CMA Stories

“After coming to CMA, I have learned about so many different communities through the arts” — 5 Minutes with Teaching Artist Tahmina Norin Sharmin

When the weather get colder and the days get shorter, CMA sets up shop at the Union Square Holiday Market for free friendly-friendly art-making all season long! This year, Teaching Artist Tahmina Norin Sharmin celebrates her fourth year working at the Art-Making Booth. Learn more about Norin below!

CMA: Have you seen children and families interacting with the booth’s fuzzy walls?

NS: Completely! When I saw that the staff installed the booth with the fuzzy walls, the first thing I asked was “Can we have combs?” so children can brush it. We ask the children, “Can you give them a name? What do you think of this creature? What would you call them?” … kids are telling us yeti, snow bear… they all have different kinds of names! Adults also walk by and ask “Can we touch the wall?” … It’s been great so far. Everyone’s enjoying it.

CMA: What is your favorite memory of working at the booth?

NS: One year, there was a parent who was pregnant and she had one daughter who made a project at the booth. Come next year, when they arrived, they had twin sisters. And they came over and asked, “Do you remember us?” And of course I do! The girl said, “I still have the project that we made the first year that the CMA Booth was here.” That was really memorable for me. 

Also, when parents come in and we ask, “How are you? Do you remember us?” And they say “Yes, absolutely, we remember you!” … I really like that families enjoy their time here and that they recognize us year after year.

CMA: It must be so nice to be a part of people’s holiday memories! The CMA Art-Making Booth features winter- and holiday-themed art projects that change weekly. What projects do you find really resonate with children and their families?

NS. Last year we made paper lanterns, which were a hit. Whatever the project is, sometimes it takes a few days to figure out the easiest and best way to do it. Even though the project looks like it might be complex, when we explain the process step-by-step, families respond, “Oh, it’s super easy, so we can do it!”

CMA: CMA is known for its community programs that bring art-making to children and families in New York. How does art have the power to connect and support communities bonds? Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?

NS: CMA always celebrates different types of cultures. On the weekends once a month, we celebrate different cultures with our Cultural Festivals series. I think it’s great because it helps kids learn about different cultures. 

From my perspective, I grew up in Bangladesh, so I wasn’t introduced to different cultures and communities as a child. After coming to CMA, I have learned about so many different communities through the arts. When I came to New York, everything was different. It’s a multicultural city, so I had to learn everything! I learned so many things through the arts because I had to make projects for CMA’s Cultural Festivals. I teach the kids, but I also am still learning.

One of my goals as a teacher is to serve underserved children. I want to do something for kids who are not capable of going to art school. I want to do something that will satisfy me and remind me that yes, I have done something for society and for the community.

I also want to help parents understand their kids. There was this one incident that happened to me. There was a parent who didn’t want their child to go to an art school. I asked why not, and they said that their daughter didn’t need it. I asked the parents what they wanted their child to be when she grew up. They said, “I want her to be a doctor or an engineer!” I responded, “You have to draw the human figure if you want to be a doctor. You have to draw a blueprint if you want to be an engineer. This is the foundation where she starts.” Her father said, “I didn’t think about that.” Sometimes the parents need help to understand their kids and what they want.

CMA: Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?

NS: I have very funny memory. When I was a kid, I was really bad at art. I used to ask my mom “Would you make this artwork for me?” … and now I’m an artist! The thing is, I wasn’t so much interested in art when I was a kid. I was mostly interested in dancing and singing, but when I grew older, starting in my teens, I became interested in art. That’s when I started going to an after school program. I would ask my teacher, “How can I go to an art school?” and he gave me direction. I would say my after school program was my inspiration to become an artist.

CMA: It’s great that your art teacher gave you the encouragement to pursue art, and now you also teach art.

NS: Yes, absolutely. He was like, “Do you really want it? If you are determined, here is the procedure to get into art school.” I followed his advice and got in [to an art school], and then another thing happened. My after school teacher went on a field trip. During that time I was also on a field trip with a Chinese artist. They came to our university to run a workshop. And I saw my teacher, and I was like, “What are you doing? And he was like, “What are YOU doing?” And I told him, “I’m studying drawing and painting. I’m doing a Bachelor’s in Painting.” He was like, “Really Norin? Oh my gosh! Why didn’t you let me know? I was looking for you but you didn’t work in the same spot anymore, so I lost track!” He was so excited to introduce me to the other young artists who were there with him. He was so proud, and I was proud that he was so proud. I would say that he was the person that encouraged me and showed me the direction and path to become an artist.

After coming to New York and working at CMA, I have learned so much. My whole perspective of art has changed. At the beginning of school, I was doing my Bachelor’s and Master’s, and it was academic-based everything. Now that I’ve come to New York, I started working and exploring … Four years ago, I was thinking something, but now it’s totally different.

Learn about the CMA Art-Making Booth and plan your visit here

The CMA Art-Making Booth is presented by Citi.

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