Jim Benton, Ann M. Martin, and Dan Yaccarino are among the lineup of children’s authors and illustrators who will participate in a fundraiser on September 24 to benefit the Children’s Museum of the Arts’ Artists-in-Residence program at Manhattan’s PS 47, the American Sign Language and English Lower School. Launched in fall 2008, the partnership brings teaching artists into this public school to collaborate with teachers and librarians on a customized curriculum featuring a range of media and subjects. The goal of next month’s benefit is to raise $40,000 to secure the Artists-in-Residence program, imperiled by recent Department of Education budget cuts, for the upcoming school year.
Spearheading the benefit is Kirsten Hall, managing agent of the U.S. office of Bright Group International, a children’s illustration agency. Hall, who is also a children’s book author, has a vested interest in seeing Artists-in-Residence continue. Her two sons attend PS 47, whose enrollment includes deaf children and those with deaf parents or family members from all over the city, as well as children – like Hall’s – who live in the school’s zone. “The CMA partnership is one of the main reasons we want our sons to attend this school,” she says. “This is an exceptional arts program that encourages free-form artistic expression.”
Hall and other parents sprung into action last spring, when slashed budgets jeopardized the program, and they collected enough money to continue it through the end of the 2011-2012 school year. Now, she is galvanizing the children’s book community to help further extend the life of Artists-in-Residence. “It occurred to me that I work in the children’s book world, where many of my friends and colleagues are artists who discovered happiness, and even their professional callings, through artistic expression as children,” she says. “So I knew I could appeal to them for help protecting an important kids’ art program in jeopardy.”
She was right. Benton and Martin, both friends of Hall, jumped on board immediately and agreed to attend the September 24 fundraiser, which will be held at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Tribeca, and will include a silent auction, raffles, book signings, and kids’ workshops. “I’m thrilled to be part of this event,” says Martin. “I can’t think of anything better than bringing the arts to kids.” Benton agrees, noting, “The arts open your mind to possibilities and dreams, and it’s dreams that we all want.”
Hall, who is organizing the benefit with the help of several other PS 47 parents, also received “a very positive response” from authors she “cold-called.” In addition to Benton, Martin, and Yaccarino, attendees to date include Peter Brown, G. Brian Karas, Bob Shea, Tad Hills, and Victoria Kann. Putting a personal spin on the importance of the fundraiser’s cause, Yaccarino says, “Art in school enriches children’s lives. It certainly enriched mine, and my career would not have been possible without it. So I’m happy to show my gratitude by sharing my books with children at an event like this.”
At the benefit, kids can also mingle with the actress who plays the title character in the Vital Theatre’s Pinkalicious: The Musical, based on the HarperCollins series by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann. Tickets to that production are among the items in the silent auction, which will also include baskets of books donated by various publishers, original art by children’s book illustrators, and a lunch date with Martin. Visitors to an auction Web site will be able to bid on the silent auction items, make donations, and purchase tickets to the event.