By Joseph Oliveri
ArtsWestchester unveiled a mobile arts and crafts center aimed at serving communities with young children on Apr. 13.
Arts-related activities and projects were available to neighborhood families at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the White Plains Housing Authority ’s Lakeview Apartments at 120 Lake St. To help celebrate, ArtsWestchester provided easels, small canvases, and paint to Lakeview Apartments children and families on Saturday for an outdoor arts session after the ribbon-cutting.
The ArtsMobile, a customized Ford RAM van, is outfitted with art supplies and offers various hands-on projects such as drawing, print-making, ceramic pottery, and mask-making, among others. ArtsWestchester plans for the ArtsMobile to travel throughout Westchester County, and will also target family-oriented events like farmers markets and fairs.
Fundraising efforts by ArtsWestchester’s partners White Plains Hospital and Con Edison helped fund the project.
White Plains Housing Authority Executive Director Mack Carter said the ArtsMobile is expected to become a vital asset to low-income communities in light of cuts to arts programs that public schools across Westchester have undergone over the past few years.
“We just have to continue sending the message out, saying this is extremely important for our children,” said Carter, who serves on ArtsWestchester’s board of directors. “Not only should we be able to help them with their learning activities, but also their artistic skills, which is part of growth and development.”
Carter added that ArtsMobile is just the start of a larger outreach currently in its earliest planning stages.
“We know we want to grow this, it’s a work in progress.” Carter said.
Dawn French, Senior Vice President of Community Relations and Marketing at White Hospital said, “We know that arts have healing power for people,” Whether they’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis or some other type of treatment or anxiety, de-stressing, all those things.”
Debbie Scates Lasicki, Director of Marketing and Communications for ArtsWestchester said more than 80 different workshops are already planned for ArtsMobile. In charge of that schedule is Arts in Education Program assistant Crystal Benitez, who said the ArtsMobile will be active up until October this year, and will follow a similar schedule next year.
“Most of the kids that we serve, they either don’t have art programs in their schools, or they do but they don’t have the time in their schedules to actually take the classes,” Benitez explained. “This gives them the opportunity to be able to branch out and learn something new and see if they want to explore it more,” she said.
Ikiyan Chestnut, ArtsWestchester member and White Plains resident, attended the ribbon-cutting with his daughter, Coral, age 13.
“I’m excited that we’re able to bring the arts right here to the community,” Chestnut said while preparing a canvas of his own. “It’s nice to just see it finally come to life,” he said.
The ArtsMobile’s next stops will be similar events at Prelude and Schuyler-Dekalb Housing Authority locations in White Plains, on Saturday, Apr. 20, and will visit both Cavalry Baptist Church and the White Plains Annual Neighborhood Health Fair on Saturday, Apr. 27.