“I loved ‘choice time,’” she said with an excited smile. “I would let the kids dig into the art cabinets and pull out all kinds of materials and just let them go … It was amazing what they could create, with very little sometimes, but so fun and imaginative and adventuresome.”
To that end, Simple Create is almost a “choice time” inspired space for children and adults as well.
Opening this November, Zurlini, along with her colleague, Janne Dooley, a licensed social worker, started an after-school program for kindergarten to fifth grade. The program is already booming with excited youth, who take the bus to the center and stay for two hours, beginning with snack time and share time. And then the curtain is pulled back and there are various art centers where their imaginations can run wild and they can tap into their own aesthetic wells and pour it on to the page, the paper, mold clay, collage, construct and simply create.
The cost of this two-hour program is $15. Then there are a host of other programs, including teen yoga, belly dancing, world drumming lessons for kids, mindful parenting and living serenity discussion groups, open-mic nights for youth, movie nights for adults, and a home school program on Fridays -- just to name a few. And all programs cost between $10 and $12.
“We will soon be not-for-profit,” Zurlini said. “It’s just going through the process and we should be there soon.”
There is also a creative program for adults where they start, much the same as kids, doing some breath work, sharing some highlights or possibly some struggles they encountered during the day and then they too are set toward the art room to create with whatever medium or materials they desire.
Dooley runs a parenting workshop where moms and dads can talk about the parenting issues they’re grappling with, share with others and gain insight through this collective process. All this is guided by Dooley, who brings it back to the idea of “walking in the footsteps of your child” to help mend the parent-child relationship.
“She’s amazing at what she does,” Zurlini said. “I met her at a workshop and we just hit it off. We complement each other. This is a work in progress and we are both reaching out to the community so that this center is as much their vision as it is ours. We have wonderful interns and graduate students from SUNY New Paltz, who teach some of our courses. They’re amazing. And we’ve only just begun to get the word out.”
She said that the most gratifying part thus far has been the people that “stop by or call and are so thrilled that we’re here or want to offer their particular expertise for a program. We have Paul Carroll teaching a drum workshop and every day there are more community members that we meet who help this space grow and truly become a community center.”
They’re starting to reach out to the school district to let parents and youth know that the center is open and available to all.
“We want to start a ‘teacher’s tea’ where our educators can get together and just talk about their days, their challenges, their vision … There are so many demands placed upon educators and administrators our public schools and they do an amazing job, but it’s not easy and it gets harder with more mandates every years. Some have had to do away with choice time because of these mandates.”
Choice time is alive and well and living at Simply Create. For more information write Zurlini at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website at www.simplycreate.org.