The Queens-based charity From Cardboard to Canvas will be receiving some help from an 11-year-old Los Angeles boy who has published his first book.
From Cardboard to Canvas was officially formed by Cambria Heights resident and artist McKenzie Brookes about two and a half years ago. It provides art instruction to local children between the ages of seven and 18. Even though the organization itself is only a couple of years old, Brookes has been providing such instruction to children much longer.
The organization came about following experiences Brookes had while painting outdoors, something she still does. She said children would come watch her and ask her many questions about the work she was doing. She also said that she remembered being a kid who wanted to grow up to be like Michelangelo.
“Everybody was teaching dance and karate but there were young kinds in our community who really liked to draw but didn’t have a place go do,” said Brookes, who came to the United States from the Caribbean in the early 1980s.
After coming up with the idea for an organization that would teach children how to paint, Brookes went to a corner store and got supplies such as cardboard, acrylics, watercolors and brushes. She then began to work with the children.
Brookes explained that the name of the organization came from the fact that the children begin by working on cardboard and don’t start using real canvases, which can be expensive, until they have learned what to do.
From Cardboard to Canvas is open to about 20 children at a time, most of which come from Queens, although Brookes said that she has had some come from Brooklyn. They currently meet every Saturday and Sunday at a local church.
Brookes said that there have been some struggles as the organization tries to get funding. However, it will now be getting some additional funds from 11-year-old published author Ryan Lederer, whose debut book The Adventures of Captain Candy came out last year.
Lederer said that he always liked reading, superheroes and candy, so he put the three interests together to create a short story. His father found an editor who, in turn, helped them find a publisher.
“It was amazing the first time I saw it in the bookstore,” Lederer said, adding that it made his jaw drop.
Both Lederer and Brookes work with Mind Over Media P.R., which is how Lederer found out about From Cardboard to Canvas. He said it sounded like a great organization. Lederer, who has always been interested in helping others, decided to donate 25 percent of his book’s proceeds during July and August sales to From Cardboard to Canvas.
“I felt really lucky to publish a book and be able to help these people,” said Lederer, who also said one of his goals is to make the world a better place.
Brookes said that she thinks The Adventures of Captain Candy is a great book. She also said she was very impressed with Lederer and his decision and very proud of him.
Brookes said that she hopes to one day be able to move From Cardboard to Canvas into its own building and add another instructor.
“The most rewarding [part] for me is to see my students happy, to hear their laughter and to see how their minds work,” Brookes said of her work.
Lederer has already written his second book and said that he will definitely continue to write as he gets older. Although he still doesn’t know what he will do when he grows up, he said he is considering becoming an archeologist.
The Adventures of Captain Candy is available on amazon.com, borders.com and barnesandnoble.com.
For more information on From Cardboard to Canvas, contact Brooks at 718-341-1201.

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