When octogenarian Dana Rosenberg shares “The Story of My Life as an Artist, Teacher and Poet” this Friday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m., in the Heritage Hills Activity Center in Somers, there will be someone in the audience whom she last saw 33 years ago.
In 1983, the same year Dana was honored as an “Outstanding Teacher” in the New York City school system, she was one of five teachers who submitted a proposal and painting that won an Asia Society-sponsored trip to Japan. Representing United States art education, each teacher was accompanied on the trip by a student of their choice. Dana selected 14-year old Derrick Wallace. They were wished bon voyage in official, high style, depicted by a photo in The Daily News showing them with New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
Waxing nostalgic, Dana thought it would be wonderful to reunite with Derrick on the occasion of reminiscing about her life’s highlights, with the Japan journey one of the most memorable. So, in addition to the other hats she happily wears, 84-year-old Dana Rosenberg assumed the role of private eye and set out to find Derrick Wallace.
“There were about 30 Derrick Wallaces on the computer,” she told me, “and I chose one whose listing showed that, as a child, he lived in the vicinity of the school where I taught. I called him, and it happened to be the right Derrick Wallace, who lives now in East Islip on Long Island. He was amazed to hear from me.”
Her former student also was grateful to hear from Ms. Rosenberg, because Mr. Wallace gladly accepted his former teacher and traveling companion’s invitation to be her guest at the Sept. 2 presentation.
The festivities honoring Dana Rosenberg continue on Sept. 3, at 2 p.m., in Somers Library, where there is an opening reception for her exhibit of framed and unframed etchings, drawings and other art, themed “Under the Rainbow,” which is at the library through Sept. 30. The reception features a reading of Dana’s poetry by nine friends, and refreshments will be served.
Ms. Rosenberg earned her master’s degree in fine arts, with an affinity for printmaking. It was prompted, she says, “when I looked at the sun through a straw hat and saw variegated colors.” Hence the art show’s rainbow theme. In school, she submitted etchings inspired by that vision, which prompted one professor to praise Dana’s work for its “simplistic profundity.” She says his encouragement inspired her lifelong battle against “pretentiousness in the arts.”
Dana’s artistic bent also was inspired by her grandfather and uncles, who were partially responsible for the design and construction of the Armor Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her relatives who were architects and engineers also created many civic buildings in the metropolitan New York area.
When she taught art in high school, Dana says, “my mission was to direct students away from the lure of drugs and gangs to guide them into a world of self-exploration and artistic expression.”
With classes as large as 45 students, she was able to touch their imaginations, their hearts, and their souls— even of the most hard-to-reach students—resulting in artistic creativity, awards, and grants. Dana herself won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study immortal Italian poet Dante.
In retirement, Dana taught art history on the college level and art classes for senior citizens. Following that, she concentrated on her own artistic renderings as a printmaker, weaver, and clay sculptor, for which she won prizes in many prestigious art shows.
Dana says her home is like “a gallery of etchings, woodcuts, weavings, watercolors, and clay sculpture.” She has a drafting table in a bathroom where she listens to audio discs and pursues her artwork. Her aim nowadays is to keep busy, have humor, and be kind. Sounds like a prescription for all of us of any age.
She has three children, seven grandchildren, and a great grandson.
All proceeds for work sold at the Somers Library show will go to National Foundation for Cancer Research, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Shriners Hospital for Children. For information, call the library at 914-232-5717 or visit somerslibrary.org or call Dana Rosenberg at 914-617-9772.
Dana Rosenberg Weekend Events:
Friday, Sept. 2
• 10 a.m. “The Story of My Life as an Artist” - Heritage Hills Activity Center, Somers
Saturday, Sept. 3
• 2 p.m. Art Show Reception & Poetry Reading - Somers Library
• “Under the Rainbow” Art Exhibit by Dana Rosenberg - Somers Library
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