By Kathy Grantham - North County News

More than two dozen old wooden doors found new life as an art project for Peekskill area children.  A reception was held for the "Doors of the Future" exhibit last Saturday at the Hudson River HealthCare / Peekskill Community Health Center.
     A door is not just a door, it can be a canvas. In the creative imaginings of artist Wilfredo Morel, it became a way to show a child "you're worth something."
     A sculptor with the City of Peekskill, Morel said, "My art is used to bring community together and breach the gap between community and services. This concept 'Doors of the Future' allows the children to express themselves artistically, their hope for the future, and how they'd like this world to change, from the homelessness and tragedies to a better life for people."
     Lured by the opportunity to create a personal form of art, kids came from the Peekskill area to create a personal form of art.

There was time to talk and to explore before painting. It was a collaboration of artists like Morel, Barbara Close Lepak, Cindy Booth and Dina Bursztyn that provided the teaching, enthusiasm and structure for this project.
     Bursztyn, an artist on the roster of the Westchester Arts Council, spent six weeks with the very young children, getting them to talk about themselves, their hopes and dreams, and their favorite objects, colors and patterns before they dipped a brush into paint.
     "There was no money to buy anything but primary colors," explained Morel, "but we taught the kids to combine colors to make other colors, a mind-blowing experience for them."
     This project was also very cost-effective, using recycled materials, like newspaper, making their own glue, and painting on old doors donated by Toddville Antique and Craft Centre.

Children developed their individual concepts through sketching, writing and painting and photographs, using the doors as a functional tool to tell their stories. It was an opportunity for them to openly and publicly share their dreams, to come together with their peers, explaining their own self-concepts, supervised by adults.
     In the tumbled hurry of daily life, not much time is made available for quiet introspection. "Doors of the Future" has served as an artistic vehicle to encourage youngsters in both visualizing and expressing their desires about life. In this program, participants had time for private reflection, which ultimately led to a sharing of their aspirations for the future with others through the visual arts.

The youngsters interacted with everyone --their peers, friends and family -- during the 20 week project to create a "door to the future." While working on this project, they were supervised by Dina Bursztyn, the artist-in-residence, a staff member, and guest artists, with volunteers from the Comite Latino, ArneriCorps Vista members and the community.


Welcoming all visitors to the reception was artist Barbara Close Lepak's gold sculpture of a woman bursting forth from the door, symbolizing a breaking through.
     "To live a creative full life," Lepak says, "You have to accept challenges, and go through, you cannot stay where you are. Fear will hold you back, and that is a kind of death."
     Lepak is an adult teaching artist who works with the 'Kids Bridge Program' through the Health Center.

Amanda Parrilla, 7 years old, named her door, "Swirly World," explaining the colors she used. "Black is when I'm sad," and all the other colors make her happy.
     Only 5, Viktoria Toya Lozado already knows what she wants and what she likes. Ladybugs, flowers and hands, a rainbow and a heart are painted on her door.
     Maria Oquendo is 12 years old and will enter Peekskill Middle School in September. She loves music and art, and was inspired to paint a rainbow run to the sky.
     A Hillcrest student, Vanessa Grant, 11, painted a very large castle on her door, certain that no one else would think of this design.
     Delia Stanley, 16, a student at Walter Panas High School considered the whole door to represent her outlook on the power of love and life. "One side of my door consists of a poem I wrote about life. The other side of my door is a woman symbolizing love. This perspective has been inspired by my recent experience with love, and my almost reborn happiness."
     Esteban Camino, 6, painted a dinosaur because "I love dinosaurs." He painted an an gel because "I wanted an angel above my bed to protect me."
     His sister Natasha, 3, shared the project with her grandmother Teresa Espejo who said, "My door consists of many different colors and shapes, representing the many emotions and thoughts I have within myself."
     Sofia Scott, 7, painted a birthday cake because "my birthday is my favorite day," a butterfly because she loves nature, and the woman on stilts is a memory of her visit to the circus.
     Erik Romero, with an armful of library books, was emphatic about the house he dreams about, "I painted my house in Peekskill," he said.

"We want to let other communities know what we can do with things that we tend to ignore," said Morel. "When you walk through a door, you can change your life." Planning for "Doors of the Future" to become a traveling exhibit, he's hoping to display them at the site of the Westchester Arts Council in White Plains.

"Doors of the Future" will be open for public viewing Fridays, July 21, 28 and August 4, from 1 to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, July 22, 29 and August 5, from 10 to 3. The exhibit is located in the storefront site adjacent to Hudson River HealthCare/Peekskill Community Health Center located at 1037 Main Street in Peekskill.

Additional information is available by calling 734-8736.