As a staple of summer for many children, camp is often associated with visions of the great outdoors, log cabins and meals in the mess hall. But when camp is based in New York City, the endless opportunities of the Big Apple give way to an entirely new set of adventures.
For nearly a decade, in partnership with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Free Arts NYC has connected children in shelter to a week-long day camp that promotes education and the arts. Utilizing the five boroughs as the less-than-traditional ‘camp grounds,’ the endeavor enables attendees to get up-close-and-personal with famous City landmarks and attractions, as they dive into the subjects of music, theater and sculpture.
Continuing this tradition, from Monday, July 15 through Friday, July 19, the non-profit organization - with the generous support of corporate sponsor, Goldman Sachs - welcomed 25 children to experience some of New York’s most spectacular offerings. For all of the youngsters, who ranged between the ages of 6 and 12, the outings were more than a series of daytrips; instead, the excursions served as one-of-a-kind, valuable windows into the world of the arts, which were supplemented by age-appropriate, specially-designed curriculum.
Founded in 1997, Free Arts NYC has partnered with DHS for most of its existence, inviting school-aged children from City shelters to explore and discover the artistic and cultural facets of the City. For all events, including the day camp, the organization matches each child with a corporate employee, who volunteers to serve as a mentor for the occasion.
This year’s camp included a lesson on sculpture at the Socrates Sculpture Park and Noguchi Museum in Queens, an introduction to theater at New York University’s (NYU) Kimmel Center, a class on painting at the Brooklyn Museum, a session on environmental studies at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and a tutorial on “spinning” at the DJ Academy. All visits were as interactive as they were informative, engaging children and inviting them to personally try each art form.
Throughout the course of the year, Free Arts NYC also works with DHS to hold regular events for some of the agency’s youngest clients, as it furthers its mission to provide an array of educational and mentoring programs for underserved children and families.
“Free Arts NYC is a valued partner that consistently proves its commitment to kids in need,” said DHS’ Government Relations Assistant, Heidi Schmidt, who coordinates the Free Arts collaboration. “The annual summer camp is certainly no exception, as it connects children to an array of opportunities that they may not otherwise receive. Even for life-long New Yorkers, the camp is a reminder that this great City always has something new and educational to offer.”
Since its inception, Free Arts NYC has served more than 30,000 low-income participants, providing them access to the art-making experience, paired with positive adult role models. The organization’s motto, “There are no mistakes in art!” encourages children to be creative, self-discover and express themselves in a manner that fosters confidence and resiliency.
For more information about Free Arts NYC, visit: www.freeartsnyc.org