LH Spotlight: Urban Arts

Urban Arts is one of the most special places in Hoboken. Walking into their Monroe Center space, you smell the paint, see the well-loved art supplies, and the proud masterpieces hanging on the wall. It brings you back to art class in school -- the class that was fun, informative, messy, and creative. I don't know about you, but art class was one of my favorite things in school, and Urban Arts is the best of every art class I've ever had.

Created and taught by Justine Uva and Patricia Morale, Urban Arts is a Fine Arts curriculum with age appropriate classes for kids 2 years and up. Justine and Patricia both have a deep appreciation for art, art history and teaching. Together, they have developed a curriculum that develops critical thinking, imagination, self-expression, self- confidence and, of course, a love of art. The program is structured so that kids build on their knowledge and skills with each semester, which is why so many of their students have been with them for many years.

I was so impressed with Urban Arts during my visit to their space, but wanted to pass on this experience to another mom & child. So, local momma Trisha Jamal and her son Jordan went to a class. Here is her review:

"I love trying to incorporate art and creativity into my kids’ lives since lately my extent to art at home has turned into coloring books, drawing with markers and Play-Doh. Once in a while, I bring out the paintbrushes and observe them paint, aka, make sure it’s not on my walls or floor. Yet the minute I think all is ok and I step away to grab them both water, my youngest paints the arm of our chair red! Well so much for painting at home. Fast forward a few months and we are about to walk into our first fine arts experience at Urban Arts in the Monroe Center. Let’s see how this goes.

Jordan and I met with Justine and Patty who showed us around the space. The studio has two rooms, one as a waiting room for class attendees and another room where the class takes place. Justine and Patty were both so welcoming and gentle with Jordan. He is usually shy in places he hasn’t been to before but he was happy to have Patty help him put on his smock. It was also pretty nice to have a few minutes at the start of class to get settled before introducing what we were doing that day. That brought both of us a sense of calmness before starting.

Patty introduced the landscape painting on the wall to each child - Starry night by Vincent Van Gogh. Each child remained quiet and listened as we discussed the painting. I thought; could they all be an older 2 like my child? Or just as curious as I was on what will happen next. First we counted the different shapes in English, Spanish and Japanese. The teachers took a couple minutes to discuss the background of “Starry Night” and go over the shapes and colors in the painting. Then it was our turn to start our own starry night. Each child was given a white oil pastel to create swirls on the base. Initially, Jordan wanted my help, but after the first few minutes, “I will do myself mommy”. Ok, that’s a good sign, tells me he is enjoying it! Both teachers came around with dark blue paint and larger size paint brushes so each child could create swirls to cover the board. Next the kids were given smaller brushes to whirl white and silver glittery paint over the blue sky. Then they used an artist pencil to dot stars on the top, followed by some mono print making using a Cyprus tree dabbed in watercolor. Once complete with the tree, each child used a fork to create sharper strokes on construction paper to make a mountain. And lastly they finished by using gross motor skills to squeeze glue on the board to attach colored stars. Yet one of my favorites was watching my child hone in on his fine motor skills by adding beads to a pipe cleaner (to hang his art). He looked deep in thought and happy to get each piece on the pipe cleaner.

I really enjoyed having my son learn about an artist and create his own version of starry night. It was amazing to see him so involved in each task. He learned a number of skills- art history, shapes, colors, counting in 3 languages and a variety of artistic elements and how to use each to create a beautiful picture. I am proud of the picture he created and that he could try different materials and tools, which I believe will help foster his creative mind. This is not something I could instruct him to do at home, or even understand what he can actually accomplish in a class setting at his age. The teachers were also engaging and helpful at each step when he needed it, I found the whole time there to be pretty calming. Now I am curious to see what will be next week’s artist and masterpiece."

Urban Arts has classes for children ages 2 years and up (all the way up to adults!) and special needs classes, too. And, they are on the Little Hoboken Hook-Up Program, offering 10% off Saturday and 1-day Workshops. Visit their site and learn more!

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