Priority Stories: Elena from Dan Maloney on Vimeo.


Introducing Priority Stories, a social awareness project by Priority Bicycles.  

Youth is a time of transition.  We create our own space in the world through life experiences that teach us about ourselves and others.  Each day presents a set of decisions that can alter our path of success, to move us forward or set us back.  We can all think of the people who have reached out to help us navigate this time and give us the confidence necessary to grow.

But what about those kids whose circumstances are much tougher?  There are thousands of children in New York City who face obstacles beyond the usual difficulties of growing up.  These young people face conditions of poverty, homelessness, and family crisis that create an environment of isolation and loneliness.

In 1991, a handful of New York City artists saw this problem. They developed a program that would tap the creativity, imagination, and curiosity that is innately part of all young people, to create an environment for empowerment and positive change.  From that, Art Start was born.

Art Start is a Non-Profit that uses student-centered arts education to help the city’s underserved and marginalized youth.  Through daily workshops they create the consistency and safety necessary to cultivate resilience and confidence.  Their programs encourage personal development by offering an outlet for expression, communication, and cooperation.

In early discussions, Johanna De Los Santos, Co-Executive Director shared, “In 2014 the average shelter stay for a family with children was 435 days. Art Start provided 467 workshops, bringing the creative process and an outlet for expression to youth in the highest need.”

We met Art Start through photographer and Art Start Board member, Natalie Brasington after seeing Art Start’s Portrait Project.  Essential to Art Start, are their workshop volunteers who are working with the youth - most of whom have full time jobs, and are responsible for developing and maintaining a curriculum.

“Art Start's workshop volunteers dedicate themselves to Art Start’s mission year after year,” said Co-Executive Director Hannah Immerman. “They positively and creatively connect with our participants, helping to transform a time of uncertainty into a time for personal growth and development.“

One such volunteer is Elena Mendis.  Elena lives in Brooklyn, works a full time job in events at a tech company in Manhattan, and has been volunteering at Art Start since 2007.  One thing she said stood out, “I was never fair weather about anything,” and it shows the type of resolve and dedication that Elena and these volunteers have for these kids.

The piece is directed by Dan Maloney, leading commercial editor at Cut+Run NYC.  In his directoral debut, he spent time with Elena at her home, work, and at an Art Start event where Elena helped a group of kids in a Silk Screening project.

“Elena was the ideal subject for this project. She was able to just be herself, and share an intimate view into the challenges that these young people face as well as her reasons for volunteering." says Maloney. "Getting a glimpse of her passion, energy, and dedication to Art Start was inspiring."

Art Start is based in the West Chelsea Arts District of Manhattan with workshops taking place throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.  We urge you to learn more and offer help through volunteering, a donation, and spreading the word about Art Start’s work.  This summer, they received a grant from Howard Hughes Corporation to set up a gallery space at South Street Seaport to feature the Art Start Portrait Project, running from late July through September.

To donate: Click here
To volunteer: Click here
To help in peer fundraising: Click here  

The Priority Stories program was developed in collaboration with Dan Maloney of Cut+Run New York, Director Henry Lu, and photographer Chris Ozer, highlighting those who make it a priority to give back to their community.  It was designed to raise awareness and inspire others, and if not for their dedication, this would not be possible. Each video vignette provides a look into the lives of people making a difference, and their personal motivations behind why they devote their time and energy.

Director: Dan Maloney
DP: Andrew McMullen
Production Sound: Leah Roh
Edit Facility: Cut+Run
Editor: Dan Maloney
Post Producer: Raná Martin
Color Grade: The Mill
Colorist: Mikey Rossiter
Color Producer: Liz Hurd
Mix Facility: Sonic Union
Mixer: Brian Goodheart
Mix Producer: Justine Cortale

June 29, 2015 by Dave Weiner