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Students create holiday art for charity in Rockville Centre

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Students from the Hue Studio Fine Art Academy in Rockville Centre experienced the art of giving over the holiday season.

The studio teamed up with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Rockville Centre for a Holiday Art Auction, which raised $600 in six days, with the proceeds going to a local charity, Birthday Wishes of Long Island, to help underprivileged children.

“I’m happy with where we got in such a short period of time,” said Laura Montaruli, owner of the Hue Studio, on Sunrise Highway. She said she told her students how much money they had raised on Monday night, when they returned from vacation. “They were thrilled,” she said. “My students couldn’t believe they raised so much for charity.”

Donna Einemann, branch manager for Douglas Elliman, said she came up with the idea because she wanted to take advantage of the office’s prominent window overlooking Merrick Road. “I thought it would be nice to fill it with holiday prints,” she said.

An active member of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Einemann said she is always looking for ways to promote and collaborate with other businesses in town, while keeping charities in mind. And since the office had just opened on Oct. 6, she thought that a holiday display would be a good way to make that clear to the community.

She approached Montaruli and asked if she could create a holiday installation. Montaruli asked the students in her teen and tween art classes if they would be interested in painting holiday pictures that would be displayed and auctioned off.

“The students were amazing,” Montaruli said. “So many kids came forward to do the paintings, knowing that they weren’t going to be able to keep them. They all came up with their own ideas, and everybody did something different.”

Birthday Wishes of Long Island, based in Hicksville, creates birthday parties for homeless children, either at shelters or through its Birthday-in-a-Box program, which provides party boxes and gifts to children staying in shelters, hotels or other sites. Montaruli helped collect toys for the organization over the summer, and said that was the charity that “immediately came to mind” when she and Einemann started this project in early December.

“I love that this was about kids helping kids,” said Jamie Rapfogel, director of Birthday Wishes of Long Island. “It was such a creative and unique way to raise funds. Any time the community steps up, we really appreciate it. And the quality of the artwork really blew me away.”

A total of 18 students, age 10 to 16, created unique holiday acrylic paintings on 11 x 14 canvases that hung in the windows of Douglas Elliman for about a week. The bidding was done through Facebook, with bids starting at $25. All of the money was sent directly to Birthday Wishes of Long Island through its Venmo account. The winners picked up their artwork on Dec. 24 at Douglas Elliman.

“We went into this with the thought of having a great collaboration that was dedicated toward donating to charity, and wanting to highlight our youth and their talents,” Einemann said. “These students gave away their artwork during the holiday season that’s all about giving, so it was very meaningful for them. We were happy to showcase the artwork in our window, so anything raised was a bonus. It’s nice to do something so simple that puts a smile on a child’s face. Really, what it comes down to is children helping children.”

Hue Studio has been open for a year and a half, and in that time, Montaruli said, she has been impressed by the community support. This is her second collaboration for charity: Last spring she organized a community art project for rainbow murals that were installed at Village Hall and Mercy Medical Center. More than 800 people took part in that project, which started while her studio was closed during the state’s coronavirus shutdown.

Einemann and Montaruli said they looked forward to collaborating again in some way in the future. “This is something I would totally do again,” Einemann said. “For a trial run, I’d give it an A-plus.”