North Brooklyn residents looking to give their kids a hands-on arts experience this summer should make their way to Dobbin Mews for City Sculpting.
Started six years ago in the East Village, City Sculpting is the creation of South African sculptor Vanessa Solomon.
Before moving to the United States, more than 20 years ago, she taught art at a community center, concentrating on black children who were not receiving an arts education under the apartheid regime. In addition, she worked with a literary magazine to provide arts supplies to townships that lacked resources.
Later, in her adopted country, where funding for arts in schools gets further curtailed each year, Solomon decided to build on her experience working with children to create intimate learning centers where kids could develop practical skills.
Open to students 4-14, City Sculpting offers lessons on elements of design, project based sculpting, mosaics, life casting and paper mache.
Apart from the locations in Greenpoint and the East Village, City Sculpting also runs a summer program on the Upper West Side.
Solomon said the Greenpoint program has grown in popularity each year – a reflection of the needs of the artistic community established in the neighborhood.
“There are a lot of artistic families in the neighborhood and they like their kids engaging in art,” said Solomon. “I like that the program is small and informal and encourages kids to be creative instead of fitting into a box. We allow kids to do a lot of messy work and experiment – things parents usually don’t want their kids doing at home.”
Classes are restricted to six to twelve students for the weeklong sessions, with the small class sizes giving Solomon a chance for one-on-one interactions with her students.
Solomon also hopes this year will see the implementation of her public school-wide arts non-profit program based on the one she conducted in South Africa. Working with mobile arts laboratory Mister ArtSee, Artery Kids provides Pre-K students with art boxes stocked with a variety of supplies students can use during their choice time periods.
The program has already been approved by the city’s Department of Education, and Solomon is now working to raise the funds for its citywide implementation.
Solomon moved to the United States in 1992 to work on an international internship at the Tallix Sculpture Foundry in Beacon, New York. Over the years she has worked with industry giants like Jeff Koons. Her personal creations reflect African cultural themes, and her works have been displayed in the South African embassy in London and the United Nations in Manhattan
She was inspired to get involved in public schools arts education upon learning that her kids’ school P.S. 130 in Kensington, Brooklyn, did not have an arts classroom. Along with the PTA she helped raise $10,000 towards bringing more arts curriculum into the classroom.
She hasn’t looked back since.
Early registration is now open for the City Sculpting Summer Program, 50-52 Dobbin Street, early bird special of $475 a week compared to $550 regular price, all materials included, Greenpoint program runs July 13 through August 14, for more information visit http://citysculpting.com/.