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WSJ Donor of the Day: Alexandra Alger Boosts Arts in Family Dynamics Program

April 28, 2014 / Independent Youth News

The Wall Street Journal


April 27, 2014 9:31 p.m. ET

Everything good about an arts education for children—fueling personal expression, improving cognitive development and having fun—is what Alexandra Alger wanted for her own children.

Turns out, she also wanted it for children living just a few miles from her in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

About six years ago, a friend encouraged Ms. Alger to check out the after-school programming provided by Family Dynamics, an initiative of the SCO Family of Services, a Brooklyn-based organization that provides a variety of social and occupational services to help some of Brooklyn’s neediest people.

When Ms. Alger walked into the middle-school gym that acts almost as a community center for the neighborhood, she saw children practicing dance and playing musical instruments and sports. She recalled that the “kids were busy and happy.” If not for this after-school program, she said, the children would have “had nowhere to go.”

What the program was missing was a visual-arts component. Ms. Alger and her husband, Daniel Chung, the chief executive of Fred Alger Management Inc., a private investment-management company, are modest collectors of art, she said. Ms. Alger, 52 years old, is a former journalist who now writes fiction aimed at middle-school children. She is the daughter of Fred Alger and sits on the board of Fred Alger Management.

To jump-start a visual-arts program for Family Dynamics, Ms. Alger knew she needed a good hook and an even better fundraiser. Four years ago, she launched a cocktail party and art auction. The annual event, which will be held Monday in New York, has attracted big-name artists such as Julian Schnabel. Depending on the art available for auction, the event can raise as much as $100,000, said Ms. Alger. She has given more than $100,000 to support the programming at Family Dynamics.

According to a recent report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, 28% of city schools lack a full-time arts teacher. Roughly half of the schools that lack any kind of art teacher or a partnership with an arts organization are in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, according to the report.

The arts program through Family Dynamics employs two artists to teach classes. Around 100 children, mostly middle-school students, work on collages, portraits, sculptures, drawing and painting. “I’m awed by the work they do and how creative they are,” said Ms. Alger of the students participating in the program.

The plan now is to expand the program to three other schools with Family Dynamics after-school programs to include another 75 children.


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