Friday, January 31, 2014

Hopeful Voices

{Sing for Hope Piano on location in Brooklyn Bridge Park} 
Artist: Stefan Sierhej, Photographer: Marissa Macias

Many years ago, while living in New York City, my life fortuitously collided with some incredibly talented artists who have been inspiring me ever since. While our conversations have been sparse since I left New York City - I have followed their progress from afar and am in awe of how steadfast they have been to their original mission. Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus had a vision that those with God-given artistic talents could and would share those talents with those less fortunate and in doing so transform lives. And boy have they accomplished their mission!

{Sing for Hope on location at Chobani SoHo} 
Photographer: Alison Patrick

Sing for Hope transforms lives by making the arts accessible to all. The New York City-based non-profit was founded in 2006 by best friends Camille and Monica, internationally acclaimed sopranos who met as students at Juilliard. They established Sing for Hope as a resource for artists to give back to their communities. Today, both sopranos continue active performing careers (their credits range from The Metropolitan Opera to LA Opera to collaborations with Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, and Bocelli), and Sing for Hope, the organization that began as a simple conversation between two friends, now touches millions of lives.

Q&A with Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, Founders, Sing for Hope

Who do you serve?

Through the volunteer service of more than 1,500 artists – from opera singers to jazz musicians to ballet dancers to painters to puppeteers – Sing for Hope brings dynamic arts outreach programming to under-resourced communities throughout New York City. The programs activate the inner artist in all people, igniting the spark of creative innovation for at-risk youth, the elderly, veterans, hospital patients, and caregivers. We feel that access to creative expression is a fundamental human right. In order to create positive change, both for individuals and for communities, one must first imagine and envision that change -- and there is no better tool for honing the imagination than art.

{Sing for Hope Volunteer Artist Marc Evan in process at the Studio} Photographer: Shawn Hoke

Why is it important that the arts are made available to everyone?

By bringing arts outreach programs to communities in need, we open new doors of possibility for people who do not otherwise have access. Our Youth Chorus students blossom not only in their singing, but also in their everyday lives, and the hospital patients we reach through our bedside performance programs express a deep sense of peace and joy that they experience through Sing for Hope, often for the first time in ages.

{Sing for Hope Community Outreach in Queens Hurricane Sandy Relief Shelter} Photographer: Shawn Hoke

Can you tell us more about SFH programs? What is the Sing for Hope Pianos program?  

Sing for Hope’s programs are provided free-of-charge for participants, and range from after-school arts classes to collaborative hospital concerts to the organization's flagship public art initiative, The Sing for Hope Pianos. A celebration of the Sing for Hope vision of "art for all," The Sing for Hope Pianos bring 88 artist-designed pianos to the parks and public spaces of the five boroughs for anyone and everyone to play. These colorful instruments – each created by a Volunteer Artist or notable New Yorker – enliven the city’s public spaces for two weeks and are then donated to the community-based organizations that Sing for Hope serves year-round. One of the largest installations of its kind, The Sing for Hope Pianos reaches an estimated 2 million New Yorkers and visitors every year.

{Sing for Hope Piano in Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center Grand Finale} Artist: Rob Baird, Photographer: Shawn Hoke

Can you share with us a little more about your outreach programs?

Each Sing for Hope program is defined by the volunteerism of professional artists, the needs of the community, and a belief in the transformative power of the arts. In the words of one of the organizations founding board members, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, "I believe we have a responsibility and a built-in urge to use our talents and innate gifts to help improve the lives of those less fortunate. Sing for Hope Volunteer Artists do this every day - from a hospital room in Hell's Kitchen, to an after-school program in the South Bronx, to The Sing for Hope Pianos on the city streets. I am inspired by this work and proud to be a part of an organization that transforms the lives of under-served New Yorkers on a daily basis."

{Sing for Hope Programming at Mount Sinai Medical Center} 
Sing for Hope Volunteer Artist: Monique McDonald, Photographer: Shawn Hoke

How can we learn more or get involved? 

Sing for Hope would like to extend an invitation to readers of The Sentimentalist to join the Co-Founders at the opening of The Sing for Hope Collection - a photographic series that captures the creative and transformational power of the arts - on February 5th, from 6:30pm-8pm, at Vartali Salon (115 East 57th Street) in midtown Manhattan. Celebrity stylist and Sing for Hope champion Vartan Vartali will host this intimate gallery viewing with wine and hors d'oeuvres, and guest will meet the artists behind the Collection and have the opportunity to purchase limited edition prints and learn more about "art for all." Admission is free; RSVP is required. Please RSVP before Friday, January 31st to

{Sing for Hope Piano on location at South Street Seaport, Manhattan} Artist: Laura Ricciardi, Photographer: Marissa Macias

{Sing for Hope Piano on location in Central Park, Manhattan} 
Piano Artist: Amanda de Souza, Photographer: Marissa Macias

{Sing for Hope Piano on location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard: BLDG92} 
Artist: Michael Miller, Photographer: Marissa Macias

{Sing for Hope Piano on location in Columbus Park, Brooklyn} 
Artist: Arielle Trenk, Photographer: Shawn Hoke

{Sing for Hope Piano on location in Times Square, Manhattan}
Artist: Maxine Nienow, Sing for Hope Volunteer Artists: Jon Batiste and Eddie Barbash, Photographer: Marissa Macias

{Sing for Hope Pianos in Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center Grand Finale} Various Piano Artists, Photographer: Shawn Hoke   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cabin Fever

Sarah Sherman Samuel is a super cool graphic designer who is the mastermind behind the blog Smitten Studio. She also creates a unique line of home goods called "A Sunny Afternoon" - all American made goods and great for gifting. While Samuel permanently resides in LA - she and her husband Rupert recently bought a small cabin on Lake Michigan near where she grew up. It's charming. Clearly she's incredibly talented. Wondering if she plans on renting this little cabin once it is finished???

I can't imagine a more idyllic place to perch while reading a good book or the morning paper. She chose these chairs. Love!

This kitchen is perfectly proportioned. Great counter space for cheffing up Sunday Supper. 

The open shelving makes everything accessible. The wooden serving boards are from her collection!

I love the simplicity of wood, black, and white. With just a dash of flash...

A Breakfast Nook

The living room is super light and very inviting.

With just a touch of fun...

A Swell Place to Dwell

Especially after she added this DIY version of a simple Ikea Dresser.

A cozy place for 2 to 4...

And the most fun part: Before & Afters

Exteriors Before

Exterior After

Bathroom Before

Bathroom After

Samuel sawed off the long legs (yes, this chick wields a saw!) and used white and gold paint to make this dresser one-of-a-kind.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Bedroom Before

Bedroom After

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Structured Fun

I was recently introduced to Keva Planks by a friend who is a teacher and always nails it when it comes to clever products for children. These simple wooden blocks are fabulously fun and kept my girls busy all Saturday afternoon. We bought the basic "Structures" set that comes with 200 planks. At $49.95/set these blocks are a bit pricey but I love that there are "no batteries required" and the building possibilities are limitless!

My little architect (and friend) hard at work making a track for our precious hamster "Lollipop".

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Little Things: From the Kitchen

When I was growing up the kitchen was the hub in our household. On any given day you'd find 3 or 4 of us huddled around the center island making snacks and catching up. To this day, while our kitchen is quite petite, it's still where we spend most of our time cooking and congregating. I have a measly set of pots and pans (with limited space I have pared it down to the necessities) but when it comes to gadgets, sauces, spices, and tools I'll cram in as much as I can! Here are a few of my all time favorites... 

{W├╝sthof 7" Santoku Knife - the only one I ever need}

{Squeeze Bottle - makes pouring syrup easy for little hands}

{Maldon Sea Salt - light and flaky with just the right amount of crunch}

{Joseph Scoop Colander - perfect for straining small portions}

{Oxo Good Grips Tongs - used daily for everything from tossing salad to flipping steaks}

{Peter Luger Steak Sauce - it's almost tough for me to enjoy steak without it}

{Chef'n Salad Dressing Mixer - I alway have homemade dressing on hand for impromptu requests}