Nayely (second to left) pictured with Casita Maria’s Marketing and Media Manager Luis Pagan (left), young artist Samuel Agyei (second to right), 18, and Director of Creative Arts Programs Gail Heidel (right).

Young Artists showcase their talent

Through their artwork, the young artists re-remember their ancestry by delving into myths and legends like El Dorado and the Guyanese folktale of Baccoo. 

Young artists Nayely (second to left) and Samuel (second to right) are pictured with Casita Maria’s Marketing and Media Manager Luis Pagan (left), and arts director Gail Heidel (right).

New show with an African focus opens at Casita Maria

Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education in Longwood held an opening reception in March, for its second annual Young Artist Showcase, called “Bambula/Re-remember.”

This year’s exhibit takes its name from the word “Bambula,” originally from Kongo, a former kingdom in west central Africa, meaning to re-remember. Through their artwork, the young artists re-remember their ancestry by delving into myths and legends like El Dorado and the Guyanese folktale of Baccoo. 

Gail Heidel, director of Creative Arts Programs at Casita Maria, said this exhibit is also a celebration of self-confidence. “Being able to see their artwork hung in a professional gallery ends up boosting their self-esteem, which ends up making you a stronger and more creative person, scholar, leader in the community,” she said. 

The young adults featured in the show are enrolled in Casita Maria’s after school arts education program. One of those students is 15-year-old Nayely, whose painting was featured in the event’s promotional postcards. 

Nayely’s painting, called “Let Yourself Shine” shows a shining, bright red heart bursting out of the darkness. It is a feeling that resonates with her. When she was six years old, she moved to New York from the Dominican Republic. Upon her arrival, she was bullied because of her accent, and because she was from somewhere different. “I suffered a lot when I was younger,” she said. 

For Nayely, the painting is about being oneself. She says that doing just that helped her deal with the bullying she faced during her transition from Dominican Republic to New York. “What I think about myself is what matters,” she said, “not what others think, because I am living my life and they are not living it for me.” 

Seeing her work featured in Casita’s promotional postcards gave her a much-needed boost. “I feel like that will make me a stronger artist.”

Gail Heidel hopes the center continues to host the annual showcase and give young people the opportunity to see their artwork hung in a gallery. “It is part of our mission here at Casita to give professional experiences,” said Heidel, “so young people can shine and celebrate the greatness that is within them.” 

The exhibit will be on display until May 10 at Casita Maria’s gallery, which is located at 928 Simpson Street in Hunts Point. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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