Monday, April 19, 2010

Casita Maria: Serving Emerging Teen Artists in the Big Apple

The Bronx has bought us its fair share of artists, writers and cultural phenomena: hip hop, Stanley Kubrick, Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Lauren all hail from this New York City borough. But one of the Bronx’s best kept secrets is the Casita Maria Center for Arts Education, a cultural organization founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, public school teachers and cousins of TV personality Ed Sullivan. Not only does Casita Maria empower over 2,500 members of the community with their education, art and social services, but they also administer The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the entire city of New York!

One of the people who make it happen is California transplant Lyla Rose, Casita Maria’s Literary, Visual and Performing Arts Manager. “I‘ve always thrived on connecting with creative types, and the students who participate in The Awards remain a constant source of inspiration,” she says. “They refuse to compromise their passion, dedication and resilience.”

As part of her work with Casita Maria to promote the local arts scene, Lyla organizes an exhibition of work from New York City students that have won at the regional level of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. According to Lyla, “Earlier this year we exhibited some of last year’s work, and the locals and officials who came for our ribbon cutting ceremony and in the months following were incredibly enthusiastic. The quality and vision was so mature and advanced, most couldn’t believe that students had made the art!”

Casita Maria Center for the Arts started out in a small apartment in East Harlem, providing support services for newly arrived immigrant families. After moving to the Bronx in the 1960s, the organization became a cultural mainstay and just last year moved to a new building with state-of-the-art facilities, a gallery, theater and fully equipped studios. Like every Regional Affiliate with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, running the program at the local level takes dedication and a lot of outreach, but it’s worth it in the end. “The art panelists engaged in some very lively debate and conversation,” Lyla reports. “The jurors this year included master printmakers, fashion photographers, journalists, internationally published authors and poets. When the jurors read the writing submissions, we heard how touched they were: from their bursts of laughter, to misty eyes.”

Check out Casita Maria’s 2010 New York City Regional Exhibition at the Casita Maria Gallery in the Bronx, 928 Simpson Street, 6th floor from Thursday, April 15th - Friday, May 7th. The Casita Maria Gallery is open to the public Monday – Friday, 9:30AM – 5:30PM.

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