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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Pamela Perry

Crafting a new way of thinking about the way we use art

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Pamela Perry is the community liaison at Hudson Valley Parent, keeping track of social media and reader contacts, while also maintaining the calendar of events. She also has a very active arts and crafts sideline selling online and creating with children in her community. She's a mom to two young boys, on the executive board of the PTA and reinventing the way the arts are being taught and appreciated, around the area she grew up in, left for a decade, and has since returned to.

A home in her hometown
"When I decided to move back home pregnant with my younger son, Benjamin, and my older one Austin just one year old, it was like I was seeing the place I grew up in in a whole new light," Perry recalls. "But I knew no one; everyone was spread over the area and I figured I had to do something to get that small town feel I missed."

She started a Facebook group, Dutchess County Mom's Group, that's since grown to 4,000 members. Through it her sons soon had a myriad of play dates and events to attend, and Perry had a tribe of friends who were also mothers of young kids just like her.

It was because of that Mom's Group that the call to work with Hudson Valley Parent came about. There she found her can-do attitude, work ethic, enthusiasm and her skills at getting people together in creative ways, led to more and more work.

READ MORE: A mom gets jazzed about community change.

It's about the process, not the product
Recently, Perry took on the PTA's secretary position at Arlington Central School District, where Austin is in elementary school. This past year she co-taught at Benjamin's preschool, where her schooling in art therapy at Endicott College in Massachusetts came roaring back into relevancy.

"I fell in love with expressive art all over again, and started teaching both students and their teachers the difference between working on art as a product and working on art as a process," she says of her latest growing work as a preschool teacher at Natural Wonders Early Learning Center in Poughquag.

"I plan to start an art club this fall, highlighting problem solving skills released through self-expression at the preschool," says Perry. "Some of the teachers had to struggle at first to get their heads around their attachments to creating product, but overall the reception's been very good."

She says, "I am also co-chairing to bring Reflections - a nationally acclaimed student recognition program that encourages artistic creativity - into my boys' school at Traver Road Elementary this coming school year. The arts are a very important aspect of our children's learning and I'd love to see it utilized more."

READ MORE: 17 places kids with special needs will love to play.

Balance for her boys
Pamela talks about the joys involved in watching kids bring ideas to life and all that happens when you "let them do it in their own way." The results include not only pride at singular accomplishments, but skills involving problem-solving, creative thinking, taking risks and knowing when to ask for help to achieve a dream.

All are things that Perry has long stressed in her own life and household... although she notes the challenges involved, given the direction so much of our culture's taking these days.

"Balance is a big struggle," she observes. "My boys are wanting to watch television and be on their tablets, while I want them to also have some old-fashioned kid experiences. It's difficult, always keeping as many balls as possible in the air. I find if I can figure out our day beforehand with a number of activities, they'll use those skills we practice doing, and enjoy it all.

Think outside the box
Pamela describes a recent morning that started out with she and her boys making slime around the kitchen table.

"I got to then say, 'Mommy has to go to work now,' and while I moved off to my computer they continued with their stuff. I didn't need to show them what else to do," she says. "It's the same skill set I try to bring to my work at Hudson Valley Parent, to my role on the PTA and my art teaching and own crafts work... It's about always being ready to think outside the box. It's about staying excited to see where the art goes and how myself and my kids and how all of us can grow using the skills we pick up in the process."

READ MORE: Check out these great enrichment programs!

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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