Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène Joins NYC Firm Schools Blog as a Contributor

by NYC Firm Schools on April 11, 2009

Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène
We are excited to announce that Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène, Founder and Director of Hi Art! and The Time In Children’s Arts Initiative, will join us as a regular blog contributor in the area of arts.

Cyndie’s extensive resume in the arts includes over a decade of dance training with George Chaffee, Viola Farber, the Joffrey School of Ballet, the Martha Graham School and the Merce Cunningham School. Cyndie became director of Dance at Windham College when she was only 18, and subsequently received a B.A. in Dance/Theater from Antioch College in 1975. Cyndie danced professionally in both New York and Paris, before turning to a career in classical music and opera performance. As a singer, Cyndie studied with many of the world’s leading teachers and coaches among whom Rita Patane, Beth Roberts, Steven Crawford, Eugene Kohn and Alberta Masiello figure prominently. Cyndie received numerous scholarships and awards for her singing, was commended by the press both nationally and abroad, and created leading roles in several world premiere operas. Her recording of the Laputan Maid in Matthew Greenbaum’s A Floating Island, based on Gulliver’s Travels, is available on the Centaur label, and she will be the featured performer in the composer’s one-woman video opera in New York City this June.

In 1987 Cyndie began formal Russian studies and was accepted with a full-fellowship into the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, Cyndie was the recipient of numerous fellowships, research grants and awards, for her studies and scholarship both here and in the former Soviet Union; she published articles and taught extensively at Penn, both Russian language and literature. Cyndie’s dissertation research focused on the effect of operatic and musical citation on narrative line.

Returning to New York in 1997, Cyndie called upon her broad base of skills and talents to create HiArt!, an introduction to high art aesthetics for children. Cyndie’s work with young children seeks to replace the traditional approach to teaching music, movement and art with an interdisciplinary approach more suited to the multi-sensorial learning style of very young children. In the course of preparing visual materials for use in presentations, Cyndie began to develop a personal language as a visual artist. Cyndie has produced exemplary mixed media works for over a dozen operas, ballets and symphonic pieces including: Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges and Cinderella, Shostakovich’s The Nose, Stravinsky’s Firebird, Petrouchka and the Nightingale, Berlioz’ Spectre de la Rose, Barber’s Knoxville, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, Rossini’s Viaggio a Reims, Rameau’s Platée, Worinen’s Haroun, Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Paul Bunyan, Mahler’s 4th Symphony, Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, among others. In addition to her work at HiArt!, Cyndie recently created a series of four art books for 2nd and 3rd graders for Scholastic. As in her work at HiArt!, Cyndie’s books teach up to children, not down. Cyndie emphasizes the potential for substantive artmaking through experimentation and observation, and integrates professional level techniques in entertaining, well-written child-centric narratives.

In 2006, Cyndie founded The Time In Children’s Arts Initiative, an extraordinarily forward-thinking approach to working with at-risk children in Central Harlem public schools in which entire classes leave the school every week to participate in the full HiArt! program, both studio time, as well as gallery time. Through Cyndie’s indefatigable efforts, Time In has continued to be privately funded, and has ensured that these children – from pre-K-3rd grade – are continuously involved and inspired by the most sophisticated children’s arts program in the country.

Cyndie’s tremendous success with young children – involving them actively in live and contemporary art forms not as observers, but as working artists – has resulted in a network of enthusiastic supporters. Cyndie has exhibited tremendous vision and psychological understanding in her work, and she has garnered the respect of many important figures in the contemporary artworld, as well as in the fields of education and psychology. She has partnered with the well-known psychologist, Dr. Janet Jackson to offer workshops in Parenting your Gifted Child, she has been a guest teaching artist at the Hollingworth Pre-School, and she will be adjunct faculty at the new Speyer Legacy School beginning in September of 2009. Cyndie regards HiArt! and Time In as components of her own personal and ongoing work of art, imbued with the spirit of an artist’s generosity and her desire to transmit a way of thinking, rather than an exact tracing of one’s thoughts.

Here is a video from Gretchen Worsley about HiArt!

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