Children’s Aid Society losing $1.3 million in city funding
Children’s Aid Society, the primary funder of the Fred Dolan Art Academy, anticipates it will lose $1.3 million in city funding for after school programs like the art school.
“We’re facing significant cuts from some of our key sites in East Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx,” said Katherine Eckstein, director of public policy for CAS. “We don’t know what we’re going to do.”
This year Fred Dolan Art Academy in Belmont celebrates its first student to reach the Ivy League. Pauline Lewis, 18, a senior at Millennium Art Academy, received a full scholarship to attend Dartmouth College to major in finance with a minor in art.
Lewis, daughter of a maintenance man and a cosmetologist, said she always had the drive to attend college, but professional artists who teach at the weekend class gave her an advantage that let her aim high.
“They help to refine your style and achieve those pieces that wow an admissions board,” Lewis said.
One of Lewis’ teachers, Kalimah Samuellah, paid for Lewis to take an Ivy League tour of Yale, MIT and Harvard.
CAS will have to cut its contribution to $15,000, down from $32,000 in the current year.
“It’s a wonderful program,” said Anthony Ramos, a CAS spokesman. “It has helped a lot of kids succeed and go to college.”
In the Bronx, 31 programs will be lost, while in upper Manhattan, 26 programs are expected to shut down.
Most of the 45 sixth- through twelfth-graders who have participated in the Academy since 2006 cannot attend college without scholarships, founder and director Neil Waldman said.
That includes Alejandro Tlaczani, 15, who lives with his mother and three siblings in a homeless shelter on 137th St.
Tlaczani, who is nearly deaf and wears a hearing aid, blew his art teachers away.
“His drawing ability is so remarkable,” Waldman said.
Tlaczani is a good student at M.S. 331, but he said he struggles sometimes to communicate. At the academy, where most learning is by visual example, Tlaczani learns quickly.
“He has an amazing eye,” Waldman said. “Art gives us a window into Alejandro’s world, and it shows us how special he is.”
“I want to go to a good college,” Tlaczani said at Middle School 45, where the weekend academy meets. “I want to make beautiful paintings.”
The academy never turns kids away, and every graduate has gone to college on scholarship.
Students must raise their grades and work three hours each Saturday on their art portfolios. One student raised his average from 52 to 87 in one marking period.
Unless the academy, named after a deceased school principal and friend of Waldman, can raise $20,000 to fill the budget gap, it will have to close too.
The Dream Yard Project, the Bronx’s largest arts education provider, became a partner with the academy and is leading a fundraising effort. To donate, send checks to The Dream Yard Project, 1085 Washington Ave., Bronx, NY 10456. In the memo, write Fred Dolan Art Academy.