bergenPAC teaching artist, D Cross

Russell Berrie Foundation Funds Racial Justice Visual Arts Program

Oct 8, 2020 View All News

The arts can be an incredible way for young people to process emotions and make sense of what’s happening in the world. Thanks to support from The Russell Berrie Foundation, the Performing Arts School at bergenPAC will add a visual arts element to Bergen Family Center’s Racial Justice Institute.

The program was launched this the past summer by Liz Corsini, MPH, Bergen Family Center’s Vice President and Director of Programs, and Mariam Gerges, LCSW, MA, its Director of School Based Youth Services. As protests sprang up around the country, they led middle school and high school students in discussions on racial justice issues.  

The visual arts program will begin Oct. 26. bergenPAC Teaching Artist Derick Cross will guide the students as they explore their thoughts and feelings from the discussions and design visual art pieces to express themselves. 

Cross is a Brooklyn-based artist, performer, and art educator, who has served as a cultural Hip-Hop Ambassador for The U.S. State Department’s Next Level Program.

Participating schools include Janis Dismus Middle School, Dwight Englewood School, Elisabeth Morrow School, and Dwight Morrow High School Academies @ Englewood.  Sessions will be held twice a week in a mix of virtual and socially distanced in-person meetings. 

The students’ artwork will be displayed in February at Bergen Family Center, likely with a virtual exhibition. There will also be a special end-of-year outdoor art installation. Fred and Andrew Fish, of Treeco, who own glass shadowboxes along Daisy Place in Englewood near ShopRite, have generously offered to donate the space so that the artwork can be shared with the community.  

The Russell Berrie Foundation has also awarded a grant for The Performing Arts School at bergenPAC’s partnership with the Family Success Center to continue offering free virtual Early Childhood Music classes for 24 weeks on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Approximately 35 families have been enjoying these sessions since the summer, which are for children 3 month to 5 years old. The 45-minute interactive classes include bilingual sing-alongs, dancing, learning rhythms and having fun with the joy of music. Families interested, can email Nicole at