Flushing’s !S 237 showcases students’ art talents

Flushing’s !S 237 showcases students’ art talents
Photo by Naeisha Rose
by Naeisha Rose

As science, technology, engineering and math courses dominate curriculums across the country, art programs are being cut from many schools, but not at the Rachel Carson Magnet School for the Arts (IS 237) in Flushing.

Since the mid-2000s, state examination prep courses and STEM classes have slowly been pushing out art programs, resulting in only 59 percent of middle-schoolers finishing the eighth grade with an art class requirement.

For IS 237 Principal Judith Friedman, the arts are just as important as any other subject, if not more so, and that is why she fought to keep the language and arts program at her school alive through the Winter Arts Festival held Dec. 8.

The event showcased students’ artwork and performances with string, brass and wood instrument as well as voice.

“We firmly believe that art is an integral part of education for every child and it is very integral to a New York City education because of all of our cultural institutions,” said Friedman.

Topics like English and Social Studies have set objectives, but the arts allow students to explore what they are capable of and help them to learn beyond a classroom setting in a different way than those areas.

“It’s different from the academic subjects because there is a specific set of learning goals, and the arts are more expansive and allow children to really have that freedom of expression and we want to encourage that,” said Friedman.

Nancy Genovese, 52, from Flushing could not imagine sending her kids and grandson to a school without a music program.

“One of my kids, Eric who loves music, singing, dancing and performing went here, my grandson is doing this now, and my younger son took up the drums while he was here,” said Genovese.

“Having music in their lives gives them something else to do and makes them better people and better students.”

Her grandson, Darryl Mancotta, helped to put away chairs after the festival for extra credit.

Her eldest son, Eric, is now a professional performance artist at 19.

“When I was in this program, it opened my eyes to the arts and music, and I elaborated on my love for music by becoming a dancer,” Eric Genovese said.

Later, he went to the Larenz Latin Dance Studio in Corona and joined a dance company in Manhattan.

According to DoSomething.org, a youth and young adult social justice organization, children are four times more likely to be recognized for their academic performance and three times more likely to do well in attendance when their school has an art program.

Despite performing professionally with the likes of Pat Benatar, Carly Simon and Bruce Springsteen, Choral Director Peter Valentine has learned a thing or two after teaching for 10 years at IS 237.

“We’ve sung so far in Punjabi, Mandarin, we’ve sung in Japanese, we’ve sung in Spanish and we rapped in Korean, and the kids are the one who taught me Mandarin, “ said Valentine.

Together, Valentine and the students perform gospel, classical and pop pieces. At the Winter Arts Festival the kids performed Christmas carols and sang hits by Michael Jackson.

“One thing about this school is that it’s not just about test scores and numbers, it’s about the arts experience and every kid gets a talent, which is very important to our principal,” said Barbara Sirris, an eighth grade English & Language Arts teacher.