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 VOL. 23, NO. 14FEBRUARY 6, 1998 

Art Program Brings Dreams to Life


Ebonie finishes a painting int he art studio in Harlem Hopsital. Record Photo by Eileen Barroso.
There's nothing like the Manhattan skyline to stir ambition in the most timid heart. Seventeen stories above Lenox Avenue, the Harlem Horizon art studio has such a view. And the young artists who paint there have ambitions to match.

  “I used to dream of being an artist,” explains Abraham Daniel, 21. “This program brought my dream to life.”

  Daniel has been part of the art program in Harlem Hospital for nine years, since suffering a brain injury that damaged his motor skills. He is one of several of the program's artists to be featured in the ninth annual exhibit now on display in Low Rotunda.

Abraham Daniel at work. Record Photo by Eileen Barroso.

  Like Daniel, the young people in the program—which is supported by University faculty and staff through Columbia Community Service—come to the art studio on the recommendation of social services or through visits to the hospital.

  The sun-dappled corner room on the seventeenth floor was nothing more than a pantry nine years ago, when the program was started as part of the hospital’s Injury Prevention Program by Columbia’s Barbara Barlow, a pediatric surgeon. Now, the institutional interior is barely visible behind canvases with swirls and gobs and brush strokes of paint. Now the room serves patients and dozens of young people who come after school to tell their stories in art, and at the same time, heal.

  The veteran of the group, Daniel is perhaps the most philosophical. Sitting before his canvas, his conversation moves between speaking of his art—“I like my colors soiled,” he says, muting the primary colors on his palette of wax paper—and speaking of Harlem Horizons: “I owe my life to this program.”

  Daniel feels successful and has sold many paintings, including one to Bill Cosby. He has also witnessed what the program has done for others.

  “I’ve seen children come in as babies,” he holds his trembling hand about three feet off the ground. “And they grow. People grow in this program. This is a lot more than just painting.”

Brush strokes on canvas. Record Photo by Eileen Barroso.

  Ebonie can attest to that. The 18-year-old helps out in the hospital’s pediatric ward, reading stories to children, and is studying for a nurse’s aide certificate, so that she can work in a nursing home. She is new to the Harlem Horizon studio.

  “This is life,” she says, opening her hands toward her recently-finished painting. It is a bleak picture, with barren trees and looming dark buildings. But Ebonie points out the symbol of the cross in the corner and the blossoming trees at the top of the canvas. “This is heaven.”

  “All my paintings are spiritual,” she says, explaining that her own devotion to God is part of her message. “And, they are mental. You have to think about it. My paintings make you think.”

  A reception for the Harlem Horizons artists will be held next Tues., Feb. 10, in Low Rotunda. CCS donors are encouraged to meet the artists, view the paintings and see their CCS donations at work, and everyone in the Columbia community is welcome.