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On a beautiful recent Saturday morning, Sean Sutton was meandering though the galleries of the “Painters in Paris” exhibition at the Met. Settling down in front of a Picasso, he took out his well-worn sketch pad and newly sharpened pencils, and went to work. On his daddy’s lap: Sean is 2. He’s enrolled in an extraordinary class on the visual and performing arts for preschool kids called Hi Art! It’s not that her students are any different from any other children, explains Hi Art! founder Cyndie Bellen-Berthezene, a professional opera singer and former modern dancer. It’s the early, intensive exposure they get that makes the difference. The 45-minute classes alternate between a West 54th Street studio one week, where kids delve into dance and music as well as art projects, and a gallery or museum the next. Each ten-week course ($425) centers around one piece of music; Sean’s class heard Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortileges, interpreted for the toddlers as a story about a boy who got punished for not doing his homework. On that particular museum Saturday, the students (and their parents) were sent looking for things within the music, including the boy’s broken toys in Juan Gris’s 1913 Violin and Playing Cards. Then they chose any piece in the exhibit to draw. “They end up with a sense of art as ongoing,” Bellen-Berthezene adds. “This is an anti-arts-and-crafts program.” The program extends to more sophisticated classes for older children, as well as summer-camp workshops.
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