Haldane Parents Form Arts Alliance

Nonprofit will promote creativity in district

By Alison Rooney

The newly formed Haldane Arts Alliance, a nonprofit which grew out of an informal booster club, is designed to promote media, visual and literary arts in the Cold Spring school district.

It will be buoyed by a new paid position, arts coordinator, which the district plans to fill internally, said Superintendent Philip Benante. Along with serving as a liaison with the alliance, the coordinator will evaluate current programs and coordinate development of the curriculum, he said.

The arts alliance, which alternates its monthly meetings between the Butterfield Library and Haldane, is led by a volunteer board of Kory Riesterer, Mona Smith, Laura Danilov, Christine Foertsch, Jill Shoffiett and Greg Smith. Riesterer, who is president, and Smith, who is vice president, sat down with The Current to discuss its goals. Their responses have been condensed.

Why are the arts important in schools?
Riesterer: With the range of art forms available, something is going to speak to each child and anchor them. Then communities of students are formed, and it’s a perfect way for students to connect and learn about themselves. Plus, there’s this pool of talent [to mentor students] with artists moving to Philipstown.

Smith: My experience of art in school is that everyone tried everything. Half the marching band was on the football team, and half the cheerleaders were in the band. At halftime, there was a scramble as people changed uniforms. Small school districts can struggle to manage budgets while providing arts enrichment, but there’s a wealth of information demonstrating the effectiveness of the arts in supporting learning and empathy.

Members of the alliance met at the Butterfield Library on Oct. 15. From left: Student Art Club President Anneke Chan; Sarah Gurland; Superintendent Phil Benante; Mona Smith; Kory Riesterer; and Lisa Sabin. (Photo by Caitlin Chadwick)

Why not continue with the booster club?
Riesterer: We had zero ability to raise funds. We need to be structured as a nonprofit to support the infrastructure. With a board, we can plan long-term.

Smith: The Haldane sports booster club was a model. It shifted to a formal nonprofit when the football field project was proposed. The parents reached a point when they knew it was necessary for the programs they wanted to see.

The Haldane Arts Alliance logo, by Haldane parent Jennifer Sandlund

What do you have planned?
Smith: While we wait for the IRS to confirm our nonprofit status, we have partnered with an established nonprofit, Fractured Atlas, so people can make tax-deductible donations. We hope to make our first grants in the spring.

Riesterer: We’ve found that parents, particularly of high school and middle school students, want more field trips to local museums such as Dia and Magazzino. Sometimes seeing an exhibit at that age opens everything up.

Smith: There’s a specific joy in doing things outside the school. Getting on a bus, like a sports team, allows the group to bond.

Riesterer: Like sports, there can be a competitive component to band and chorus. Haldane doesn’t have a tradition of this, but getting kids out and hearing students from other schools playing pushes kids to work harder and builds confidence.

Smith: Studying the arts can lead to employment in a variety of fields. We’re just an hour away from one of the arts meccas of the universe.

How do people join?
Riesterer: Membership is $25 a year. [See haldaneschool.org/arts/haldane-arts-alliance.] During a drive we just completed we received support not just from Haldane parents but from grandparents and people in the community who don’t have kids in the school. What’s wonderful about this community is that many proposals generated now will not come to fruition for several years and benefit children who enter this district after ours are gone. People understand this and are [still] committed.

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