Changing The World With Art, From The Bronx to Broadway, & Best Hiking Spots in Our Borough|Bronx PM Links

The DreamYard Project is nurturing Bronx youth through the arts in hopes of changing the world, some of the works of the late Tony Award-winning Bronxite Boris Aronson who began his career in Yiddish theatre, and the greenest borough’s best hiking spots, all in this evening’s Bronx PM Links.

Bronx Dreams: A community project to change the world with art


The New Yorker has a wonderful story on a great community based organization in our borough called The DreamYard Project.

Ian Frazier writes, “The DreamYard Project has a patriotic attachment to the Bronx. Two young actors, Jason Duchin and Tim Lord, founded it, twenty-one years ago, to teach public-school kids in grades K through twelve by using the arts. The idea was to recruit teachers from among working artists of Duchin’s and Lord’s acquaintance in New York and match them with schools whose funding for arts education had been cut. Through a few changes, that has been DreamYard’s basic mission from the start. For some years, the teaching program was in several boroughs, but today it’s only in the Bronx, where DreamYard-sponsored artists in forty-five schools teach about ten thousand students.

DreamYard also holds poetry contests between local kids and kids in other countries via Skype, makes posters for political protests, supplies art work for parks and other public spaces, holds acting workshops for adults, helps to paint designs on local apartment-building rooftops in heat-reflecting paint, and runs arts festivals. It believes that art can save the world.

At its headquarters in the Olivos’ building, which it calls the Community Arts Center, it also teaches classes in all kinds of arts after school, on Saturdays, and in the summer, almost every day. About thirty administrators and teachers work at the center. (Some of them are also among the teaching artists who go into the schools.) Everything DreamYard provides at the center is free. Some of the students there are from the neighborhood, but many come from farther away in the Bronx or from other boroughs. Of the kids who participate long-term in the center’s on-site programs, ninety-eight per cent graduate from high school and go on to college—an achievement, considering that the over-all rate of high-school graduation in the Bronx is just above fifty per cent. In 2012, DreamYard won a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award as one of the best out-of-school arts programs in the country. Michelle Obama presented the award at the White House. In the center’s street windows are pictures of people from DreamYard posing with her and looking ecstatic.” – Read the full story over at The New Yorker.

A Yiddish theater artist finally gets his due

Via A maquette for a set design from "The Tenth Commandment" at the Irving Place Theatre in 1926, depicting hell as all within the human mind. (Courtesy Marc Aronson)
Via A maquette for a set design from “The Tenth Commandment” at the Irving Place Theatre in 1926, depicting hell as all within the human mind. (Courtesy Marc Aronson)

“The late Boris Aronson was best known for designing the avant-garde Broadway sets of the 1950s and ’60s: the mirrored set for “Cabaret” that used the theatre audience as a backdrop; the transparent rectangles in “Company”; and the pastel shtetl surrounding the revolving stage in the 1964 “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Over those years he won six Tony Awards, the last one for “Pacific Overtures” in 1976.

Aronson was a Modernist when the faith in the modern was at its cultural height, creating increasingly abstract designs that underlined stage themes graphically.

But before those dramatic successes, Aronson worked for years in New York’s Yiddish theatre, designing costumes and sets for the thriving Russophile subculture in the city that included at least 1.5 million New Yorkers in the 1920s.

Through Dec. 23, the Vallois America gallery on East 67th St. is hosting “Preparing the Miracle: From the Bronx to Broadway, Boris Aronson and the Yiddish Theatre,” showing dozens of Aronson’s recently restored watercolor costume designs and set elevations. Most of the paintings have been sitting in flat files in Aronson‘s glass-and-wood-panel home built into a hillside overlooking the Tappan Zee near Nyack for half a century or more.

“Preparing the Miracle” grew out of an exhibition at Galerie le Minotaure in Paris three years ago, but maintaining the trove of watercolors has been the responsibility of Aronson’s son, author and assistant teaching professor at Rutgers University Marc Aronson, who lives in Maplewood.

“My father was interested in emancipating Jewish tradition by bringing its folk style into the Modern movement,” says Marc Aronson. “Of course, it helped that they were interested in pre-perspective art, because so many of the folk traditions were about flat color, too. There were a lot of visual artists in Kiev and later Moscow with similar aims — like Marc Chagall.” – Read the full story over at

Biophilic Bronx: Four Great Places to Hike in New York City’s Greenest Borough

Atop Vault Hill you can overlook the Parade Ground, The Bronx and the New York City skyline.
Atop Vault Hill in Van Cortlandt Park you can overlook the Parade Ground, The Bronx and the New York City skyline.

People within The Bronx, let alone those outside our borough, rarely think about our neck of the (literal) woods as a hiking destination within the country’s largest city. Fact is, that among the almost 25% of parkland that covers our borough are some great hiking trails and perhaps even some of the best in the city given the hilly terrain of The Bronx.

BioPhilicCities, a project of the University of Virigina’s School of Architecture, writes about such trails right here on the mainland.

They write:


  • Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in NYC at 2,765 acres, making it more than three Central Parks. “The Kazimiroff Trail is well known among other beautiful historical buildings, beach, and forested areas and also takes you through Hunter Island,” says Leou. The trail is about two miles with a topographic transition from forest to views of Long Island Sound. In total, the Park has 13 miles of saltwater shoreline.
  • Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in NYC at 1,146 and is host to a variety of habitats including the Sachkerah Woods and is popular for cross-country hiking. “[Van Cortlandt] is easy to get to by public transportation and you can also visit the Van Cortland House Museum in the park,” notes Leou.
  • The Bronx is home to the New York Botanic Garden, often touted as one of the top destinations in the City. “The 50-acre native forest at the New York Botanical Garden makes you feel like you are not in New York City,” says Judith Hutton, Manager of Teacher Professional Development at NYBG. “The history of the organization is tied closely to the preservation and management of this tract of forested land. It is used by visitors for running and hiking and is also a site for active forest restoration and research.”
  • Roberto Clemente State Park is most known for a wide variety of recreational activities, but the oldest State Park in NYC is a 25-acre park borders the Harlem River and has a waterfront esplanade ideal for a short, scenic walk. The Park is also a mark of the importance of parkland for improving waterfront resilience. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is the first park to get a complete storm resiliency redevelopment. It’s estimated that Roberto Clemente absorbed 3 feet of stormwater during Sandy, protecting nearby homes. Check out the rest of the post over at BiophilicCity’s website.
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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.