Mill Neck, NY — November 30, 2021 — Excitement charged the autumn air on October 22, as 30 students and 20 staff from Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf boarded two buses to the Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM) in Garden City. Aside from participating in the interactive exhibit spaces the museum is famous for, the students were honored as exhibiting artists, invited to view their selected work displayed in the Community Gallery. Stefanie Santodonato-Fisher, Mill Neck’s art teacher for the past four years, was equally excited for this trip, as was the staff at LICM at the prospect of a school group returning for an in-person visit.
Since 1993, the Long Island Children’s Museum has provided hands-on exhibit spaces that foster skill development and creativity through play. According to Beth Ann Balalaos, LICM Access and & Inclusion Manager, development of the Community Gallery represents the Museum’s efforts toward outreach across Long Island communities to showcase the artistic talents of young visitors throughout the region.
Balalaos and Santodonato-Fisher met approximately 10 years ago when Santodonato-Fisher worked at a different school. Their partnership carried over to Mill Neck when the Museum contacted Mill Neck about its LICM4all initiative, which supports visitors with disabilities through tour flexibility and accommodations. Since that time, Mill Neck Manor has collaborated with the Museum on LICM4all Programs. This year marks the third consecutive one in which artwork by the Mill Neck students has been exhibited. Their teacher recognizes how special that is to them. “Honestly, there is nothing as magical as having the students see their work on display outside of school. It’s as if they can’t quite grasp the full effect of it until it is right in front of them. I love watching them excitedly run over and point, saying ‘that’s mine, that’s mine, look that’s mine!’”
Santodonato-Fisher stressed the importance of validating the students’ diligent work throughout the year with the exhibition. The children were encouraged to stand next to their artwork for the many photos that were taken. Numerous group shots were composed, and the students clearly enjoyed their VIP status throughout the visit. Noting the inclusive nature of the Community Gallery and the LICM4all initiative, Santodonato-Fisher emphasized that the artwork she chooses to submit to the Museum is not limited to the best artists. “Instead, I strive for a cross-section of talent. I show preschool art, some special needs students, along with some really super artists. I was never into just featuring the very talented artists, because everybody is a good artist.”
About Mill Neck Family of Organizations
The Mill Neck Family of Organizations, founded by Lutheran Friends of the Deaf in 1947, includes Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, Mill Neck Services, Mill Neck Interpreter Service, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf and Mid-Island Audiology at Mill Neck. Mill Neck is dedicated to creating a world in which Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals are included, empowered, celebrated and embraced as equals through quality and accessible education, sign language, spiritual development, employment, and habilitation programs and services. To learn more about the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, please visit millneck.org or call 516-922-4100/SVRS® 516-558-3315.
CONTACT: Chris Oddo, Director of Community Outreach | [email protected]