Hunts Point Riverside Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prestigious Federal Grant Brings Unique Summer Art Program To Parks Recreation Centers

Members of Hunt’s Point Recreation Center on a Bronx River sketching trip.
Mary Polemarhakis

In a month-long summer program made possible by a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant called Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, 100 children between the ages of 9 and 13 received hands-on art instruction from renowned illustrators who graciously served as their teachers and mentors. The participating children came from the City’s J. Hood Wright, Pelham Fritz, Hunt’s Point, and Detective Keith Williams Recreation Centers.

Mary Polemarhakis, Director of Program Development in Central Recreation, strengthened a nine-year partnership with the Society of Illustrators to apply for the much sought-after grant. The Society of Illustrators is America’s oldest nonprofit dedicated to the art and appreciation of illustration—it has been active for an astounding 109 years. Together, they officially formed what was named the Summer Illustration Art Academy.

Throughout an entire month last summer, the children, teachers and coordinators traveled to various city parks (including the Arsenal in Central Park) and cultural institutions and took a trip through the city on a double-decker bus. All of these experiences were captured by the participants in various forms of art. Each child received a book bag of art supplies, t-shirts, sketch books, and a glossy reference book called An Illustrated Life to take home with them.

In early November, children and their families from four different Parks & Recreation sites gathered for an art opening at the Society of Illustrators to celebrate the works created and the friendships formed over the course of the summer. Many children arrived at the opening proudly carrying their sketch books and eager to show the work they had continued to create long after the program was over. It was a new and exciting experience to attend an art opening for many of the family members in attendance.

Thanks to the continuing generosity of the Society, participants were served beautifully presented hors d’oeuvres and fancy child-friendly “mocktails.” Assistant Commissioner for Public Programs Annika Holder and Assistant Commissioner for Recreation & Programming Nancy Barthold also attended the opening.

The NEA awarded the Parks-Society partnership with a $31,000 grant to run the Summer Illustration Art Academy. The Art Academy built on the success of past winter and spring “Art Week for Young Illustrators” Afterschool programs that the Society of Illustrators has offered since 2001. The NEA grant enabled Parks & Recreation to increase the number of children served with this exciting new program. The program organizers selected talented Afterschool Coordinators to lead the children on their daily artistic journeys. Between the coordinators, illustrator mentors and the participating children, the program demonstrates a wonderful exchange of talents and ideas, from one generation to another.

At the art opening this month, the children and families were also treated to an official presentation of a Mayoral Proclamation. On behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City of New York, Kate Levin, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, proclaimed the second week of November as Illustration Week. Parks & Recreation is grateful to the Society of Illustrators and to the National Endowment for the Arts for making the Summer Illustration Art Academy possible.


In yesterday’s Daily Plant, we recognized some Parks employees who gallantly competed in the NYC Marathon. Omitted in yesterday’s edition but certainly worthy of kudos is Elizabeth Walsack, of the Brooklyn Borough Office, who in her very first marathon finished in an impressive time of three hours and 41 minutes! Jonathan Giordano, Recreation Supervisor at the Greenbelt Recreation Center, also completed his first-ever marathon on November 7. In Recreation tradition, the children watching the race from recreation centers waved signs and sticks with Jonathan’s face attached as he went by. Congratulations to Elizabeth and Jonathan!

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”
Oscar Levant
(1906 - 1972)

Directions to Hunts Point Riverside Park


  • Prestigious Federal Grant Brings Unique Summer Art Program to Parks Recreation Centers

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