Alumnae eNews December 2016



 

Alumna Profile: Kim Tamalonis '91

 

It’s probably fair to say that Kim Tamalonis ’91 was born to be an artist. Daughter of long-time and much beloved GA art teacher Sherry Tamalonis, Kim says her earliest memories are of working next to her mom at the kitchen table, making art. Indeed, her mom inspired her to pursue to her passion and become an artist, and art teacher. But Kim is inspired by many things, most recently by the refugee crisis and the refugees that have resettled in our area. Kim wasted no time jumping in and finding a way to help.

Now a Middle School art teacher in Rye, NY, Kim says, “Social responsibility and multicultural awareness factor heavily into designing my art curriculum.” After reading the many reports in the summer of 2015 about escalating violence and dire circumstances in Syria, Kim says she felt a call to action. “As the 2015-2016 school year started, my Rye Middle School students embraced the challenge to use art to aid Syrian children. The kids collected 100 pounds of supplies from their homes, which were sent to children in the Za’atari Refugee Camp through Seattle based non-profit, Studio Syria.” The lesson continued in the classroom, where students made pocket-sized sketchbooks, and after school they ran bake sales and raised money in other ways. “Finally, at a Rye Arts Center exhibit, the kids sold their artwork and raised over $3000, which they donated to the New Canaan, CT based Blossom Hill Foundation’s programs for children in conflict zones,” Kim proudly shares.

Kim was impassioned by the experience, and the refugee stories she continued to hear tugged at her heartstrings. With refugees having arrived in our area, she saw it as an opportunity to arrange a day of art appreciation, friendship, and fun. “I planned a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to benefit Syrian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean children.  I worked in collaboration with Church World Service’s Jersey City Refugee Resettlement Office, the United Nations Association-NY (UNA-NY), the Metropolitan Museum, an amazing group of GA and Brunswick alumni, parents of alumni and teachers, and many other generous friends.  The day uplifted all participants with joy. Young kids to the most erudite museum administrators spent the afternoon laughing, learning, creating, bonding, and spontaneously singing in celebration,” Kim shared. The museum visit began with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss addressing the group before educators led the children to the Islamic galleries, to make art. “At the end-of-day send-off ceremony, UNA-NY Executive Director Ann Nicol presented the children with backpacks filled with school supplies.  GA past parent Hadi Hajjar offered the children games, toys, candy and useful items, like clocks and diapers.  I sent each of them home with art supplies.  The event was an extraordinary show of solidarity, humanitarian values, love and support by all involved,” Kim recalls. 

So extraordinary in fact that Kim has been inspired to continue her work with refugees. She is organizing a gathering, perhaps a potluck dinner, and has her sights set on creating a book or other compilation of photos, art, and stories that she would like to use to raise funds for humanitarian aid. And she is already working on developing a foundation with a focus on bringing children together through art and social service.  “No matter what the children’s circumstances, participants will make art or use their art to help another population of kids, thereby forging new alliances and break down barriers,” Kim shares. She envisions the foundation impacting children’s groups nationally and abroad, and plans to include art education as well as opportunities for creative expression.

Kim gives GA credit for nurturing her love of art, her love of education, and her deep appreciation for world cultures. Kim, who came to GA in Group VII, says Patsy Howard was a particular inspiration and encouragement to her, both when she was a student and when she returned to GA as an art teacher after graduating from Hamilton College. She was also greatly impacted by Tracy Kauffman-Agro ’75's Current Events class and Carol Dixon’s World Cultures class. “Penny Liu and Jeff Schwartz inspired a love of writing and offered opportunities for community building by appointing me Greenwich Academy Press Editor-in-Chief and Daedalus Art Editor,” Kim says, adding that she has been inspired by so many GA women, both alumnae and teachers.

Ten years after returning to GA as a teacher, Kim transitioned to teach art in the Rye City School District.  “I have spent the last eleven years discovering wonderful qualities that are unique to middle school girls and boys,” she says. “My students are enthusiastic, idealistic, and ready to merge interdisciplinary ideas in their artwork.”

In addition to teaching and her volunteer efforts, Kim is still creating her own art and helping others to create as well. “The world is filled with wonder,” she says, “But also with problems that governments alone cannot fix. If each of us uses our talents, resources, and drive to address issues of interest, we’ll move forward individually and together.”

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