Tapped In: Art of History, Tibet House, Symphony Space Co-Founder Dies

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A HANDS-ON APPROACH TO LEARNING Creating an interactive learning experience for the children of the city, the New York Historical Society has developed a program that uses visual arts to educate students about New York and American history. "The Art of History" is a five-session program offered to different schools throughout the city. Combining art with history, students gain an understanding of history while improving their visual art skills. During the program, students have open discussions about how the artifacts reflect that time, and the techniques and elements of the art. In addition, they create projects in relation to what they have learned. For instance, they made three-dimensional sculptures after observing different art pieces that the Native Americans used. St. Gregory the Great Elementary School on the Upper West Side is joining the program, said Principal Donna Gabella, who added that many students, teachers and parents involved at her school are very enthusiastic. "They loved learning about the Lenape Native Americans and have just finished creating their own village," she said. "I don't think we had anything like this when I was in elementary school," said Nathalie Casthely, parent of a fourth grader and member of the Parent Association. "I love that our kids are having this kind of experience. You can see in their eyes how engaged and interested they are. This is exactly the kind of enrichment program for which our Parent Association works so hard at fundraising." The New York Historical Society started the Art of History pilot program during the 2011-12 school year. Gabella announced that the school will offer it again next year and will expand to other grade levels. "We live in NYC, which is such a vital, dynamic place, and we are fortunate to have so many diverse cultural and educational resources close by and we want to share these opportunities with our students," she said. TIBET HOUSE ART EXHIBIT Tibet House U.S. is opening the free multimedia art exhibit Sacred Vision, Separate Views: Contemporary Perspectives in Buddhist Art on Dec. 6. Be sure to find your way to the Tibet House, located at 22 W. 15th St., to capture firsthand the "installations, live performance art, video, sculpture, paintings and drawings from six NYC-based contemporary emerging artists." The artists, James Walton Fox, Valley Burke Fox, Shigeru Oyatani, E. Elizabeth Peters, Wesley Simon and Jayoung Yoon, promise a spiritual journey through Buddhist tradition with modern interpretations. The opening ceremony, which will be held Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m., features a special performance called "Clearing the Mind," a Zen-like artistic meditation involving art and thought. On Dec. 7 from 4-9 p.m., Wesley Simon and Valley Burke Fox will present "A Line in Space," which is billed as a contemporary interpretation of traditional Tibetan sand drawing aiming to demonstrate the fine "sand made" line between creation and destruction. SYMPHONY SPACE CO-FOUNDER SHEFFER DIES AT 76 Symphony Space co-founder Isaiah Sheffer died Nov. 9 after a celebrated theatrical career. The 76-year-old Bronx native was best known for masterminding "Selected Shorts," a nationally syndicated radio program in which actors read short stories at the Broadway and West 96th Street performance space, and "Bloomsday on Broadway," an annual reading of Ulysses by James Joyce. When Sheffer first booked Symphony Space in 1978 to stage a marathon Bach concert with conductor Allan Miller, it was a derelict movie theater. He and Miller spent the next decade raising money and fighting for ownership to transform it into a multi-theater performance venue. "He took a crummy building in a crummy neighborhood and turned it into a vibrant center for the arts," Symphony Space President and CEO Cynthia Elliott, whom Sheffer called "a partner in crime," told West Side Spirit. "He welcomed not only the community, but audiences far and wide." Sheffer recruited a great variety of performers throughout his 32 years as artistic director, an eclecticism that Elliott said demonstrated his broad interests and passion for sharing them. "Isaiah was a huge intellectual without being stuffy or condescending or academic," she explained. "Symphony Space reflects that real depth of intelligence, but also warmth and a welcoming atmosphere." Elliott noted that Sheffer also had a killer wit. In one bit, during a routine pitch for donations in the intermission between the theater's selected shorts, he promised the audience, "For the right amount of money, we'd be happy to rename a staff member for you." "He was very funny, very mischievous," Elliott said. "Symphony Space has always had a bit of an offbeat edge to it because of him." Sheffer died of complications of a stroke, his wife told the New York Times. A memorial service at Symphony Space will be held for him on Dec. 17 from 5-7 p.m., with tickets available to the public on Dec. 10.

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