Wednesday, August 2, 2017

See How This Special Educator Is Using The Arts To Inspire A Renaissance in Southeast Queens

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Kamau Austin Interviews Adrienne Whaley of Innovations In Creative Arts

Adrienne Whaley, MBA, MA, is on a mission.  The energetic and resourceful metaphorical renaissance woman will not be denied in her pursuit of using the arts to bring about positive change in her longtime community of Southeast Queens and Greater Jamaica.

Having a meeting space that houses a myriad of diverse artistic expressions ranging from martial arts for special needs children, to dance, or culinary arts would be an incredible challenge for most entrepreneurs.  However, if any business person can do it Ms. Whaley, with numerous degrees in business and education like an MBA, MA, and professional education degrees, has the multi-faceted background to make it work.  I caught up with this busy edu-entrepreneur recently to interview this resourceful and resilient woman.

Kamau: Can you tell us a little about your background and life growing up in Southeast Queens?

Adrienne Whaley: I grew up in Southeast Queens and remember passing by Count Basie's house several times a week along with always being amazed that James Brown's house actually had a moat way back when. I became a eclectic artist because my father was an illustrator, one uncle was a tailor, and another sculpted using bar soap.

My mother was very creative and never spent much making our window shades and matching bedspreads.  I spent most of my time indoors creating something or another falling in love with color and design.

When I didn't have money to buy more clothes for my dolls and my father told me to make it myself, I figured it out.  Next was a sewing class at Singer on Jamaica Avenue.

I was in the Brownies, Girl Scouts, Gloria Jackson Dance School, and in many other local programs until my friends and I began putting on our own fashion shows at the church around the corner.  After I attended the High School of Art & Design and was discouraged in pursuing a career in the arts by my guidance counselor, and a well known african american package designer, I majored in business.

We had hobbies from which we learned and which kept us out of trouble.  We didn't know back then that we were actually getting smarter, but we did.

Kamau: What inspired you to go into your present business?

Adrienne Whaley: My parents, who did not attend college, made sure that importance of education was instilled in both my sister and I. Back then, teachers, parents, and those who ran similar businesses knew the academic, social, and self-empowering significance of the arts in education.

Then suddenly, the arts disappeared as did many of the important programs, and suddenly, grades began dropping, and the social make-up of our community began to change.  As the rate of African-American males who graduate from college continues to hover at less than 29%, and while other negative statistics rose significantly, I remember what being involved in the arts and or sports did for my generation and those before me.

Kamau: What is the name and services you offer in your business?

Adrienne Whaley: Innovations In Creative Arts & Martial Arts, located at 198-20 Linden Blvd., St. Albans, NY  11412 is that place where both children and adults can come to learn, discover, and have the opportunity to delve deeper into the arts of choice. We offer the opportunity to learn the terminology, history, steps, equipment, supplies, and techniques from professional artists and certified professionals.

From Karate, ballet, hip hop dance, aerobics, culinary arts, wearable arts, jewelry making, bath product making, drawing, painting, 3d computer modeling, STEAM, other crafts, professional development for educators, therapists, and administrators, we also rent space for gallery showings, events, and meetings. We are the place in the community that loves and appreciates all of the arts so much that we've bought them together in one warm open space.

In September, the Enrichment Program begins during after school time from Monday - Saturday where children from 3 years to 16 years can attend and enjoy a large number of arts and learning activities throughout the week.

Kamau: What makes your business unique to other art programs people can attend or send their children to in the area?

Adrienne Whaley: We are the only studio which offers such a large variety of arts and caters to children, adults, artists, and entrepreneurs.  We believe that students, young and young at heart, should have choices, should not have to travel from one place to another, and should learn in a way where they know that they are learning, growing, and creating an upgraded tomorrow.

We also have the Learning Through Karate For Young Children in Special Education (tm) program. This program is significant because young children can still experience a Karate Class, but in such a way, that IEP goals are incorporated as a support system for academics, behaviors, social skills, and safety awareness.  Best of all they earn certificates and trophies for reaching both IEP and Karate goals.  

We are also unique in that we visit schools and programs, senior centers, outdoor spaces, etc.  We want everyone to become excited again about the arts.

Why not learn to make an exotic dish, create your own perfume, design a dress or man's jacket, paint a canvas or pair of sneakers, then take an aerobics class, make a necklace, get on the computer and design a 3D model, interactive book, make music, recite a poem, write a story, and do it all again the next day.  We believe in a wide offering of hands-on activities, that all learning is important, and most of us have so much untapped talent and it is time to make time.

Kamau: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you've had in business and how did you overcome them?

Adrienne Whaley: The biggest challenge is getting the word out to all of Southeast Queens and surrounding areas that we are here, we are very nice creative people, and that we're standing by ready to welcome them into the studio.  We also want schools and special education organizations to know that we're here and ready to offer new learning activities.

We have some of the most talented assortment of professional artist instructors that you can imagine.  Where else can you learn cake decorating, stained glass and tile design, design a city with a train running through?  Also, the challenge is stressing the importance of the arts academically, health wise, and cognitively.

We've done the research - simply put, art does make you smarter, healthier, less stressed, and it is so empowering when you make something that you can see, wear, share, present, or eat. The challenge is getting people back into hands-on activities.  There is so much talent within our community, and now artists don't necessarily have to go to Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Long Island to do, teach, exhibit, and sell.

Participation in the arts is most certainly a worthwhile investment for children and adults.   It's also important for both children and adults and as we look at the bullying, high blood pressure, and obesity, and other community concerns.  We here at Innovations, wonder how we can best explain the connection between many issues and getting involved in positive creative activities.

We are still overcoming these challenges and consistently getting the message out by advertising, visiting schools, distributing flyers, social media, Youtube videos, and standing
on the corner.

Kamau: Can you tell us about some of your goals and plans for the future of your business?

Adrienne Whaley: A few of our goals are to have SouthEast Queens children and adults so excited about all of the different arts that we offer that they register to learn a new art, pick up an old one, and bring a friend or family member. Our goal is for students to takes several classes and have the opportunity to show off at the end of the year via gallery shows, performances, award ceremonies, and movies.

We want our students and also artists to come by and collaborate, teach a class, rent a table. We would like Instructors, community groups, and entrepreneurs to rent space.

We also want more teachers, home based daycare owners, therapists, and school/program administrators to attend our monthly PD Workshops and receive their Certificates of Attendance closer to home.  Our goal is to continue to grow and thrive by offering an amazing creative program which caters to the community, teaches the professional way, and celebrates all mistakes, efforts, and outcomes.  Our biggest goal for is people to come on in and register for any number of classes, workshops, or programs.

Kamau: What is the best way to contact you?

Adrienne Whaley: We can be reached by phone at 917.387.8311 or email: InnovationsCreativeArts@gmail;, or just by stopping in from Tuesday - Friday from 2:00pm - 7:00pm, Saturdays from 10:00am - 7:30pm.

We are often open later where there is a class or an event.  Please also stay in touch by Liking us on Facebook, Tweeting about us on Twitter, view us on Yelp, the MindBody App, and continue to spread the word to friends, families, schools, and programs. In the Fall we will be open on Mondays as well from 2:00pm - 7:00pm.

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