners clearly identify with the culturally relevant classes, which Reuter offers bilingually.

“It’s such a joy to watch,” Lee said. “And it gets a little emotional for me. Growing up as a child of immigrants, my family immigrated from Korea, so I didn’t really have a lot of opportunities for that growing up in school.”

Beyond the music and movement, Reuter imparts life lessons to her students and offers an introduction to emotion.

“It’s really helped with occupational therapy and language development and learning vocabulary related to feelings,” Lee explained, “the social emotional aspect.”

Lee is accepting ArtsConnection’s highest honor for teachers, the Janklow Award, this week at the organization’s annual back-to-school fundraising gala.

Without her dedication and the nonprofit’s help, her elementary school would definitely miss a beat.

The ArtsConnection Gala takes place in Chelsea on Wednesday. To find out how to attend, click here.

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