InspireCorps artist Evelyn Prieto (left) worked happily side by side with PS81's Ms. Saida in Nature Arts.

                An Inspired Year

              for the Arts at PS 81 

Populating PS81’s new Enrichment Clubs this year with InspireCorps artists was a dream come true! Such an amazing thing to have witnessed the entire school—from Principal Barker to every teacher, every custodian and security guard—adapt to the program, which provided an awesome outlet for creativity, connectivity and collaboration throughout the year. It is not easy to mobilize every student in the school, and to place them in their club of choice, as well as to get buy-in from every teacher to facilitate or assist us with a club. Ms. Shameeka Hunter worked tirelessly, and the results showed in the children’s joy and laughter, the teachers’ appreciation of creative collaborations and the hallways filled with art. The PS81 community has been thriving, which is such a beautiful thing. Most of the students received yoga and meditation with Carmen Guzman, and so many participated in our four mixed arts classes with teachers including Abena Strafford, Evelyn Prieto, Shannon Corrigan, Julie Hendel, Linda Dambassis and Guillermo Perez, or songwriting with Terry Radigan, drama with Katie Osborn, or dance with Hassan Blandford. 

             Talking to Young Musicians


“Music does bring people together.  

It allows us to experience the same emotions.

People everywhere

are the same in heart and spirit.”

 - Henry David Thoreau


I was tempted when I walked in to make the old joke to the security guard, “How does one get to Carnegie Hall?” After all, I was there, in the venerable old building on 57th St., to meet the graduates of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW, a group of young musicians who ostensibly practiced, practiced and practiced some more in order to get into the two-year fellowship program. They perform in community events, teach and develop programs to help them transition into musical careers that link them to their local communities.


They practiced, sure, but what inspired them? Michael Smith is a pianist who has been teaching at an elementary school in Queens through ACJW. Passion for passing on his joy of music shone in his eyes. Jacqueline Cordova Arrington, a flautist, spoke enthusiastically about bringing arts to schools to teach and enlighten through music, and about her participation in the Philly Freedom Festival and Ideas Exchange Festival to do just that. Kobi Malkin, a violinist from Israel, spoke of his time teaching students, wistful that so many children don’t receive the extensive one-on-one training he received, which led him to play with great orchestras the world over. 


Potentially they or others from the program can get involved with InspireCorps, can help us build community through harmony, to teach children how to find a common underlying rhythm with their neighbors. It was inspiring to meet these budding musicians and hear of their passion to pass on their love of music.  

Cupcakes & Cocktails                    Fundraiser 

What a lovely evening we had on May 25th when Board Member and volunteer Linda Dambassis, creator of the Crazy Bake Art class, threw a Cocktails & Cupcakes fundraiser in her Sutton Place home. We heard about the wonderful effect the program has had on the school’s academics, absenteeism and general feeling of community from PS81 Principal, Cheryl Ault-Barker, and we raised just over $2,000 to bring artists to 81 next year. As Linda so aptly put it, “We are blessed to do this work.”


To donate, please go to, or mail a check made out to InspireCorps to 420 12th St., F3L, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

      Brooklyn's Women
           of Distinction 

It was quite an honor to be honored for my work with InspireCorps alongside 26 amazing Brooklyn women for Community News Group’s Women of Distinction award on June 7th at Sirico’s Caterers in Dyker Heights. Thanks so much, CNG, for the recognition and the article in the 2016 Brooklyn’s Women of Distinction magazine.

 InspireCorps Featured on Brooklyn Media 

We were so lucky to have BRICartsmedia come to PS81 to do a segment on InspireCorps! The piece aired Monday, May 23rd on BK Live for an audience of 500,000 people. Thank you to BRIC’s Partnership Manager, Julie Sturm, for recommending us, and to producer Abbey Adkison for doing a great job capturing the spirit of our program. Click to view the segment below.

Building Community Through the Arts

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