Article from the United Nations Association of New York

A Day of Art and Joy for Refugee Children in New York


On Wednesday, August 31, the United Nations Association of New York partnered with several organizations to host a group of recently resettled refugee children and their parents at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Originally from Syria and Eritrea, the families that participated in the day are now resettled in Connecticut and New Jersey.

WAG Magazine – 12/16 – Art to Heart





We journalists sometimes despair that there’s anyone left out there heeding our words and paying attention to our reporting. But stories can still have a powerful effect on readers.

Witness Kim Tamalonis, a resident of Greenwich’s backcountry who teaches art to sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Rye Middle School. In the summer of last year, Tamalonis noticed a difference in the number of stories about Syrian refugees, from a few to what she aptly calls “an onslaught of headlines” — headlines that increasingly drew attention to the refugees’ life-and-death struggles to find freedom, peace and security.

“We knew it was happening. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know it,” she says. “The whole world was watching. But it seems as if with the exception of a few brave reporters, the rest of us were bystanders for this reality TV. And I thought, What is happening to the world? What is it coming to?”

Tamalonis is talking over lunch at Le Pain Quotidien on Rye’s Purchase Street, where the warm French country flavors and atmosphere contrast sharply with the subject of conversation. Few are more aware of the disparity between our fortunate circumstances here and those of the refugees than Tamalonis, who is young in spirit in the way many teachers are. She decided to take up the refugees’ cause with 140 students and their parents.

“My students have the biggest hearts and they said, ‘Yes, we want to be part of this.’ And their parents were only too happy to help.”

The students collected 100 pounds of art supplies, which the Rye Post Office mailed — free of charge — to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan through the Seattle-based nonprofit Studio Syria.

The students created artwork that was exhibited at The Rye Arts Center, along with notecards that could also be purchased. (The notecards were sold at Rye’s Arcade Booksellers as well.) The result was more than $3,100 for the Blossom Hill Foundation in New Canaan, which creates programs for children in conflict zones.

But Tamalonis wanted to do more than this, so she got in touch with Hagar Hajjar Chemali, the founding CEO of Greenwich Media Strategies, LLC, whose many titles with the federal government included director for Syria and Lebanon at the National Security Council. Chemali led her to Church World Service, the relief, development and refugee assistance arm of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, which in turn led her to the CWS’ Jersey City, New Jersey, refugee resettlement office and a group of Syrian, Ethiopian and Eritrean children. Although you may think that the refugees’ challenges are over once they pass the rigorous, yearlong screening process to get here, that is far from true, Tamalonis says. They must repay the loan for their transport to America. They have only eight months of medical care and three to six months of income. Tamalonis was determined to give 24 children and some mothers an artistic respite. She would take them to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where her mother was a volunteer docent. Getting The Met, which has a strong tradition of art education, on board was easy. Renting a bus was more of a hurdle, but through the GoFundMe link on Facebook, friends and supporters from as far as California came through. (The organization and business sponsors were J&R Tours, Inc., Mrs. Green’s in New Canaan, Pace Prints, The Rye Arts Center and Starbucks in Greenwich.)

On Aug. 31, the group set out for its art day, meeting up at the museum with a refugee family recently settled in Greenwich. In The Met’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, museum President Daniel H. Weiss addressed the group before the mothers got a whirlwind tour of The Met with curatorial assistant Harout Simonian and the children enjoyed sketching and interactive experiences in the Islamic galleries with artist Azi Amiri. At the end of the day, Ann Nicol, executive director of the United Nations Association of New York, presented each child with a backpack of school supplies. And Hadi Hajjar — a successful businessman of Lebanese descent who had accompanied the group — gave them bags filled with what Tamalonis calls “joyful and practical things” like games and clocks.

That day of art has inspired Tamalonis. She wants to start a nonprofit, buy a bus for future trips, publish a book of the refugee children’s experiences and start a speakers’ bureau so that the refugee families — whose stories are in demand — can get paid for their public appearances. She carries with her memories of that day — the children presenting her with Syrian food that the mothers had packed in Tupperware containers for the trip and the kids, who did not necessarily know one another, instantly bonding.

“They were singing Syrian folk songs. They were just so happy to be on the bus on a field trip.”

Her eyes brim with tears and darn if yours don’t too as you realize that this is one woman who will never be a bystander to history.

For more, visit and or email Kim Tamalonis at

Georgette Gouveia
Georgette Gouveia, WAG’s editor in chief, is the author of “Water Music” (Greenleaf Book Group) and “The Penalty for Holding,” which will be published next year by Less Than Three Press. They’re part of her series of novels, “The Games Men Play,” which is the name of the sports/culture blog she writes at Readers may also find weekly installments of her novel “Seamless Sky” on



369 Round Hill Road, Greenwich, CT 06831

Blog Site:
(914) 980-7670

Manhattanville College – Masters Degree in Teaching Art, 1998

Yale University – Summer Writing Institute, 1997
Hamilton College – BFA as well as Editor-in-Chief of the Art and Literary Magazine, Art Editor of the Newspaper, 1995
Sarah Lawrence University – Junior-Year-Abroad program in Paris, France, 1993-1994
Greenwich Academy – Editor-in-Chief of the School Newspaper, Art Editor of the Literary Magazine, 1988-1991 


Rye City School District, Rye, NY, 2005-present
Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Grade Art Teacher, Rye Middle School AP Studio Art Teacher, Rye High School, 2005-2011

Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT, 1995-2005
Saturday in the City and Summer in the City Art Tour Coordinator, Spring Break European Art Tour Coordinator,  Studio I, Studio II and Photoshop Art Teacher

Dahesh Museum , New York, New York, 2003
Guest Artist and Education Program Consultant

Metropolitan Museum, New York, New York, 1999
Assistant Drawing Teacher – Sunday mornings – (teacher: Randy Williams)

Creative Connections, Ridgefield, Connecticut, 1996-1997
Art Link Coordinator – coordinated art exchanges between US schools and schools abroad

French Embassy – Cultural Service Intern – Cultural Service Division, Cairo, Egypt, 1994


In-the-works:  Refugee pot-luck dinner and Linked-In resumé building event, which I am coordinating with the UNA-NY and with Linked-In, 2017

Free Arts at the Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT 2016
Teacher –day-long event, made art with children from New York City homeless shelters

Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY, 2016
Coordinator for a one-day art program for child refugees.  I initiated the event, collaborated with Church World Service to gather participants from two states, collaborated with the United Nations Association-NY on a send-off ceremony, found 7 translators to volunteer, arranged transportation, and brought refreshments.  The museum arranged for the president, Daniel Weiss to give an introductory speach, they ran art workshops in the Islamic Galleries for the kids and they arranged a museum-wide tour for the parents.

Blossom Hill Foundation, New Canaan, CT, 2015
Coordinator, Curator – Rye Middle School art students’ exhibit to benefit the Blossom Hill Foundation’s programs for Syrian child refugees

Studio Syria, Seattle, WA, 2015
Art Supply Drive Coordinator. Collected 100 pounds of supplies for children in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Supplies delivered by 501c3 Studio Syria.

Rye City School District, Rye, NY, 2014 – 2015
Young Collectors’ Organization (YCO) – ran 6 voluntary Saturday trips to galleries, museums, art fairs and print shops, exposing students to the contemporary art market.

Free Arts at the Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT 2015
Teacher –day-long event, made art with children from New York City homeless shelters

Maria Ferari Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical center, Valhalla, NY 2001-2004
Art Committee Member – committee established during the children’s hospital construction to develop a child friendly contemporary art collection that would double as an investment

Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco, NY, 2003
Curator – Initiated rotating art program and curated inaugural exhibit, including work from thirty-two artist on four hospital floors

Akanksha Schools, Mumbai, India – collaboration with Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT, 2001

Service Trip to India – Art Program Coordinator

Music Maker Relief Foundation, North Carolina, 2001
Cover art and Layout Design – “Eddie Tigner” CD
Graphic Design and Layout – “Captain Luke and Cool John” CD

“Letter: Global Emergency Response for Syria Needed Now!” 2015

– Greenwich Free Press, Greenwich, CT
“Basel’s Bearded Beauties” – reported trends from Art Basel Miami Beach, 2014- Greenwich Free Press, Greenwich, CT“Mourning Prayer”
– Round Hill Color Mill, Greenwich, CT, 2012
“Boy Bubbles” – Middle grade novel about the trials and tribulations of a band of 13 year-old friends. – UnpublishedAWARDS:
Rye Middle School Point-of-Pride Award – coordinating student efforts to help Syrian refugees was elected as 2016 pride of the school

2010 Rye High School Distinguished Service Award – for teaching, 2007-2008 school year

ETS/College Board – Greenwich Academy earned the highest AP Art scores in the world for the school size, 2005 – I was the foundations level teacher, commended on the award

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, NY Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco, NY
Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT

ART IN PRIVATE COLLECTIONS: Including (but not limited to):
James & Mimi Rosenquist, Lawrence Benenson, Sydie Lansing, Dorianne Hutton, Bill Lucado, Carolyn and Malcolm Weiner

“Night Stars 1” & “Night Stars 2”- Bravo Network, Gallery Girls in September 2012

RH Gallery, New York, New York, “Single Fare 3” – Group Show, 2013
Bendheim Gallery, Greenwich, CT, “Prints: Another Look” – Group Show, 2013
IFPDA Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, Dorianne Hutton Fine Art, New York, NY, 2012
Bendheim Gallery, Greenwich, CT – Group Show, 2012
Sloane Fine Art, New York, New York, “Single Fare 2” – Group Show, 2011
IFPDA Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, Dorianne Hutton Fine Art, New York, NY 2011 IFPDA Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, Dorianne Hutton Fine Art, New York, NY 2010
Luchsinger Gallery, Greenwich, CT – Group Show, 2005
Luchsinger Gallery, Greenwich, CT – Group Show, 2004
Saks Fifth Avenue, Greenwich, CT– One-woman Show, 2002
Luchsinger Gallery, Greenwich, CT– One-woman show, 1999

Welcoming Refugee Families with Art


A day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was originally planned to benefit recently resettled refugee children, uplifted all participants with great joy. Young kids to the most erudite museum administrators spent the afternoon laughing, learning, creating, bonding, and spontaneously singing in celebration.

Seven bi-lingual friends, esteemed professionals from various fields, took a day from work to volunteer as translators. A father and son drove a Syrian family that had just resettled in Connecticut to join the festivities. The museum president, Daniel Weiss, welcomed the group. He reflected on a collection, spanning 5,000 years and honoring worldwide cultures and civilizations.
Following the president’s opening remarks, fine artist, Azi Amiri led the children to the Islamic galleries, where they pressed clay against ancient bas-relief walls to capture textures. They drew observed details to understand patterns and themes. Senior Production Coordinator, Rebecca Shear, archived the day in photographs. Fine artist and Metropolitan Museum Curatorial Assistant, Harout Artin Simonian ushered parents and babies on an exciting museum tour that spanned from the Temple of Dendur, in the ancient Egyptian collection to the Fashion Institute’s limited-time Manus vs. Machinas exhibit. Deputy Chief Development Officer for The Fund for the Met, Amy Amy O’Reilly Rizzi and Metropolitan Museum Chief Audience Development Officer, Donna Williams, stayed back in the Uris Center to help me prepare a welcome-back reception.
Adults and children reconvened in the Uris Center for a send-off ceremony. When Ann Nicol, Executive Director of the UNA-NY, addressed the group, she expressed compassion, support and well-wishes for the families. Ms. Nicol presented each child with backpacks filled with school supplies. Afterward, I presented the kids with bags of art supplies.
I was one of the last to board the homebound bus. Inside, grinning children and beaming parents surprised me with beautifully crafted artisanal personal pizzas that Amar, one of the mothers had made for everyone. Then, Mayada, the mother of another of the children, offered everyone delicious triangular pastries filled with falafel. I felt honored by Amar and Mayada’s homemade contributions.As we ate together, it seemed clear that if regular people from diverse backgrounds befriended each other, global misconceptions could be resolved.
As the bus pulled away from the museum and embarked on the journey back to New Jersey, philanthropist, Hadi Hajjar, gave the kids his own gifts. He had filled party bags with toys, candy, and miscellaneous treats that made the kids jump for joy. The group chanted Hadi’s first name for quite a while. Stephen, the bus driver overlooked newly happy children jumping up in spontaneous outbursts.
The day of art for refugee children turned into a moment of joy for all. It was an extraordinary show of solidarity, humanitarian values, love, and support by the range of collaborators, including the refugee families. Please continue the momentum. Events like this should happen as often as possible to heal wounds, unite cultures and usher a new day of international peace.
Originally from Syria and Eritrea, the families that participated in the day are now resettled in Connecticut and New Jersey. Translators originally hailed from the United States, Syria, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Financial sponsorship came from five states. This was an extraordinary show of solidarity, humanitarian values, love, and support. It’s the sort of event that should happen as often as possible to heal wounds, unite cultures, and usher a new day of international peace.
I collaborated with Church World Service’s Jersey City Refugee Resettlement branch to initiate this event, working with Rebecca Liberato, Sami Rageb, and Mahmoud Mahmoud. The Metropolitan Museum and the United Nations Association’s New York branch joined the effort.
Metropolitan Museum Chief Audience Development Officer, Donna Williams, Associate Educator of Family Programs, Jennifer Kalter, Senior Press Officer, Egle Zygas, Communications Manager Ann Bailis, Fine Artist, Azi Amiri, Fine Artist/Met Museum Curatorial Assistant, Harout Simian, Associate for Administration, Alexis Patterson, and Deputy Chief Development Officer for The Fund for the Met, Amy O’Reilly all collaborated at the museum to offer an extraordinary day to the kids.
Moktar Gaouad, Mimi Melkonian, Hadi Hajjar, Samira Loschiavo, Yasser Alsafadi, Ingy Soliman, and Dr. Ihsan Sankari volunteered their day to work as translators. Ross Ogden and Ted Ogden drove a family that had just resettled in Connecticut and who are sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church to and from the museum. The Ogden family also worked as impromptu event photographers.
Dr. Ihsan Sankari translated a take-home project that I offered to the kids. I included stamped and addressed envelopes in each art supply bag so that the kids could return their art and any writing that they’d like me to eventually include in a book.
Yoobi, a school supply company dedicated to outreach, gave 1000 backpacks filled with school supplies to the UNA to deliver to refugee children. UNA-NY passed out backpacks to 24 children at the Metropolitan Museum event.
Starbucks Coffee (manager: Gustavo Hernandez) and Mrs. Greens Grocery Store (manager: Damon Sawyer) provided drinks and snacks for both the bus and for a reception at the end of the day.
The art supply bags and bus were made possible by a collaboration between Rye children, Mrs. Green’s Grocery Store in New Canaan, CT, J&R Tours, Pace Prints, The Rye Arts Center, Salma Shawwaf, Laurissa James Gold, Corinne Menacho, the Tamalonis Family, John James, Randy James, Elinor Vizard, The Polito Family, Stephanie Gardner, Andrea Costa, Hilary Kozarowicz, Hadi Hajjar, Shiva Sarram, Gina Cottet, Roger Busch, Paula Fung, Diane Diane Langsam Bernstein, Susan Susan Sheppard Steidl, Jake Steidl, Courtney Hawes and me.

URGENT: 8/31/16 Art Workshop for Refugee Kids Needs Bus (info and “Go Fund Me” link)

On August 31st, around 25 recently resettled refugee children will create art at one of New York City’s museums.  We can not include additional people at the museum, but if you have ideas about how to fill the day with joy, please let me know.  One donor will provide school supplies to kids.  I plan to give each child an art kit.  If you would like to contribute to the bus or in other ways, please contact me (contact form below).

 Go Fund Me Link

URGENT:  (Extremely Time Sensitive)

Dear Foundations and Philanthropists,

Please help with an August 31st workshop for refugee children who have resettled in the New York area.  Successfully pulling details together within an extremely tight time window will determine whether or not 25 kids participate.

On Monday, August 1st, the director of Church World Service’s branch for refugee settlement and I met to plan.  I wish I could sugar coat this, but the bus that will transport children from Jersey City, NJ to a major New York City museum and back needs funding, right away.
Last year, my Rye Middle School art students and I engaged in efforts to help refugee children by selling art, selling cards and sending 100 pounds of art supplies to kids at the Za’atari Refugee Camp.  Please see this article to learn more about the ongoing focus:
In this interview, Rye TV’s “Rye Views” talk show anchor, Paula Fung, interviews my students and me:
I would be happy to email specific details about the project to anyone who might help.
 Thank you so much for your consideration!
Kim Tamalonis