Time In traces back to 1997, when Berthezene established HiArt!, a private art program she began when her own daughter was a two-year-old. For a price, the robust program engaged children in art through artmaking activities and visits to galleries and museums; the children involved came from families that could afford to pay for it (including her own daughter, now in her early twenties, who has gone on to art school). Over time, Berthezene saw the program’s positive effects firsthand, in terms of the children’s artmaking skills, their enthusiasm for meeting and working with artists, and the consistent opportunities for creativity and inspiration it provided.
She started to think about kids who don’t have access to such a program, and decided to develop one for them—for students in “chronically impoverished neighborhoods,” where “art is not part of their school curriculum, and it’s not part of their home life,” she says. “Most people don’t think of doing stuff like this with little kids, most people don’t think ‘Oh, little kids want to go out and see Rashid Johnson or Oscar Murillo.’ They’re thinking ‘Let’s go to Disney.’ But the truth is kids are just as happy with opera as a Disney singalong, and just as happy with seeing the work of
Time In follows the same model as HiArt!, except that it’s integrated into the public school day. Berthezene proposed it to New York’s Department of Education, and after much back-and-forth, in 2006 they agreed to let her begin with two classes, 30 kindergarteners, and they covered the costs of buses. Later that year, she was able to add two pre-K classes from the same school. For Berthezene’s part, the initial funding for Time In came from a party thrown by friends in their apartment on Central Park West (the couple’s kids were enrolled in HiArt! for years), during which they raised $3,000. “Other than that, I had no money, I had started just with my credit card,” Berthezene explains. “The idea is that we’d take kids from pre-K and we’d keep them every year,” she says, and while achieving this has not been easy (they had to cancel the program in the very first school, for example, when the school was given failing status), she’s made great progress. “We have our Bronx fifth graders who come tomorrow, who have been in the program since kindergarten,” she tells me.