Best Childrens' Art Class,
Each week, Ms. Bellen-Berthézène explores what she calls the primary sources of art, dance and music with youngsters from about 2 years old on up. Sometimes they go to museums to sketch; sometimes they go to studios in midtown, to listen to music like Benjamin Britten's "Midsummer Night's Dream" and learn the stories behind it. ...Mothers too participate in the sessions, among them Elizabeth Page [a playwright] and her daughter, Zoë, 6 ...[B]oth women agree that children can benefit from early exposure to the arts not watered-down childrens versions, but the real thing. ... Zoë ...has established a real rapport with Ms. Bellen-Berthézène, whom she describes as being different from a regular teacher. She's not so firm, Zoë said, and she doesn't get mad if you do something silly. On a recent afternoon, Zoë, Ms. Bellen Berthézène and Ms. Page cartwheeled across a room in a midtown performing-arts studio, waving colored bits of fabric, pretending to be the paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas... They bumped into the walls and into one another and, at one point, Zoë clambered all over Ms. Bellen-Berthézène as she lay on the floor. They both laughed. She's a special person,Ms. Bellen-Berthézène said of her student. She is, too, Zoë said, and bestowed the ultimate compliment. You know, she acts sort of more like a kid than a grown-up. From Getting a Kick Out of the Arts by Bernard Stamler, The New York Times
Fast becoming one of the most talked about art programs in the city, Hi Art! continues speeding savvy New York children towards ever-greater heights of creativity... Fondly regarded by its director as an introduction to high art aesthetics for young children, the very hands-on program alternates between studio and museum-time. One week, children comb the citys most prestigious museums and galleries; the next week music, dancing and glue are their vehicles for an intensive introduction to a masterpiece of classical music or opera. My goal is to help children move away from the limitation of immediate gratification and move toward sustained activity and interest, says Bellen-Berthezene. We have great fun in class, yet theres always a theoretical platform; real learning skills are being honed and the classes are challenging without being overwhelming. The programs philosophy and format gives children an opportunity to develop real competence in the arts while gaining confidence as people who listen, see, understand and appreciate. From Big Apple Parent: Pint-Sized Aesthetes October 1999
Only in New York, he was overheard whispering, as he and his wife made their way through the Rothko show at the Whitney, can you find a two-year old sitting and drawing Rothko. Unbeknownst to him, however, the two-year old was really a twenty month old and she was not alone, but accompanied by a small group of three, four and five year olds, all assiduously at work attempting to reproduce their favorite Rothko paintings. Opera singer Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène, founder and director of HI ART! an unusual workshop, which offers young children an introduction to high art aesthetics, smiles broadly. People at the Whitney show were completely amazed by our children. In one hour I was approached by four people, including two psychologists and the friend of a well-known Latin American sculptor. They cant believe their eyes. Adults can be very unimaginative about children's capabilities. Children love art in all of its forms it's a matter of how it's presented to them. The program incorporates both museum and studio time. I always try to give children the big aesthetic concepts without in any way imposing on their native perceptions. Our work together hovers in the space between the fantasies of childhood and the facts of artistic production. Children come away from the HI ART! experience happy and feeling very grown-up. Working with children in the arts isnt about an academic agenda they have a whole lifetime ahead of them for that. It's about helping them find the link between who they are at this very moment and the voice of humanity in its embodiment in art.