Published on July 14, 2021 | Staten Island Advance | Written by Carol Ann Benanti
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Sundog Theatre didn’t miss a beat when it came to providing arts programs for students from kindergarten through grade 12 during the 2020-21 pandemic shutdown and the months that ensued.
Whether it was streaming, video-driven, or in-person, Sundog teaching artists delivered a whopping 83 arts programs in 41 schools — mainly based on Staten Island.
And three of the programs were incorporated into the curriculum at PS 19 in Port Richmond, PS 78 in Clifton, and PS 53 in Bay Terrace.
PS 19 opted to do an in-person auditorium mural, designed and painted by students and artist Lina Montoya.
Measuring 36 feet long and 4 feet high, the mural spans the entire width of the auditorium’s rear wall. It depicts a myriad of themes that include conservation, inclusion, the arts, disabilities, the words “More Love” written in sign language, and the school mascot — a lion.
PS 78 saw outside doors painted by students and Montoya depicting a number of school themes, such as school culture, the community and kindness.
“At PS 78, we have four core values — collaboration, achievement, respect and effort — and the artwork represented on these doors reflect each one,” said PS 78 Principal Jodi Contento. “While working alongside an artist, our students learn about art techniques, production and creativity, while beautifying our neighborhood. Ideas are student-driven and generated based on needs of our community. As principal, this partnership means everything to me and our community here in Stapleton.”
Funded by Councilman Joseph Borelli, Sundog also delivered a completely online program at PS 53 in which student reporters, photographers and graphic illustrators created a 28-page, full-color newspaper.
With articles on subjects ranging from the Mars rover, to local politicians, COVID-19, Broadway, school news and cell phones, students researched a broad range of topics. Teaching artists taught students how to conduct interviews, take pictures that tell a story or approach a subject from a unique angle, and craft computer graphics to illustrate articles.
“Sundog taught theater, dance, music, visual arts, and literacy programs to approximately 6,000 students during the 2020-21 school year, and that’s not even counting the many who viewed performances and exhibits the students created,” said Susan Fenley, Sundog’s executive director. “Our staff worked extremely hard to make it all happen. And Victoria Colella, our arts education manager, is a rock star.”
Fenley said she believes the arts helped people get through the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, people turned to streaming shows, music, online dance videos, and music to cope, learn new things, and entertain themselves. People everywhere found that engagement in the arts at any age is always relevant,” she said.
Fenley went on to explain that Sundog Theatre’s school arts programs have now been incorporated into the DOE’s Summer Rising Program with a number of theater, dance and art projects on tap for the summer months.
ABOUT SUNDOG THEATRE
Founded in 2002, Sundog Theatre presents original and contemporary theatre and in-school arts programming rooted in theater, visual arts, dance, music and literacy. Programs are offered to students in kindergarten through high school.
In addition, Sundog Theatre offers acting classes year-round for children ages 6 to 17, and it tours educational productions yearly.
For additional information, visit www.SundogTheatre.org or call 718-816-5453.