Supporting Art in Schools with Blick Art Room Aid

Blick Logo

As someone who has invested way too many hours in my daughters’ NYC public school and education issues beyond those four walls, I have come to realize that the worst thing educators and administrators can do is look at various subjects – math, literacy, science, art, music, gym, social studies – as isolated fields of study.  But, unfortunately that does happen, and more often than not the arts are deemed “extras” instead of integral to bringing alive math, science, literacy and the other “core” subjects.

In my daughters’ school the parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to supplement the meager art budget in the school.  We cover supplies for the art teacher, a separate art program through Studio in a School for the 4th and 5th Grades since they don’t get a dedicated art class, art supplies for the classroom teachers so they can do curriculum based art projects, and fund the school art show, chimes music program, dance programs, and more.  We are lucky.  Our parents have the means, time and know-how to fundraise this kind of money.  Most schools are not this lucky.  So, I was thrilled to participate in the Blick Art Materials Art Room Aid program.

Art Room Aid was created in 2009 by Blick Art Materials. As a company focused on educational and professional art supplies, Blick has also consistently supported arts education in diverse ways. Whether sponsoring art scholarships or creating lesson plans that address national standards of learning while easing the burden on busy educators, we at Blick understand just how important collaboration is. And we know that big dreams start small- after all, Blick is a family-owned company that began at Mr. and Mrs. Blick’s kitchen table in Galesburg, Illinois, 100 years ago.

Today, we’re continuing to nurture that deeply rooted investment in the arts and in educational communities with Art Room Aid. As the world becomes increasingly linked, skills like visual communication and creative problem-solving are more important than ever.

I knew I wanted to find a teacher who worked at a school that didn’t have the kind of support that my daughters’ school has and fortunately, my sister connected me with Laura Pawson, a Visual Arts and Special Education teacher at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn.  The school’s population made up of  low-income students, including many homeless children, and almost 25% English Language Learners.

Ms. Pawson immediately jumped at the opportunity to stock up on supplies for a mosaic project she has been developing for her students.  She created a wish list through Blick Art Materials Art Room Aid that you can now help fund and fulfill!  In addition, she will be given $100 by Blick Art Materials to help kickstart this campaign and get these kids creating amazing art!

So, please click on over and help fund this fabulous project.  You can click here: Juan Morel Campos Mosaic Project and give as little as $10 to bring art into a child’s life.

It’s Takes a Village (or a List Serve) to Raise a Kid in this City


This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger and teaching artist Jess Levey.  This series publishes almost every Monday on Beccarama.

Well, we are getting VERY close now, just a month or so to go. And, although I have had to endure waves of anxiety due to financial stress and fears (and sleepless nights and sciatica!), I remind myself often about how freaking exciting this all is! The baby is moving like mad, especially at night, and I am connecting with him/her more and more. Later this week we will be getting another sonogram just to ensure that baby is head down, and I am so psyched to have the opportunity to see what he/she looks like these days! Surprisingly, another factor contributing to my excitement is my new membership in the neighborhood parent Yahoo! Groups. I have joined 4 of them, my favorite being the one from our own neighborhood, and then three from the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. Every list serve is full of parents happy to offer support and hand me downs. It is truly incredible.

So far, we have received 140 Seventh Generation diapers ($20), beautiful crib bumpers, a mattress pad, and a brand new mini crib mattress (all free), A slightly used breast pump with brand new tubing and accessories ($60), and an amazing Maxi Cosi infant car seat ($40), which I had been wishing I could afford to buy after seeing it at the Biggest Baby Shower.  Of course, every day there is more and more offered for free or very cheap, but I need to hold back, at least until after my own shower this weekend, after we have our baby and find out if I need bags of boys clothes or bags of girls clothes (usually around $10).  Aside from all the stuff, the support is incredible. There are mom groups forming each month (hoping dads groups too!) and people constantly offering their advice about anything from how to navigate the daunting NYC school system to how to get your baby to sleep through the night. And, since people also use these list serves to offer their services, I have booked two private photography teaching gigs (moms needs to learn how to use those cameras!), and my husband has booked two family portraits gigs.

It’s amazing to me that after two weeks of heart heavy anxiety over the coming baby and our finances, I just needed to reach out to our immediate community to help ease my mind. Knowing that there are hundreds of people surrounding us with such a generous and open spirit is both comforting and encouraging and I can’t wait to give back to them (but I guess it will have to wait until after baby #2!). I am curious if other cities and/or suburban areas around the country utilize these helpful list serves?? Please let me know. If not, I sure do hope that this post motivates you to start your own!

I just received an email from a mom who said it all so perfectly, this is what she wrote:

I just wanted to make a public statement of thanks to everyone that I’ve interacted with since joining the listserv this summer. Our family was able to acquire/purchase most everything we needed from other caring parents. Nearly everything we purchased or obtained was in excellent condition. Pricing was always fair or even free! Our interactions ranged from polite to instant friendship. I am grateful to the group at large for making so many of the needed items available. If you recognize my name, consider this a special thanks to you. May you be blessed with long life, good health, and easy-to-raise children.

I know we are all in the spirit of giving, but I have a feeling this is how it works all year. With that I wish you all an amazing holiday season full of support and love!


Making Room for Baby – NYC Style

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger Jess Levey.  This series appears every Monday on Beccarama.

I’m pretty sure my husband is upset with me. Or maybe it’s not me, but just a general sadness for the loss of something he was deeply attached to. Yes, the aggressive nesting has begun, and I have taken the advice to get the apartment ready for baby in the energetic 2nd trimester VERY seriously. Today, we finally tossed the mammoth (and very powerful) speakers that my husband has owned for over 8 years, which were handed down to him by his great friends from Israel. Yesterday we made the trip to J&R (free parking!) where we bought small Polk bookshelf speakers.

Bye, Bye, Gargantuan Speakers

Hello, lovely little speakers

This exchange was necessary in order to open up some much-needed floor space which will now be home to storage ottomans and a shoe rack/end table. You can see my growing Pinterest board to get an idea of the types of things I have decided we desperately need in order to keep a sense of openness in our tiny Brooklyn one-bedroom apartment.

When we first found out that I was pregnant, our first response was to figure out where we would move since we obviously would need a two bedroom. We would no longer just walk by the many real estate agencies in our neighborhood who post some of their favorite weekly listings. Now, we would stop and read and comment on the crazy price hike that has occurred in our now fully gentrified neighborhood. In the 10 years I’ve lived here, rent on a one bedroom apartment has gone up by at least $1000 more per month than what we pay, and two bedrooms are basically out of the question. We love our neighborhood, with its small village charm, proximity to Manhattan and many other favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, wonderful and diverse restaurants, shops, movie theaters, book stores. You name it, we’ve got it. I rarely even need to go to Manhattan for anything other than museums, galleries, and to see my family or the rare friends who still haven’t made the move Eastward. So, after many aggravating conversations about the neighborhoods we could afford to move to, some of which have regular shootings too close for my liking or a very limited offering of good schools, we have decided to stay put, at least until we can afford a two bedroom in our neighborhood. Or until other neighborhoods become safer, get better schools, etc. Of course, this may never happen, in which case we may find ourselves leaving NYC entirely, but for now, I am not thinking that far ahead. For now, I just want to make our adorable one bedroom work for our growing family.

Fortunately, I love anything having to do with home decor and organizing, so I have thoroughly enjoyed purveying the many sites and stores that offer some great small apartment solutions. When my husband was telling a good friend of his that I was pregnant, his friend replied, “Oh, have you experienced the obligatory Ikea trip yet?” So, of course he found it quite hysterical (as I felt utterly mainstream) when he came home and I was making our Ikea list. When we finally went (it happens to be only 2 miles from our apt) 50% of the women there were pregnant, lugging their husbands around who were all amazingly compliant. We got the few things we needed to create more storage in our kitchen and bathroom and spent a stormy summer night putting it all together. I realized why this whole second trimester nesting time is essential because in your third trimester there is no way that you could manage to sit on a hard floor and screw in tiny little bolts with those silly Ikea tools and warping fake wood. We managed, with my sciatica acting up, and many a sigh and complaint. Next up was the dreaded Target trip which was way worse, but we got what we needed two small hampers (one for us, one for baby), a new bath mat, and an over the door ironing board since we have to remove the one from under our bed to make room for storage bins.

where would you fit a crib?

Today, we decided that we would peruse our neighborhood antique and second-hand stores for the remaining small pieces that we needed –  a small toy chest to sit inside our non working fireplace and an end table which will live next to our couch/behind front door and will also house our regular wear shoes.  It was exhausting and hot and in the end, I was happy to be home in our AC shopping on our computer. After 5 minutes I found exactly what we were looking for on Duh. Not sure why I hadn’t just gone there in the first place.  So, we are almost there.  Next up is the bedroom where the dresser that used to be my husband’s will now be devoted to the baby’s clothes and diapers (thank you hanging closet shelves!) And, since we cannot fit a full size crib, our baby will be co-sleeping with us for as long as possible. Only problem is that the chic and modern co-sleeper that we want from England is not cheap, and shipping is $175! We may just be putting that on our registry, alone.

I would love to hear your home decor suggestions for small spaces!

Forever Fifteen

Welcome_3 So, I’m in the schoolyard and my friend comes running up to me because her friend texted her and told her that her guy’s ex-girlfriend was checking out her pictures on Facebook.  OMG.  Now she had to go and change her privacy settings, but not before she checked out the ex-girlfriends’ pictures which were all bikini pictures.  Like, all of them.  Who does that?

“What are you talking about?” I asked her, looking at her like she was speaking another language.  “You gotta get on Facebook,” she says to me.  “EVERYBODY is on Facebook.”  Now I find this hard to believe, because despite the fact that this seems like a scene out of Gossip Girl, we are in fact 36 years old, my friend is pregnant with her third child, and the schoolyard we’re in – well, its kindergarten pick up at my daughters’ public school.  How can this be true?  Can Facebook now be populated by thirty-something moms and dads trying to sneak peeks at their old high school flames?

Turns out that’s exactly who’s on Facebook.  And now I’m one of them.  When I first logged on it was with trepidation and a feeling of venturing outside of my comfort zone.  Despite being a blogger, I am not the kind of person who posts her pictures on flikr.  I shudder at the very thought of filling out my favorite books, music and movies for all the world to see.  But, then I found the friend finder function on Facebook, and find them I did.  There they were, two of my best friends in high school who I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  There was my best guy friend who I haven’t seen in 7 years. And there were the extended friends, the ones who were always at the same parties, the boys I may have hooked up with at some point in high school and who didn’t break my heart, and then maybe one or two who did.

Like a yenta matchmaker Facebook puts it all out there, gives you the intro, even goes so far as to suggest people you may know and want to friend.  Facebook gives you an in, a sense of bravery you’d never have if you Googled someone and randomly emailed them in come creepy stalkerish way.  Here I am friending people I sort of remember in a nice way, ignoring the people I wish I didn’t remember (and hello – do they not remember why we weren’t friends in real life?), and relishing finding my old friends whose pictures fill me with nostalgia and flat out love every time I see them.

So suddenly through the matchmaking wizardry of facebook I’m fifteen years old again, sort of.  I look forward to the messages from my friend in California, the one who could bring out my mean girl side like none other, and sort of believe her when she tells me she’s mellowed out.  I am having lunch tomorrow with a friend who from third grade until about sophomore year of college I always referred to as “my best friend” C______.  How we grew apart I don’t remember, but seeing her appear on Facebook made my heart flutter.  And, even though its not entirely real, isn’t it important to have those people in your life? The ones who saw you at your angst-ridden worst, your craziest best, through all kinds of bad hair and outfits, through some of your most vulnerable and your most empowered moments.  All the things that made growing up hard and wonderful at the same time, these people, even as thumbnails, collectively keep that part of you alive.

And so I’ve embraced Facebook whole heartedly.  I love the cheesy group of thirty somethings who all grew up in my Brooklyn neighborhood and are now posting group pictures to the site for all of us to cringe and laugh at.  I love the ease with which I can reconnect with a friend who I’ve wondered about but don’t feel the need to actually befriend again, and I love feeling fifteen – if only for a few minutes a day while checking in to Facebook.  Because really who’d want to go back to high school for real when visiting is so much more fun?

Original New York City Moms Blog Post