Arts & EntertainmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill Organization Helps to Promote the Arts for All Ages

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Antonia Arts, a Peekskill-based nonprofit led by Scarlett Antonia, back row, center, offers a wide range of classes in theater, dance, writing and more at its space in the city’s downtown.

For Scarlett Antonia, her yellow brick road led her to Peekskill.

In 2000, when Antonia, whose accomplished dance career saw her perform at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, among other venues, first arrived in Peekskill on a trip from New York City, she noticed the old Paramount theater. She fell in love with the theater the first time she saw it.

Antonia was inspired to return because the community was where L. Frank Baum, who wrote one of her favorite stories, “The Wizard of Oz,” spent two years at the Peekskill Military Academy in his youth.

Her decision to put down roots in the community has contributed significantly to the arts scene as she established the nonprofit Antonia Arts, a space where classes for budding dancers, actors and musicians are offered and arts groups can rent out use of the roughly 1,200-square-foot studio on South Street to schedule their own events.

“I’m really happy here because I believe in the creative and performing arts, and here we have an opportunity to not only perform, have classes, but an opportunity to create and develop shows, express ourselves in writing,” said Antonia, a Minnesota native. “To me, it’s all the same, to have your voice heard and that’s what I believe in.”

In 2015, Antonia produced a series of six sold-out shows at the Paramount of “The Wizard of Oz,” with her local company. That event, which brought an estimated 10,000 visitors to the city for its run, was the forerunner for Antonia Arts’ now annual OZ LAND FESTIVAL, held each August.

The event is a day-long celebration of the story featuring actors dressed in character, performances, including Antonia Arts’ Wiz Kidz, food trucks, games and other activities. But the festival, which will be held on Aug. 17 this year, is more than just something to do on a weekend summer afternoon. It helps promote the mission of Antonia Arts, said Sonia Lee Garber, one of Antonia’s instructors.

“The people that come and enjoy it know that they’re supporting more than just coming to a festival, they’re supporting everything that Scarlett does in her school,” Garber said.

What goes on at the Antonia Arts is a vast array of workshops and classes for almost any age. Since dance has been Antonia’s professional background, there are youth theater dance and youth Latin dance, plus programs for adults, including beginners tap dancing, LatinX dancing and theater dance.

There’s also youth drama and creative movement and creative writing for youngsters, along with a theater company and the Wiz Kidz.

Then there are periodic family-friendly weekend film screenings in the studio.

Eva Goetz, 11, has been with Antonia for about four years and has been part of the OZ LAND FESTIVAL from the start. While performing is fun, so is interacting with a different set of children and making new friends, she said.

“This is my fourth year and the best part of it is meeting new people and getting an opportunity to meet new people,” Goetz said.

Ten-year-old Braedan Macedonia will be part of a performance this week of “A Cinderella Story,” where he plays a prince.

“I like how it feels to be on stage, the spotlight on me,” he said. “I don’t know, I just feel like it was meant for me.”

Macedonia’s mother, Megan, said the structure and discipline that regular classes and rehearsals provide her son have been invaluable.

“I’ve seen a big boost in his confidence, so he follows direction very well,” she said. “It’s also been a great way to sort of focus him, where, believe it or not, it’s not just all about acting or performing. A lot of it is waiting your turn and waiting for your cue and being on time with it.”

For Antonia, she regularly explores new offering in a wide range of classes. Since having been shut for the COVID pandemic, Antonia has been rebuilding the offerings and her student base and is always open for local residents and children to explore what is available.

“I just believe in the creative and performing arts,” she said. “That’s the whole mission because there are similarities when you create art, it’s just the techniques you use that are different, but it’s all important.”

To learn more about Antonia Arts and its programs, call 914-393-2382, e-mail or visit Antonia Arts is located at 925 South St. in Peekskill.


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