Monthly Archives: September 2013

Teaching Literacy Through Theater at Cypress Hills Summer Camp


(Photo Credit: Lu Bai)

Patricia Runcie, who ran ATG’s musical theater program at Cypress Hills LDC/IS 171 for the past 7 years, took on the new challenge of designing the summer theater program at Cypress Hills LDC/PS 65 this past summer.  With an objective of raising each child’s grade in literacy, she customized classes to fit each group’s needs and abilities—no small feat with 200 students in grades 1 through 5.  Patricia rose to the occasion and helped the children at PS 65 put their literacy skills into practice through theater.

Literacy and theater already go hand-in-hand; script analysis, for example, requires in-depth reading.  Patricia says that her students in the IS 171 program honed their reading skills by reading plays that are already considered great works of literature, whereas the students at PS 65 practiced their writing skills by creating a brand new show from beginning to end.  To ramp up the literacy component even further, she added exercises such as free writing and turning a piece of literature into a script.  The children focused on a new vocabulary word every day, with cumulative worksheets every other week that reviewed each word they had learned so far.  The kids were excited to master theater-related terms; the smaller children in particular delighted in showing off their knowledge of big words such as “protagonist” and “antagonist.”  Integrating these new words into their theater activities helped the students to truly commit them to memory.

As they set about writing their own show, the kids learned about concepts such as story structure, conflict and resolution, atmosphere, and setting.  These ideas were put into practice in the program’s culminating performance; each scene represented a different corner of New York City, with dynamic characters that changed and grew by the end of the plot.  The kids also learned to work together as an ensemble, a difficult but necessary skill that will help them function as members of a team in future endeavors.  Patricia believes that the students at PS 65 had a much more enriched experience than a traditional summer camp.  Her pride in her students in evident as she says, “I certainly feel that I set the bar high for these kids, and that they met it.”

Arts to Grow programs are taught by professional Teaching Artists, trained working artists with hands-on experience teaching students their art form.  If you’re interested in teaching for Arts to Grow, please visit us at for more information.


Arts to Grow has had many successful programs over the years, but the theater arts program at Elysian Charter School in Hoboken, NJ during the spring of 2006 was one of our first.  Here, teaching artist Patricia Runcie engages her first group of students.  Since this photo was taken, Patricia has come full circle in her work with ATG.  After successfully running the musical theater program at Cypress Hills LDC/IS 171 for five years, she has recently returned to Elysian as our program manager.

PS 65 Summer Camp Puts Students in an ‘Empire State of Mind’

(Photo Credit: Lu Bai)

Students at PS 65’s summer camp in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn showed off their theater and literacy skills to parents, friends, and neighbors in a workshop performance on August 21st.  The students wrote the show, titled “Empire State of Mind,” with the help of teaching artist Patricia Runcie-Rice.  In the process, they learned about theater-related concepts such as story structure, conflict and resolution, atmosphere, and setting.

The story followed two homesick sisters who had just reluctantly moved to Brooklyn from the Dominican Republic as they were taken on a tour of the city by a cast of characters known as the New York Quartet.  The audience was swept along to iconic places such as Union Square, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway, Times Square, and beyond.  The more they saw, the more the girls grew to love their new home.  In the end they joyously proclaimed, “We’re New Yorkers!” as the audience cheered.

Popular musical numbers were adapted to fit each scene and performed by ensembles of students, grouped by age.  Selections came from a broad range of musical styles and time periods, from Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” to Madonna’s “Vogue” to T.I.’s “Swagga Like Us” and more, ending on the titular “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keyes.

Ian Hornak was a 1960 New Haven High School graduate.  He went on earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fine arts, and began exhibiting his artwork in 1972.  Hornak later on became know for “elaborate, extremely detailed paintings of flowers, food and tableware that recall the 17th-century Dutch vanitas tradition.”

As part of a renovation project, New Haven High School conducted a clean up.  In this clean up, a sketch made nearly 60 years ago – by Ian Hornak.  Talk about a hidden treasure!

Washington D.C. Based Kennedy Center Partners With Florida Schools For Arts Education

Arts education remains to be a hot topic in Washington D.C.  Kennedy Center announced a partnership with Duval County public schools to enhance arts education for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.  This would be the 14th school district to partner with the Kennedy Center through the Any Given Child launched in 2009.

Our Time offers arts education programs to children who stuttered.  Our Time was founded in 2001, with aims to give students who stuttered a mean to express themselves, through arts.  Our Time will be expanding its program by launching weekday after-school programs in Northern New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island.

At Arts To Grow, we have seen first hand the power of arts.  Arts provide a forum for expression to those who otherwise may not have a voice.  Arts provide a mean for expression to those who otherwise may not know the words.  We’re happy to play our part in giving our children a way to express themselves.

Young Artist Donates Painting to C.A.R.E.

Artist Elmi Ventura Mata recently presented his original oil painting, “The People Tree,” to Community Action Reaches Everyone (C.A.R.E.), a non-profit organization based in Edison, NJ.   The primary goal for C.A.R.E. is to reduce the socio-economic and emotional barriers affecting students in our schools. 

It all comes full circle.  C.A.R.E. awarded Mata a textbook grant getting him started in his bachelor’s of fine arts education at The Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio in 2012.  Today, Mata is a second-year Gund Scholar at The Cleveland Institute of Art.