As parents often send their kids to P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry for the honorable Blue Ribbon status, many also choose the North Brooklyn school for Lisa Summa, an art teacher with a unique approach to early art education.
“I usually approach it by teaching them about art history because I studied art history,” Summa said. “It’s amazing to see that kids can learn something like that at such a young age.”
Surrounded by the parents of her students last week in the gallery space at From the Source, a furniture and home décor store at 69 West St., Summa watched as her parents teamed up to save the program.
Jessica Murray, president of the newly formed Friends of the Oliver H. Perry School/ P.S. 34 Corp., felt it was her obligation to help raise additional funds for her child’s school and the Summa’s art classes in particular.
“Over the last five years our funding has been cut more and more and more, and she has really just been struggling,” Murray said. “This year we decided that we needed to form a friends group to raise a substantial amount of money.”
With help from the parents, artists in the community and a number of local restaurants, Murray helped turn the 9th annual P.S. 34 Art Party into their first fundraising event.
The group of about 20 parents raised a total of $15,000 to revitalize the art program, according to Murray.
“We are raising money for art supplies, furniture and museum trips,” she said.
Everything was donated at the Art Party, including the food that came from local markets like Fresh Direct and The Garden Food Market, and dozens of local artists and local jewelers donated their work for a silent auction.
Murray added that fundraising for the arts is really just the beginning of their effort for bettering their children’s education.
“We’re a new organization and we really want to develop in the school in the future in all subjects, not just art,” she said.
Connor Foy, an artist and parent of a student in her class, donated an oil painting from his private collection for the silent auction.
“We went to MoMA just before Christmas, and he started pointing out who was who to me,” Foy said of his eight-year-old son Brandon. “It blew me away.”
With a studio in the same building as the art gallery, Foy said donating to raise money for the program was even more of a no-brainer.
“I wouldn’t think twice about it,” he said.
Foy looks forward to sending his four-year-old to the school next year.
Also in attendance was Roderick Gilman, the friends group treasurer and attorney with Sullivan and Cromwell.
“I think it has always been a struggle with public schools, especially with the budget cuts because they offer less and less, so unfortunately parents have to take up the slack,” he said.
Gilman said he is thankful for teachers like Summa, and that raising funds can only strengthen the program.
“I try to educate on the side, but unfortunately with a busy life and a busy profession, you often don’t have as much time as you would like,” he said. “This way we can help get the schools to do so.”
Jane Pool, friends group secretary and also a co-chair of the event, said parents have an obligation, right now especially, to help in any way possible to better their children’s education.
“She’s running an incredible program on nothing,” Pool said about Summa’s art classes. “The budget cuts are so disgusting.”
Pool said she decided to send her daughter to the school after hearing about Summa’s art class, and this was the least she could do to help out.
“Were a Title One school, so we don’t have this big wealthy parent base who can write checks to save art, science or the afterschool programs,” she said. “We’re being forced to be creative.”