Up on Sugar Hill: "Sesame Street" Star And Writer Shares Her Passion For Museums

Reflecting on her childhood growing up in the South Bronx in the '50s and '60s, Sonia Manzano is struck by the fact that she didn't have access to a children's museum in her own neighborhood. That's why taking part in Story Time: Tales on Sugar Hill at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling on April 9 meant so much to the former "Sesame Street" star known to many as her groundbreaking TV character, Maria.

Sonia Manzano & museum guests/Credit: Michael Palma

"I am happy there is a museum uptown where children can go in their own neighborhood," she said. "I didn't have that as a kid. It is like an arts center where kids get to see performances and create things. I am all for this for the kids."

Sonia Manzano at The Museum/Credit:Michael Palma

During her program at the Museum, Manzano read from her books, "No Dogs Allowed!," "A Box Full of Kittens," and "Miracle on 133rd Street." For Manzano, having such a place to share her stories is invaluable, and she is committed to bringing that to the Bronx through her support of the Bronx Children's Museum (BCM). Presently operating out of a mobile purple bus, in 2017 BCM is slated to open the KIDS' POWERHOUSE DISCOVERY CENTER near Yankee Stadium, right across the river from the Sugar Hill Children's Museum.

"I started working with them four or five years ago I think kids need a place to see something other than their immediate environment and a place to use their imaginations and museums serve that purpose," said Manzano.

The Museum celebrates six-month anniversary with extensive programming

April marked the Museum's six-month anniversary, and to celebrate the occasion, we rolled out expanded programming. Instead of Story Hour once a month, you can now get it twice a week. This comes as good news for Flor Bromley. She served as one of the first storytellers at the Museum's opening last October. Bromley's mix of puppets, music and interactive elements is now a favorite among visitors.

Credit: Michael Palma

A new programming hit is History Tales with Shawana Kemp, a new musical program adapting historic and culturally relevant tales. On April 24th Kemp featured the book, "My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/La vida de Celia Cruz" by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael López. When she's not captivating audiences on Sugar Hill, Kemp is a high school history teacher and performs as Shine with the popular music group, Shine & The Moonbeams.

Credit: Michael Palma

Spring Recess Camp built on history and storytelling as children created art and costumes inspired by the journey of legendary Mexican dancer and choreographer, José Limón. Students were treated to a reading and workshop with the author and illustrator of "José, Born to Dance!", Susanna Reich and Raul Colon. Camp wrapped up with an extraordinary day of performances at the Museum by musicians from Strings for Success and Young Audiences, followed by a trip to Dance Theatre of Harlem to see the José Limón Dance Company in action.

Children at the Museum/Credit: Michael Palma

Finally, for anyone who has ever looked at a work of art and said, "I can do that," now is your chance to prove your point. Every Sunday the Museum offers "Technique Workshop," a rotating series of hands-on classes led by teaching artist, Tajh Rust. April's focus was drawing and next month you can try your hand at printmaking.

Credit: Michael Palma

You can keep up with all the programming at The Museum here.

Up on Sugar Hill is a monthly blog post developed by the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling and written by Souleo. Each month features highlights from the museum's exhibitions, public programs and/or blog.