Two Local Players Help Students Develop Critical Skills

Edward Hopper House joins forces with a Nyack realtor to provide students inspiration and education through the arts.


About three years ago, Richard Ellis, owner of Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty, was appraising the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center for insurance reasons. As he walked through the artist’s childhood home with Jennifer Patton, executive director of the museum, Ellis suggested ways to improve both the building and its programs.

“I mentioned that we didn’t have extra money to invest in improvements, and he expressed interest in finding funding,” Patton says.

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The realty company and the Edward Hopper House collaborated on an October 2016 benefit gala that ended up bringing enough funding for the building improvements and to help arts education in the public schools. It is now an annual gala, which has brought in more than $80,000 total.


Engaging Teens

The words “stewardship” and “historic site” often bring to mind images of gray-haired, wizened — let’s say it, sometimes boring — history buffs. But at the Edward Hopper House, the stewards are middle- and high-schoolers.

The Nighthawks Teen Leadership Program, named after Hopper’s most famous work, enrolls 25 students per year in its after-school and weekend program, which earned the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2018 Trustees Emeritus Award for Historic Sites Stewardship.

Students meet on Fridays and learn to lead weekend tours and other public programming at the museum. Earning community-service hours at first, the students eventually work their way onto the center’s payroll.

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Along the way, the students develop public-speaking, leadership, and critical-thinking skills. In the process, they’re ensuring the legacy of a legendary hometown artist will live on.


Nearly 500 students per year — in schools in Nyack, Nanuet, Clarkstown, East Ramapo, South Orangetown, and Sleepy Hollow — benefit from the funding.

Patton and the Hopper House facilitate interdisciplinary three-part lessons that introduce students to Edward Hopper, expand their analysis skills, and encourage the students’ creativity. The program integrates many subjects, including literature, history, and science, as well as art. A pre-lesson involves an artist-in-residence working with students at their school. The second lesson is held at the museum, and the post-lesson — held two weeks later at the students’ school — provides insight on how much students learned. Patton tries to add one additional class every year, integrating the program into the students’ curriculum.

Ellis says he believes in the importance of art education, “for both the emotional and educational information it can provide young adults, and for its influence on the way they appreciate not only art, but anything aesthetic for the rest of their lives.”

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