A Gateway to College

The Fred Dolan Art Academy offers low-income youth in the 6th through 12 grades the opportunity to undergo serious artistic training. Participants spend each Saturday developing their skills in hopes of gaining acceptance to college art programs and eventually becoming professional painters, illustrators, architects, animators and graphic designers.

Located in the Fordham section of the Bronx, The Fred Dolan Art Academy operates out of MS 45. Instruction takes place in borrowed classrooms and the program is sustained on a shoestring budget. Neil Waldman, program director and a Bronx-born children's book illustrator, has developed a curricular framework that combines professional art lessons with college guidance.

For many of the participants, this program provides a rare gateway to higher education and a prosperous future.

The Academy's Graduates

Since its inception in 2006, fourteen students have graduated from the Fred Dolan Academy. All fourteen are now in college, most with full scholarships. They have been accepted at some of the finest art colleges in the country including:

The Rhode Island School of Design
The Chicago Art Instutite
New York University
The School of Visual Arts
The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) 

This is especially notable given the difficult circumstances faced by many of the Academy's participants. The Fred Dolan Art Academy truly embodies the Children's Aid mission "to help children in poverty to succeed and thrive."


The The Fred Dolan Art Academy employs a staff of dedicated professionals whose artistic accomplishments and personal backgrounds create a unique learning environment.

Instructors Cornelius Van Wright and Robert Casilla grew up on the city streets and rose to prominence as award-winning illustrators of children's books. Assistant art teachers Kalimah Samuellah, Chrissy Pappas-Russo and Aurekas Jaar are highly regarded New York City public school teachers. Javaka Steptoe, a renowned writer and illustrator, serves as artist-in-residence and guest lecturer.

Each member of the faculty is committed to helping students transform their lives, a mission which has already shown remarkable results.

Faculty portraits below by Fred Dolan Art Academy alumnus Jonathan Paredes.

The Fred Dolan Arts Academy Partnership with the Children's Aid Society and DreamYard Project

This fall, the Fred Dolan Arts Academy found a new home at MS 45 The Thomas C. Giordano School in the Bronx.  With support from the Children's Aid Society and the DreamYard Project, the Fred Dolan Arts Academy will now include 30, 6th-8th grade students from MS 45 and MS 118, DreamYard's partnership schools in the Belmont section of the Bronx.  The addition of the middle school program allows students the opportunity to continue to develop their artistic skills and increase their academic discipline beyond the school day during a pivotal moment in their educational careers.  The Children's Aid Society and the DreamYard Project are committed to partnering with the Fred Dolan Art Academy to support the artistic success of its scholars.   

About DreamYard

DreamYard Project uses project-based arts learning to ignite the transformative spirit in youth, public schools and communities.  Professional artists build strong collaborations with classroom teachers, community educators and students through yearlong programming.  DreamYard believes that the goal of arts education is to help youth find their artistic voices, become deeply engaged in learning and make positive changes in their communities.  We want our youth to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed and become tomorrow’s leaders.

About Fred Dolan

Fred Dolan was born in Queens on Feb 9, 1952. A longtime Bronx resident, Dolan started as a special ed instructor focusing on teaching the arts to autistic children. He also served as a crisis intervention teacher and was principle of PS/MS 306 in the Bronx.

Dolan was a major supporter of the arts. During his time at PS/MS 306, he founded and chaired an annual literary arts festival for District 10. It was at this time that he also formed a partnership with the DreamYard Project to create annual theatre productions.

Dolan later served as principle of The Cottle School in Tuckahoe. He past away in 2005.

Neil Waldman said the following about Fred Dolan:

"Fred Dolan was a larger-than-life character.  When Fred entered a room, the room seemed to change.  His life was like a shooting star, brightening the lives of those he touched.  Those fortunate enough to call him friend and colleague were blessed.  He was a brilliant educator . . . a principal who took a school in a failing section of the Bronx, and turned it into a sanctuary.  And so we have given our academy his name.  His spirit continues to be our guiding light."