4 August

Visit To Bishop Gibbons: A Great Day! We’re Going To Have A Lot Of Fun And Do Considerable Good (Seeking Used Silverware For Art Project)

by Jon Katz

Maria and I blew off the 100-degree temperatures and went to Bishop Gibbons to meet with Sue Silverstein, the art and community service teacher, and Trish White, the head of the English Department.

I’ll write about Trish separately – we have a lot of good stuff in the works – and focus first on Maria and a car load of Bishop Maginn Refugee students who came to help Sue set up her particular eight-room art program.

(Above photo: Maria Hser Nay, Sue Silverstein, and Trish White watch Maria do her thing. Watch the video she took today.)



The new art program is something very different and exciting. Sue has grand ambitions for her program. Sue explained it to Maria in the video she posted on her blog tonight.

Sue has five times the space she had in her old art classroom, and we sent truckloads of different art supplies for her to use.

Sue is utterly dedicated to her students, and they return the sentiment. To see Sue with her students is to witness pure love and trust.

(Above, Folalsade has offered to help Sue paint the art room door (above) and some of the walls. She’s been coming to help Sue prepare for September almost daily.)

Sue and her students have been working for days to unpack and distribute the truckloads of art supplies we sent; the art complex is just remarkable.

The bond between her and Sue is very strong and touching to see.

Soon Bishop Gibbons will be drawing students who are serious about their art because she certainly is.

We brought three used sewing machines donated by the Army Of Good – we bought three new ones for Bishop Maginn last year, and they came to Bishop Gibbons with Sue.

Maria helped her set them up today. Here, you can see her video tour of the new Bishop Gibbons Art Progam.

(Sue is asking for help getting some silverware used in a found object class making wind chimes. If you can help, you can e-mail her at [email protected])


( A team of Bishop Maginn students, now Bishop Gibbons students, came to help Sue prepare her art rooms. I was so happy to see them again)

We also brought a carload of donated fabrics for various art projects.

She also gave an impromptu tour of the school to five Bishop Maginn refugee students who are transferring to Bishop Gibbons in September.

They all came to help.

I realized how much I miss these kids, and some of them missed me (and Zinnia, of course, who stayed home due to the heat.) Many of them helped train her in her therapy work.

I love watching Maria teach these eager children how to use sewing machines and work with fabric and free-form drawing. She is a natural.

Many of the refugee families make their clothes and repair them. The students are anxious to help make quilts and blankets for their homes and apartments and use the machines for drawing and other art projects.


(Maria teaching Hser Nay Taw)

These students are eager to work with her and motivated and fast learners. I  was amazed to see how quickly she learned to free draw on the machine we bought last year.

They have fun. There is always laughter and encouragement. Maria and I have both learned firsthand the value of encouragement.

Maria and I have agreed to come to Schenectady regularly; she will be teaching sewing and quilting, and I’ll be teaching creative writing and working with the English department on reading projects. We’re both very happy about working with this school.

I’ll write about my meeting with Trish White separately tonight while it’s fresh in my mind.

I’ll also continue with my portraits of the students we help and look for ways to help them when necessary or supply them with the cultural tools they need.

This was a beautiful and uplifting experience for us.

The school has a great and warm feeling about it and has more resources to offer than poor Bishop Maginn had at the end. They also have significant needs.

And they really care.

The art supplies we sent Sue are all in place, and I was astonished at the range of art projects she plans to offer.

This is an exciting new program for the school and a great opportunity for the new kids and those already there.

The school is planning exceptional acclimation and assimilation projects for the incoming refugee kids; they are taking it very seriously.

Maria and I are both excited to be a part of it; we work very well and closely with one another and are eager to get to work helping the refugee kids again (and any others who come our way and need help.)


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