On the Financial Status of the Arts

—Nicholas Aprea

Art Alive Awards breakfast, 2013, ArtsWestchester, White Plains
Art Alive Awards breakfast, 2013, ArtsWestchester, White Plains

Arts Alive Awards Breakfast 2013. (L-R) Steve Otis, State Assemblyman (91st District); Lisa Robb, Executive Director at New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA); Nicholas Aprea, Nowodworski Foundation; George Latimer, State Senator (37th District); David Gelfarb, County Legislator (9th District)

Arts Alive Award breakfast, 2014, ArtsWestchester, White Plains
Arts Alive Award breakfast, 2014, ArtsWestchester, White Plains


On February 15 I had the opportunity to attend the presentation of ArtsWestchester’s 2013 Arts Alive Grants on behalf of the Nowodworski Foundation.  As I watched representatives from 35 different organizations from across Westchester receive funding for projects ranging from music and dance to creative writing and graphic design, I could not help but reflect on the diminishing support for arts programs overall.  This may seem like an odd commentary, especially considering where I was when I thought of it, but the numbers speak for themselves.  The total amount of grant money given out at the event was $41,000.  That’s $41,000 to be split between the above mentioned 35 organizations.  A simple calculation will reveal that that averages out to $1,171.42 per group.  Just for comparison, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal estimated that the average person spends about $1,700 a year on upkeep and data costs for a smartphone.

Cutting funding for the arts has unfortunately become something of a trend in the past few years.  A casual Google search will yield numerous examples from the local, state, and federal governments.  The economy obviously plays a significant part in this funding cutoff, as does the fact that art programs are usually listed as extracurricular activities – in belt-tightening times it simply makes sense to focus solely on the programs that are deemed essential.  But while much ado has been made about building a core curriculum around math and science in our country’s educational systems, the beneficial effects of art and music as complementary programs are quickly being overlooked.

The CEOs of the Boeing Company, United Technologies, Eli Lilly and Company, and the Bayer Corporation have all been quoted as saying that it is the arts that foster the innovation and the creativity in the minds of the scientists and technicians who develop the products that make their companies the multi-billion dollar juggernauts that they are today.   The few psychological studies that have been conducted regarding this subject matter appear to back up these claims: if a future scientist or engineer accomplishes artistic endeavors at some point in their early lives, there is a greater chance that he or she will become an innovator in their respective field as an adult.  And innovation tends to lead to profit.

The bottom line is that public service announcements may stress the importance of math and science while simultaneously warning us that our country is lagging behind the rest of the world in those two categories (currently, I believe we are ranked 25th math and 17th in science). The shift in educational focus may even lead to an increase the amount of scientists and engineers that our colleges produce, but without the arts as a backbone the spirit of innovation will be noticeably absent from their work.  Science and engineering projects can always be outsourced, and scientists and engineers can always be insourced (most likely from those countries that rank above the U.S. in math and science), that’s just the way that capitalism works, but innovation and creativity can only be homegrown.



10th Anniversary

—Joseph K. Yip D.D.S

Beginning with “THE DELUGE”, Poland became a lost entity until after WWI. That was itself a brief moment when the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty went into effect. Only after WWII did it raise again, and continues to do so with centuries of partitions by its neighbors, one wonder being Polish can survive.
But it survives and is celebrated particularly through organizations like the Nowodworski Foundation. Celebration of ones culture can be achieve through many venues. A common way is through festivals or social events.  The Nowodworski approach is a walk of discovery of the Polish mind.  It is a creative mind.  It works hard and diligently.  It wants to reach up to the sky.  And yet can return to the earth.  Through their Summer Art Camp in Poland, of which both my daughters participated.  They were immerse in the fertile soil of Poland and blossom from it.  I thank the Nowodworski foundation
for connecting our daughters to natures beauty and Humanity. The foundation is  GEM that would sparkle for a very long time

Art Camps Challenge

— Zuzanna Golec

Discovering Poland

When reflecting on my great experience working with Art Camp participants, I think that the most important impact on their lives came from the encounter with Poland itself. Since all the camps were situated in rural areas, such as the Carpathian Mountains, our students enjoyed walking through meadows, watching storks and listening to meadow larks, smelling the fresh manure ready to fertilize potato and wheat fields, chasing friends with burning nettles, and marveling that they can walk freely wherever they want thanks to the lack of fences separating private properties.

They swam in pure water of Sola River and took hikes in Tatra, Beskidy and Pieniny Mountains. At the end of the day they were proud conquerors of Turbacz, Przelecz Lipowska or Babia Gora, each about 5000 feet above sea level. For kids from New York suburbs, used to concrete, asphalt and cars, so much walking was a challenging but fascinating way to explore new places. They could hardly believe they had really had climbed so high and from the tops of the mountains admired the breathtaking views and looked down on their friends who never embarked on such an experience.

Discovering Polish architecture was another new experience for the American youth. For nearly all of our students, the Nowodworski Art Camp was their first contact with the European culture. When visiting medieval Krakow, standing in the middle of Krakows Rynek, the biggest medieval plaza in Europe, made them realize how old and culturally rich a country Poland was. They visited many medieval wooden churches, inns, castles and villages. They greatly enjoyed living in a fifteenth century castle in Jezow. Its director, Mr. Duda, told them all about ghost who inhabited the old castle and we were all lucky that the day before our departure, after dusk, one of the ghosts graciously appeared in the park. Boys showed their bravery trying to catch him but they failed, for how can one catch a ghost?

Art and Friendship

Making art was of course the main occupation at the Nowodworski Art Camp. Our teachers, first Kinga Lesniak during the first two camps, and Marek Kapturkiewicz for the rest of them, were truly committed to teaching art. They made our students feel that each piece of their work was great. They knew how to help the students discover that they can do art, even if they felt helpless at first. Students did pencil sketches on the slope of a mountain or sitting deep in ferns in a forest. They did watercolor painting, dipping their paint brush in a mountain stream, and they did theater during the rainy days when they could not go outside. They had fun together working, dancing, and singing. The last activity before leaving Poland was traditionally a visit at the locally famous Water Park in Krakow. Each time they all enjoyed it tremendously.

For many students each Nowodworski Foundation Art Camp was a beginning of a new friendship. Many of our students continue to organize get together parties and talk to each other every week. The Nowodworski Foundation Summer Art Camps will have a life-long impact on all who took part in them. Each student was happy with his or her experience and all wanted to take part in the next art camp. Paul Fortunato was so determined to go again to Poland when he came back home in 2004, that he once told me : If you don’t take me next year I am ready to swim through the Atlantic free style to go to Poland again. I believe that the legacy of the Art Camps is love for arts and friendship, and I know that all of our students have a special place for their memories from Poland in their hearts.

So off to the airport I went…

— Luba Sieradzka

Last summer my prison was like no other,
Convicted to it by my very own mother.
To spend two weeks in some place,
Wiped from existence without a trace.

Art camp, I was told, was my destination.
To drive me insane was my
mothers intention.
Blessed with the patience of a saint,
I left home with little aspiration to paint.

So off to the airport I went,
Protesting all along as I was sent.
I was good, so what was my crime?
Why did I have to put in this time?

My cries and objections fell on deaf ears,
I’m too old to shed any such tears.
Then came such a revelation,
I was the oldest to my humiliation.

There I was surrounded by a new generation.
How did I find myself in this situation?
Mother, I hate you, I hissed
How many friends reruns would I miss?

The weather was freezing cold and wet,
My friend was on a cruise for the Caribbean set.
Nothing can go more wrong I said at last.
Oh I was wrong, there’s my brothers foot in a cast.

Very slowly, in the days that past,
I searched for peace that didn’t last.
Observing the little flirting between girls and boys.
I amused myself by watching their ploys.

I listened to their ridiculous tales,
Learned more about the minds of young males.
I smiled and wondered, was I like that back then?
Thank God I don’t remember anything
past the age of ten.

With each day I saw something new.
It was like living in a small, little zoo.
Still, before I knew it, I grew to like them all,
They managed to touch me in big ways and small.

Each one brought something new and fun,
And we even got to see the sun.
Yes, there was goofing off, but hard work as well,
Beautiful images of art too precious to sell.

The whole trip was an adventure to remember,
Something to recall in dark December.
Two weeks finally came to an end.
My love to all my new Friends now I send.

Dont forget the good times we had,
Remember leaving was really so sad,
Hopefully soon our paths will cross,
These friends are forever, never to be lost.


Polish-Italian Connections

—Marzena Kostrzewa-Stafiej
—Justyna Nicinska, translation

It is difficult to write about Italy as a singular united nation, in terms of tradition, culture or behavior.  Only a watchful observer, after a thorough analysis is able to differentiate between the habits of those from the North, central regions and the South.  Personally, I found the residents of the South, Sicily in particular most endearing.

I remember what my professor, Salvatore Cuffaro once said…” You don’t even know how similar we Sicilians are to you Poles”.  Having noticed my slightly ironic expression, he went on…” Of course I am not speaking of appearance but our temperament and mentality, contrary to what you might think, are very similar”.  He proved this by providing several historical patterns, since both Polish and Sicilian people’s (he always spoke of Sicilians, not Italians) have been subject to permanent occupation causing them to live quite poorly, perhaps even in impoverishment and always in opposition. That is how both Sicilians and Poles have an over understanding of hard work, the lack of bread, perhaps that is why the majority of people emigrating from Italy were from the South; Sicily, Calabria and Campania among Italian immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island.

Italians and Sicilians in particular are a hospitable people; the doors to their homes are always open to visitors (similarly to our own tradition).  Regardless whether you were a guest in the interior on the islands of Stromboli, in the home of truly poor farmers or the palace of Duke Giuseppe San Vincienzo di Ganci in Palermo, everywhere the guest was surrounded by proper regard, sincerity, openness, a familial atmosphere, excellent dishes and superb wines, even if they were simple.  One cannot forget about the beautiful tradition of the Italian “canzoni”.  Music is an inseparable element of life, a friend during the hard times and the good times.

The most fascinating compositions, whose very melodic character entices you to dance, are Sicilian folk songs.  Similarly to our own Polish songs their notes are filled with the love of sentiment, theirs fragrant of the sun and sea and ours of flowers.   While dancing the Tarantelle you can easily come across steps familiar from the Mazurek or Oberek.  Sicilians are romantics just as we are, chivalrous towards ladies but happy when the majority of responsibilities (perhaps even all of them) are relegated to them (the ladies).
Of course besides the hospitality and love of beauty, music and knightly manners similar are also those traits which are not among the most positive, such as tenacity, stubbornness and unfortunately relentlessness when it comes to arguments (for example about the famous copper).

If you think that a Sicilian peasant will let a living soul win in any dispute than you are mistaken.  Just as our own Polish peasant – will not give any living soul a break.
Sicily is the birthplace of the Mafia, but also of great freedom movements, a place where Giuseppe Garibaldi along with his comrades at arms could begin the fight for freedom.
We cannot forget of the collegial ties between prominent Polish and Italian families. On this topic you could write reams starting with Queen Bona and ending on…well let us leave this extensive topic. I would like to tell you about the history of a man well known not only in Poland, but also here in America.
Vittorio de`Spuches, is a persona worthy of special notice. He was the son of an Italian diplomat from the time period between the World Wars, Roberto de`Spuches and a beautiful Polish woman, Lola de domo Klementynowska.
They met in Cracow, where Roberto worked at the Italian Consulate.
Two charming boys were born as a result of that union, Salvatore, called Tolek from Polish by his mother and Vittorio. Both of them completed middle school in Cracow and then went on to Italy, where they lived out their years.  Vittorio, a great friend of our Pope, John Paul II, ran a well functioning tourist agency, where they treated Polish pilgrims and tourists with exceptional kindness. Vittorio spoke Polish beautifully; when he sat down with us at the table he told Polish and Italian jokes intermittently.  Here in America he was known by all the members of SPATA, the Association of Polish-American Travel Agencies.  He was a member of that administration for many years and a great friend of the Polish-American community.  Wonderful loved by all, well-liked and valued Vittorio.  Half Pole, half Italian, or more correctly Sicilian.  We always debated about how much each of us has of Polish blood and how much that other.  He said that his was split 50/50, a Slavic soul with an Italian temperament.  Affiliated with great Sicilian families: de`Ganci, Amorosa, Cuffaro, Polish families such as Zamoyski and also the Spanish, Galati princes.  Vittorio always knew how to unite the love for both homelands in his heart.

Who loves soccer as much as the Italians and us: In the beautiful town of Taormine I went in to a small shop to buy something for dinner. An over eighty-year-old Sicilian woman who worked there asked me where I am from.  From my answer of Poland, or da Polonia Grandma heard Bologna.  In order to simplify the geographic dilemma for her I said that I came from the birthplace of John Paul II, surprisingly she did not understand, but when I told her that I was from the same country as Zibi Boniek the reaction was instantaneous.  Please tell me in what country does a grandmother know anything about soccer?
There are so many similarities between our two peoples that I am beginning to wonder what is different?
Let us those negative traits as well, because we cannot speak of corruption as being favorable.  Our homeland is currently experiencing a “bloom” of corruption, which has not even spared the authorities.  Word for word just like in Italy, except that I believe they are more skilled in this “profession”.  Sweet corruption and overgrown bureaucracy on every corner, again a similarity!

The last interesting commonality is a love for titles.  The Italians just like us cannot pass up the opportunity to add some kind of title before their name (which had been made somewhat difficult for us for many years), either a family or professional one.  Even while drinking coffee in a tiny café I heard all around me: signora dottoresa, signore avocato, professore, sounding very similar to our own sir engineer, doctor or sir procurator. Titles are meant to be used, of course for instance at work, but nowhere in Europe or the United States have I been so engulfed by titlemania in personal and professional life.  Perhaps that was needed to lighten the dreariness of everyday life?  On the other coast there is the American “how are you?” readily spoken by presidents of corporations along with their lowest ranking personnel and vice versa.   It loses however on commonality, apparently foreign to Europeans even in the current united Europe.  For us Poles, having been grounded on solid principle, nothing remains but to shout, “Viva Polonia”; “Viva Italia”, and that is the end of that.