For seven years Matthew Smilardi has been a consistent source of creativity, hands-on workshops, and positive energy at the Rockaway Artists Alliance, an organization devoted to encouraging and engaging residents of the Rockaways, particularly young people, in the arts and cultural activities. Serving as the kidsmART program's Special Events Coordinator and Senior Artistic Instructor, Matt embodies the KidsmART principles of kindness, imagination, dependability, sensitivity, motivation, acceptance, respect, and tolerance.
Matthew began his relationship with the Rockaway Artists Alliance as a child attending the kidsmART program in the late 1990s. After graduating high school, he returned to the program, advancing from a junior staff member to Senior Artistic Instructor after just one year.
With his varied interests and talents, Matt brings skills and workshops to kidsmART that engage a tremendous number of children. He teaches theatre games, introducing improvisation and character exercises to curious kids, creates lessons on orienteering and map-making through a partnership with park rangers at Fort Tilden Gateway National Recreation Area, and infuses science lessons into environmental art projects utilizing recycled materials to create true works of art.
Nearly 200 children attend the afterschool program each week and Matt knows them all by name. He knows their grades, their parents, their siblings, and what's troubling them. Matt's unflagging dedication to kidsmART gives parents significant peace of mind, knowing their children are in a nurturing and creative environment afterschool.
Matt sets the bar high for himself and his colleagues. He is adept at offering academic assistance to all ages of students and has a keen understanding of what is needed by children at different ages and stages. Working with kindergarteners this year, Matt jokes that he is currently getting his master's degree in shoe tying. He has been invited to take the Site Supervisor position on more than one occasion, but declines in order to keep working directly with the children as an artist, educator, and advocate.
Matt's devotion to the children who attend his program is undeniable. He is a dedicated and inspirational afterschool instructor, and an essential part of kidsmART's success.