Artist, educator, and published author Timothy Bellavia is a Flushing Town Hall 2016 Space Grant Awardee, and this designation provides him with free space to perfect his craft. He recently was awarded “Outstanding Educator of the Year” at the Harvard Club of New York, and he serves as an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Touro College and University System in New York City. He also is the founder of the “We Are All The Same Inside” ® program, which teaches tolerance and understanding.
On May 6, he will lead “My Mom, My Doll, and Me”, a doll-making workshop and tea party, and on June 11, he will lead “We Are All The Same Inside,” a doll-making workshop and brunch. We sat down with Timothy to ask about his work, and his upcoming events at Flushing Town Hall.
What is “We Are All The Same Inside” Sage doll-making”?
“We Are All The Same Inside” Sage doll-making is a meaningful grass-roots workshop I’ve been conducting for nearly 17 years. The project is basically where participants meet a neutral blue-colored Sage character, who is an alien from space with all the same internal organs as a human-being. By the end of the workshop participants turn Sage into a personalized doll of their own creation with an outer skin they individually design on their own.
What motivated you to create this?
To be frank about what the catalyst was for this workshop, I have a serious skin condition that landed me at Sloan Kettering. I basically got too much sun at a very young age. And, coupled with all the bullying I saw in the classroom as a teaching artist at that time about skin shade from students, I decided that if I got through my treatments I would invent, patent, and create a doll-making workshop that would help people understand human differences and celebrate what we all share in common.
How did you get involved with Flushing Town Hall?
Years ago, I met a then-education director, Betty, at a arts conference, and she was impressed with my fairly new book and teaching tool, the Sage doll. She hooked me up with P.S. 19 in Corona, Queens, and that is when I was made aware of Flushing Town Hall. Betty and P.S. 19 even did a collaborative publication using Sage with student illustrations in 2006.
You are a Space Grantee. How has that grant helped you and your work?
I have a live / workspace. How grand am I? It’s an unglamorous, one-bedroom, walk-up flat in Manhattan that I’ve lived, worked, and prayed in for well over 20 years. My Space Grant at Flushing Town Hall has opened the inner lens of the limitations that my flat has had on my artistic and creative pursuits. I have made a lot of artistic progress because of this huge space. It’s so worth the commute to Flushing.
Tell us about you: where did you grow up, and a bit about your craft?
I was born upstate in Buffalo and grew up outside of it. My childhood lacked dolls. That sense of lack definitely has influenced my creative pursuits in creating and working with fabrics. Going to my studio one can sense I’m no longer lacking dolls. Looking back now, I grew up without a sense of belonging and so grateful that I’m a refugee of sorts in New York City for the past 25 years now.
This May 6, you are leading a workshop “My Mom, My Doll, and Me.” Tell us what’s in store.
This event will include a tea for three, and we will be celebrating global mothers of the past and present. Moms and their offspring can make a Sage doll as I have been in my studio space at Flushing Town Hall. I’m hoping that folks will get dressed up and have fun and work the red carpet with their one-of-a-kind doll creations. What is exciting to me is that the doll parts will be packaged and slicker than in my past workshops – but the take-away message is the same.
And on June 11, you are holding a second workshop, “We Are All the Same Inside,” for older attendees. What will take place?
This will be a more “adult swim” doll-crafting brunch complete with mimosas and brunch. We will be celebrating during LGBTQ Pride month and honoring notable leaders of the LGTBQ community.