Teaneck—Under the blue and pink lights of the Avenue Event Space, parents, teachers, friends and students milled about, pausing to marvel at the paintings displayed on easels atop tables and adorning the walls. Light classical music played in the background, as the attendees enjoyed an array of hors d’oeuvres and hot crepes.
On Monday night, June 8th, from 6 pm to 8 pm, the Avenue was the site of an art show and auction entitled “Unique Inspirations,” a joint collaboration between the SINAI Schools and Bear Givers’ EmpowerArt program. Bear Givers is a New York based organization that provides children in need with the opportunity to feel empowered through giving to others. Their EmpowerArt program provides children with special needs or those who are hospitalized the opportunity to express their creativity and showcase their artwork in a professional gallery setting. These art shows then benefit the children’s schools, hospitals or programs, through the proceeds of the purchased artwork.
This is the third year that Bear Givers and SINAI Schools have partnered on this event. “We feel very privileged to be able to participate with the SINAI Schools for all they do for the children and their families and to see the enjoyment that parents get in seeing their child’s art on the wall,” said Joe Sprung, chairman and founder of Bear Givers. “The effort that the children put into creating the art and how they feel a sense of accomplishment, and that they are also giving back to the SINAI school that has given them so much,” he said.
SINAI schools service children with complex learning or developmental disabilities whose needs cannot be met in a regular classroom setting. One of the highly specialized programs at SINAI is the Paley-Mironov Art Therapy Program, created and supported by Steven and Laura Paley. All of the artwork on display at the event was created through this unique program. “We have the opportunity to have an art therapy program, which over the last three years has done an amazing job of impacting our kids on an individual basis, and bringing them to levels that we really would not have anticipated,” said SINAI’s Dean, Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs. The artwork displayed at the show was created by the SINAI students under the guidance of the SINAI School’s art therapist, Sarah Tarzik. Engaging in art allows the students to express themselves and cope with the challenges they face. “The art helps the kids express themselves in a nonverbal way. Sometimes they don’t know the right words to use, but a lot more comes out through their artwork,” said Tarzik. “Another benefit of art is that they are able to communicate with their friends through the art, they enjoy complimenting each other, and that is used as a way to teach them to not only look for the good in their paintings, but also, to look for the good in their friends,” she explained.
More than 70 original pieces of artwork were on display, created using a variety of artistic mediums, ranging from paint to pastels. Paintings displayed bright and colorful landscape scenes, such as a sunset, a flower, a planet and the underwater ocean, others displayed abstract art. Some of the most striking paintings were a series of self-portraits in which half of the painting displayed a photograph of half the student’s face, and the other half displayed a hand-drawn or painted picture created by the student, completing their face. By the end of the evening, many of the paintings were sold, with all of the proceeds benefiting the SINAI Schools’ scholarship fund.
For Yael Rosenthal, mother of a SINAI student, the art show and auction allowed her to see a new side of her son. “Once the art program opened at school, all of a sudden he’s coming home painting and drawing…We looked at his art and said, ‘that’s my kid?’”
Though the art show and auction is a fundraiser for SINAI, it is “primarily a way for the children to feel good about themselves,” said Abigail Hepner Gross, Director of Communications at SINAI.
Click here to view this story as it originally appeared in The Jewish Link.