By Maureen Mancini Amaturo
Participation in the arts is soaring and no place is happier about that than The Rye Arts Center. Vicky Blank, who serves as Main Office Coordinator, reports that they’ve seen higher registrations, and more classes are filled to capacity. Blank credits the instructors with the positive experiences attendees enjoy.
“They not only teach but also give encouragement and build confidence in students. The Rye Arts Center has really shifted to an entity that brings community together.”
Noah Opitz, Director of Development, agrees. “Our membership has increased noticeably over the last year. We are about 400 members strong, and donations have also increased.”
In Senior Director Adam Levi’s view, “The arts are a positive distraction. I’m seeing more adults in our classes. They come in and talk, work with a teaching artist, and feel better for the experience.”
Making sure the Arts Center is a place to find a sense of happiness and joy, says Executive Director Meg Rodriguez, “has been woven into our strategic plan. Arts and creativity go hand in hand with happiness. I’m not a psychologist, but there is a lot of research to support this fact, and I’ve seen it in action. Students and audiences have told me, without prompting, that the Rye Arts Center is their ‘happy place.’”
Anne Bach Fumasoli, Music Program and Outreach Director, is impressed by how parents are getting their children involved in music earlier. “Nursery school directors approached us wanting an arts program to extend their day. So, the Center created Half Days for Half Pints for the pre-K crowd.”
And there’s expanded programming for adults such as “Play With Your Food”, a lunchtime event that draws healthy adult participation. For the past two years, the Arts Center has worked in collaboration with the Healing Arts Collective to help people find balance, mindfulness, and increase sensitivity in their lives through art.
“Adults are thinking differently about being educated in the arts,” says Levi. “It’s about enrichment and enjoyment, both healing experiences.” He adds, “Yes, we are about creativity and exploring and improving skills, but we also open our doors to all kinds of community groups. People come in, and they are inspired. They see classes taking place, see art being made, hear music. They visit our gallery. Art is helping people understand.”
Fumasoli, a 27-year RAC music instructor, adds, “I have sensed the shift from being competition-driven to enrichment-seeking. We have broadened our reach. One example is Dance for Parkinson’s. Doctors are actually recommending this program. It’s not therapy. It’s social. Program participation has tripled since its start in 2011.”
Rye recognizes how the arts enhance our community and embraces it. Levi notes, “The Rye Town Park Commission is allowing sculpture to be displayed in our park and making it a permanent installation. Maybe we are entering into a new age for the arts.”
Meg Rodriguez invites Rye neighbors to experience the happiness and joy of the arts for themselves. “Stop by and say hello, sign up for a class or workshop, come to an event, see what’s in the gallery.”
Anne Fumasoli, Adam Levi, and Vicky Blank in The Rye Arts Center Gallery