914.200.3646 hello@archforkids.com

ArchForKids is happy to announce it received two grants from the Arts Alive program of ArtsWestchester.

The first grant is a partnership with Yonkers Public Library to do four Beastly Builds: Animal Architecture themed programs this summer. These workshops explored several different types of habitats, the ‘animal architecture’ that can be found there and enhanced the 2021 Library Summer Reading theme of Tails and Tales.

A young girl sharing her finished muskrat lodge project with her mother and young brother by her side

First, families investigated how animals create their homes.

Like humans, animals need their own habitats, places, and spaces where they can feel safe and happy. Muskrats are accomplished animal architects and can often be observed at the daylighted Saw Mill River by Riverfront Library. Thus, families at the Riverfront Branch workshop recreated muskrat lodges.

two siblings showing their muskrat lodge project produced using cardboard, construction paper and recycled materials.

At both YPL libraries, kids made “Dino Domains” for their favorite dinosaurs (Riverfront, Will).

The next workshop explored how humans create spaces for Animals in “Wildlife Refuge”. Children created habitats for their favorite animals, while ArchForKids educators encouraged young designers to make spaces for their animals to play, sleep and eat. At the end of this workshop, we put the habitats together to create a beautiful wildlife sanctuary!

Programs related to animals have always been some of our most popular topics to explore. Children are naturally attracted to animals. As children grow older, many of them want to help animals. Animals assist in teaching really important lessons in compassion and generosity. Workshops like wildlife refuge and muskrat lodges teaches important lessons in ecology, biology and conservation. To see more about what lessons attendees learned, check out our downloadable Beastly Builds Info Packet.

The second grant will fund the project, Teen Design Challenge: Revisioning Sleepy Hollow’s Vacant Spaces, an intensive design charrette for 30 local middle and high school students. Their challenge will be to transform five vacant spaces in Sleepy Hollow into something beautiful which will positively impact the community. Over two days in fall 2021 (Veterans Day and the following Saturday), teams of teens -mentored by ArchForKids educators and community volunteers – will construct 3D models of their creative placemaking designs. The project will be directed by ArchForKids and Sleepy Hollow architect Kersten Harries. Partners include the Village of Sleepy Hollow, the Tarrytown Schools Foundation and Warner Library.

ArchForKids will draw on its extensive experience with community charrettes: In a 2018 Arts Alive grant, children re-envisioned New Rochelle’s Library Green, culminated with an exhibition of models in Library galleries. In 2020 and 2021, ArchForKids partnered with the nonprofit LEAD Coalition and Quality of Life Department of Panama City, FL on two multi-day youth challenges – one to revision the city’s parks and the other to create green spaces out of city-owned vacant lots.

Everyone has a right to participate in the improvement of their communities. Yet youth input in community decision making, design choices and problem solving has historically been minimal. Young people remain a vast and usually untapped resource for short- and long-term community development issues. Through this project, we hope to demonstrate the importance and impact of letting kids have their say. They provide new ideas and voices that can spark engagement, enthusiasm, and investment in community planning. As for the kids themselves, this experience will foster a strong sense of ownership, stewardship, and investment. It will help establish a vested interest in long-term participation and contribution to community life.

The village of Sleepy Hollow makes an ideal case study. The downtown population contains a significant economic and ethnic diversity (census data reports a 52.2% Hispanic population and a 41.4% foreign-born population). Sleepy Hollow has an attractive, compact, walkable, mixed-use downtown area with several historic buildings. However, it has many underutilized parcels and vacant storefronts. Abandoned lots break up the street flow and impede perceptions of the active street life that exists along Beekman Avenue. Pressing issues include housing affordability, gentrification, economic mobility, influx of new residents with burgeoning waterfront developments, and inclusion of the Spanish-speaking population in village decision-making.

At the end of the two-day challenge, participants will present their work, field questions and defend their designs. Families, the owners of the vacant lots, and representatives from ArtsWestchester, Tarrytowns school foundation, and Sleepy Hollow trustees, planning and zoning boards and Public Space Council will be invited to the presentations that closes the day. Warner Library will display the models and host a public reception.

ArtsWestchester has been supported ArchForKids since 2018 on a range of projects – from architecture mini camps at the New Rochelle Library to a teen design chair making program in Ossining to a Saturday STEAM Academy in Mount Vernon.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by ArtsWestchester.