The parish hall at Trinity Church is bustling on this Thursday morning in late March. There’s a controlled din, and the energy level is high. This is when participants in the Windmill Center’s art class get to show their true colors.
In keeping with the Bayonne tradition of caring for friends, neighbors and those in need, the Windmill Alliance has been protecting the dignity and human rights of people with developmental disabilities for the past three decades.
This year it celebrates its 30th anniversary with a gala at The Chandelier on Nov. 6.
Jim Pustorino, director of the Victory Hall Drawing Rooms in Jersey City, spearheads the program. On this cold, blustery morning, his wife, Jill, is on hand with art teachers Ross Bonn, Kathy Scipione, and Joyce Zielaznicki. Dedicated Windmill staff members keep a watchful eye. With a kitchen off to the side, it looks like a spaghetti supper might materialize at any moment. In the main room, there’s a large coffee pot, coat racks, handwritten notices, long tables, and paintings propped on a table pushed against the wall.
Artists at Work
Wayne is the only artist using an easel. He stands in the back, working in green marker. He says it’s a creature, and he has signed the picture with his first name. He reveals that he grows his own plants. Could that be why he is partial to the color green?
For Nicky, maps are art. He loves them and has a book open to a spread of old black-and-white maps of the world. He shows me Neu Holland. Up close, the maps are informational. Step away, and they look like abstract works executed with charcoal.
Speaking of abstract, one participant is working on an abstract pencil drawing, done in warm colors that look like a Jackson Pollock painting.
Alan’s work reminds us that here, as in life, art is all around us and is manifest in things we see every day. His “spring crossword puzzle,” done in graphite pencil, taps the art of words and patterns, keys, and clues. Alan says he sometimes makes diagrams, plans, and abstracts.
Wendy’s medium is watercolor, which is a good choice for her subject, a rainbow with colors bleeding into one another.
Michael’s crayon drawing is of a birthday cake with one very thick candle, but it is not his birthday. His birthday is a few months away, in November.
Charles says his color-pencil drawing is of a nude woman. But I’m not so sure. Right next to his canvas is a postcard of Picasso’s famous “Boy with Horse,” which shows a nude boy. Ross, the art instructor, says that Charles is a Mickey Mouse fan. He displays a picture he’s drawn of the famous rodent. “He does interesting things with color,” Ross says. “He’s a natural at it.”
Another artist has abandoned color altogether. Her pencil drawing is of a very dark cloud, as if a rainstorm is about to burst from her ominous creation.
Marybeth has an apt title for her pencil drawing: “Smooth,” not an object but an attribute, and it seems just right.
Marcello also has a great description of his work: “Shapes.” The image is of colorful stripes. If they were wider, they would look like a Mark Rothko; less colorful, like an Agnes Martin; more realistic, like a Jasper Johns.
Louis has his iPhone out, and is making an accurate copy of a piece of artwork on his phone.
Timothy corrects me when I refer to his artwork as a painting. “Color pencils,” he clarifies. The image is of a woman with New York City high-rises in the background. He shows me a postcard of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. He’s used the surrounding buildings as his model.
If any of the artists need inspiration, there are books scattered about, including Degas Landscapes and Aboriginal Art and Spirituality.
Windmills Create Energy
The Windmill Alliance, which serves all of Hudson County, was instituted in 1985. Its Windmill Center oversees activities such as the Thursday art program. Kathy DeMaria is program manager for the center. One of the original staff members, she celebrated her 30th anniversary in January. The program was initiated, she says, because members of the parish had children who were developmentally disabled. It grew rapidly, eventually getting funding and certification from the state of New Jersey.
“I love my job,” DeMaria says. “I love meeting the participants. They make you feel great. They say, ‘you look thin, you look young.’ They are always complimentary. I enjoy being there every day.”
The sponsoring parent corporation is the Episcopal congregation of Bergen Point’s Trinity Parish. Trinity’s Rev. Gregory G. Perez is president and CEO of the Windmill Alliance. He relates that 30 years ago the Trinity pastor realized that developmentally disabled adults in the parish needed something to do and a place to go. It was the artist, Wayne, who got the pastor thinking about it, when he asked, “What about us?” But participants wanted the program to go beyond arts and crafts. “Our participants felt like having a work environment and got jobs from different organizations in Bayonne: mailing, recycling, shredding,” Perez says. “They love coming in.”
Caring for the flock is a big part of the Trinity mission. “We do what we can to help people in the community,” Perez says. The Windmill Alliance in an integral part of that mission. “I love the participants,” he says. “The people I come in contact with are beautiful.”—BLP
The Windmill Alliance
Father Gregory G. Perez
The Windmill Center
This adult day center serves physically challenged as well as developmentally disabled adults. The program includes vocational and practical arts, daily-living activities, recreational activities, arts and crafts, and individual and family counseling. Kathy DeMaria, program manager, KDeMaria@WindmillAlliance.org, (201) 858-8706
This program features 15 apartments and 13 residents who share a community room for group activities. Trained staff offer 24-hour supervision with the goal of participants gaining independence and community inclusion. Chris Babalonia, manager of supervised apartments, CBabalonia@WindmillAlliance.org
HIGHWAYS Thrift Store and Social Services
HIGHWAYS provides crisis intervention, counseling, employment training, assistance for homeless people, a food bank, battered women’s shelter, and services that promote self sufficiency. Its thrift shop offers low-cost articles, such as clothing, books, toys, furniture, and household items. HIGHWAYS provides holiday food baskets with turkeys and other food items. Andrew Balik, HIGHWAYS manager, ABalik@WindmillAlliance.org, (201) 471-2633.