The Arts That Will Change the Heights

The NYCDOE Community School District 6 office presented the 4th Annual UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase at the United Palace in Washington Heights, NY on May 25th. According to Community School District 6, the district held a student wide arts showcase that serves as a platform to amplify young people’s voices by displaying the talents of the students in the Northern Manhattan community.

Comprised of 40 schools in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood; District 6 has approximately 18,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students. This year’s UNITED @ THE PALACE showcase included 21 diverse acts (including pre-show performances) of children and teens from the district’s schools representing grades K-12.

This UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase is “an opportunity that we are creating as a district to put arts back in schools,” stated District 6 Superintendent Manuel Ramirez. Over 3,000 people were expected to attend the event, claimed Mr. Ramirez.

When asked why arts are important to the Washington Heights community, Mr. Ramirez said he has confidence that the arts will enhance the students’ “academic performance, teamwork, moral skills and their perseverance and focus.”

Zulaika Velazquez, the Artistic Director of GWEC, believes students who are engaged in the arts are able to “stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of the printed text or the rules of what is provable.”

Confirming Mr. Ramirez’ and Ms.Velazquez’ words, before the show begun the young people acted upon the responsibility of entertaining 3,000 plus people. In each school’s group, students demonstrated a great amount of leadership and commitment as they practiced. They communicated to each other through the frustrations of being in such a big production. Ana Made, a junior at the High School for Media and Communications and volunteer working backstage, described the children, as “dependable because they knew what to do on stage and off stage.”

Once the doors of the palace were open, hundreds of guests consisting of parents, friends, teachers, school leaders, and elected officials Senator Marisol Alcantara, Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez attended the event.

From beginning to end, the audience was amazed and in awe. The acts consisted of singing, dancing, poetry, cheerleading, instrumental music and amazing remakes of film and popular pop songs. Students of all ages passionately danced and sang across the stage. Some students did stunts that made the crowd scream with delight and others used art to teach the audience of the importance of different cultures.

“Our student performers and group leaders did a spectacular job and delivered on high expectations with a seamless run of show,” stated District 6 Family Support Coordinator Cimary Hernandez.

Ms. Hernandez shared that the main directors of the event were herself, Ms.Velazquez, Community Education Council (CEC) 6 Administrative Assistant  Porfirio Figueroa, and Superintendent Manuel Ramirez.

In addition to the performances, awards were also given out to the finalists of the UNITED @ THE PALACE art competition and the NYCDOE Big Apple Award. Henry Whopschall, an 8th grader who attends P.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs, won 1st place in the district wide art competition. Ms. Raya Sam, a math teacher at the Hamilton Grange Middle School, won the Big Apple Award.

Throughout the event many people praised how great the show was and how proud they were; including Assistant Principal and district 6 parent Emel Topbas-Mejia. “It was a magical event and seeing the talents of our young people brings our community great pride,” shared Ms. Topbas-Mejia.

The arts provide a way for students to express themselves freely in our northern Manhattan community. This event will create a chain reaction throughout the community as more students become interested in the arts.

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Cooper Union FREE Saturday Arts Program

My name is Tenisha-Terry Moultrie and for three years, freshman to junior year, I have been taking a Saturday arts program at the college Cooper Union. This program is a great way to make new friends, develop new skills, and see new things you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

This college is strictly geared for the arts. When I say the arts I am talking about graphic design, painting, sculpting and drawing. They also offer additional courses to prepare students to submit professional portfolios. If you’re interested in submitting a portfolio to a prestigious school like Cooper Union your best bet is to begin working with them while you’re in high school.

The Saturday program provides all materials for FREE and they show you how to use them. The program does not require you to have any prior knowledge and skills before joining.

When I applied it was competitive for acceptance, as I mentioned before this is a school known for arts at high value. However, with the help of my art teacher Mr. Montalvo, I was provided with a special code that allowed my application to be reviewed first. But now the program is accepting anyone who applies!    

All of the teachers teaching the Saturday classes are undergrads at the actual school. They give you skills and tips that help you greatly with your performance in the class. They’ve experienced the application process firsthand and have went through the process of building a great arts portfolio so they can give you an insight on what it’s like.

One of the biggest benefits of the teachers being undergrads is that they are closer to our age as high school students. This means they can better understand us as teenagers and talk to us more as our peers rather than our average teachers in school. The setting is also great, there are two teachers in the class and no more than 25 students. We always work in a large studio with long tables, lots of empty space, and large windows that let in natural sunlight.

Even though the school focuses on art, there is also a writing component where an instructor named Ms. Berry, who is full of energy and excitement, teaches us to express our work in terms of poetry. I personally love this section because I love to write. When it is time to begin our hour long session of using literary devices and attitude to convey our theme, I barely realize that the time is passing by.

Besides classroom work, we also do a lot of hands on work. The instructors take students on trips to art museums and fun places around Cooper to give us a chance to incorporate the real world within our work. Twice throughout the semesters, we have a large gathering where students get to share and perform their work on stage. Through doing this everyone gets a feel of what it is like to be in each class. We show our appreciation for everyone’s art and collectively celebrate our achievements.

Being at Cooper takes dedication. The classes are on Saturdays from 10AM to 5PM. You may look at these hours and think, “ Oh, nevermind…I have a life.” But, when you’re engaged in an area that you are passionate about like sculpting, drawing, and creative writing,  the hours go by much faster than you think.

If you are interested in applying for a program at Cooper Union, visit:    http://cooper.edu/art/saturday-program

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Tenisha’s art piece. (Tenisha Terry-Moultrie/Class of 2019)
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(Tenisha Terry-Moultrie/Class of 2019)
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(Tenisha Terry-Moultrie/Class of 2019)