With the summer in full swing, Kim Tamalonis, president and founder of Big Picture
Foundation is working to challenge children in the local and global communities to come together through the arts.
Big Picture Foundation, BPF, is a nonprofit foundation that works with middle and high school students from the U.S. to help fundraise for refugee organizations, and collaborate through creative projects with children from the more than five different countries.
“[BPF] will hopefully allow [the children] to go into our world with a really global view and that will help them be successful citizens,” said Brit Rothstein, BPF board president.
This summer, Tamalonis has given children the task of participating in BPF’s global art challenges. These themed art projects include things like inventing their own candy, creating their own music, and designing their own fictional creatures.
Tamalonis wrote on bigpicturefoundation.com, “The themes give participants a fun way to communicate with other kids around the world.”
She has also encouraged children to host their own Nights of a Thousand Dinners parties, which help raise money to end poverty by asking guests at the dinner parties to collect donations that will be given to United Nations Association of New York City, UNA-NYC, a nonprofit organization that helps to educate members of New York on the goals of the United Nations. The UNA-NYC will eventually put these funds toward helping build a school in Kenya.
“I’m not asking kids to do math here, I’m asking them to find fun ways to make a difference, to make our world happier [and] more positive,” said Tamalonis, a Rye Middle School art teacher.
Tamalonis explained that as the foundation continues to grow, she tries to encourage the BPF kids to take on their own projects. She first began working with her art students in the fall 2015 semester on a project to help give back to refugee children.
Tamalonis, who’s from Greenwich, Connecticut, explained that she had her students begin brainstorming ways they could use art for change. She described them as “heroes of the contemporary art world.”
She explained that the project was sparked by her interest in the news of the escalating Syrian civil war. “I was stunned by a world that didn’t galvanize to save people who were so desperate that they were fleeing their homes to take their children in the dead of night on ill-fated rubber dinghies,” Tamalonis told the Review.
Through the project, Tamalonis and her students donated handmade cards and sketchbooks to Studio Syria, a nonprofit that provides art and educational opportunities for Syrian refugees. The students then sold their art at The Rye Arts Center, and raised $3,000 for
Blossom Hill Foundation, a nonprofit that works with children in conflict zones.
After this initial project, children began to hear about the work Tamalonis had done through word of mouth, and the following year she was approached by a student interested in putting together another fundraiser.
“Instead of it being small and contained, immediately I had so many kids [wanting to be] involved,” she said.
Now two years later, Tamalonis is working with more than 200 children in Rye as well as kids from Greenwich and refugee children.
Because of all the work that the children were doing, she felt it was necessary to distinguish the work in her art classes from the fundraisers, and formed BPF in December 2016.
“Kids are becoming leaders on their own,” she said. “They’re finding ways to take on the challenge of using art to do outreach work.”
Tamalonis said that in time, she wants to be able to open up the program to more students in the metro area.
She explained that the expansion of BPF, which only recently received its 501(c)(3) status, and the work it does is contingent on them raising more funds to support hiring of more staff.
She said that her plan is to spend the summer developing grant proposals and talking to art centers around Westchester and Fairfield counties.
Rothstein explained that their immediate goal is to be able to get more students, families and schools across the world involved.
“I hope the program helps nurture future leaders who understand the need for public service [and have] respect for world cultures,” Tamalonis said.