Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

You are here: Home Alumni Alumni Newsletters Hunter Alumna's Legacy Endures through Daughter's Efforts

Hunter Alumna's Legacy Endures through Daughter's Efforts

In early 2013, Amy Losak, the daughter of Sydell Rosenberg, a Hunter College alumna who received her Master's Degree in Linguistics in 1971, reached out over the transom to Arts For All (, a non-profit organization which "offers accessible artistic opportunities to children in the New York City area who face socio-economic, physical, or emotional barriers to exploring the arts. Through Arts For All, professional artists work with youth organizations to build self-confidence, self-expression, teamwork, resilience, and creativity in children."

Ms. Losak, a public relations executive, proposed a simple yet powerful idea: a partnership to build a children's arts education program based on a selection of American haiku and senryu poems that Ms. Rosenberg had written over an approximately 30 year span, up until her unexpected death in 1996. Ms. Rosenberg had worked as a school teacher and later in her life, as an English as a Second Language instructor. She also was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, founded in NY in 1968. She wrote and published in a number of formats (including a racy novel, "Strange Circle," published under the male pseudonym, Gale Sydney, in the 1950s), but this structured yet versatile - and ancient -- form of verse was perhaps her favorite, and she studied it seriously. A considerable number of her haiku, senryu and other writings were anthologized over the course of her writing career. Notable among Ms. Rosenberg's achievements: one of her senryu was featured in a 1994 public art project entitled Haiku on 42nd St., in which haiku and senryu were showcased on the marquees of vacant movie theaters.

Years after Ms. Rosenberg's death, Ms. Losak became focused on reviving her mom's lovely "word-pictures" for today's young audiences in ways that would serve them educationally. She believed that her mother's concise, compact yet highly evocative haiku - populated with animal and children "characters" and seasonal and scenic themes -- could be interwoven into workshops or activities to facilitate visual thinking and allow for disciplined and at the same time, "free-range" artistic expression; an awareness of elegant and spare wordplay and metaphor; and an overall appreciation of the flora and fauna in our daily lives. She hoped that Ms. Rosenberg's words could be used as a teaching tool: a kind of "catalyst" in a classroom and other settings for learning literacy and contributing to imaginative engagement and hands-on creativity.

Arts For All -- which has a "Literacy Through The Arts" program to increase students' reading, writing, and verbal expression skills through a multi-arts curriculum incorporating theater, literature, music, visual arts, and dance -- saw the possibilities that Ms. Rosenberg's image-rich haiku could offer the children they serve, and a rewarding collaboration was born. To date, Ms. Losak and Arts For All have partnered on three teaching arts residencies, all conducted at P.S. 163 in the Bronx: two workshop series for second-graders in which haiku is paired with visual arts instruction; and one workshop series melding haiku with music for second-grade English as a Second Language learners. At least two more workshops are planned for 2014-2015.

According to Anna Roberts Ostroff, Executive Director of Arts For All: "It has been wonderful to have such a hands on and passionate partner in Ms. Losak. Without benefactors like her, Arts For All would not be able to reach as many deserving children. We are grateful to have this new program to offer the students we serve. The children involved have demonstrated such enthusiasm and enjoyment of this work. Combining visual arts and music with haiku has not only given Arts For All a new medium to help children develop their creativity and self-expression skills, but we have also observed the children's passion and understanding of poetry, specifically haiku, increase through the residencies."

In 2013, Ms. Losak also worked with the Children's Museum of the Arts on a project called the PoeTree, in which children wrote their own haiku on paper leaves, decorated them, and hung them from a tree constructed out of art materials. Several of Ms. Rosenberg's haiku were posted as examples and "guides."

Ms. Losak said, "My mom had an eye for seeing wondrous things in our everyday world. When I was young, I didn't quite understand her gifts and what she was trying to accomplish. But now, I do. I feel I have a responsibility to keep her work resonant and relevant. One day, I hope to publish an illustrated children's book, perhaps an A-B-C reader. I know this what she wanted a long time ago. Meanwhile, I look forward to more collaborations with Arts For All. I also hope to expand my efforts to engage children by working with other worthy educational organizations that promote a love of literacy and the arts, and also the environment: for example, a summer camp or a public or community "green space" such as a garden, a park, a nature preserve or conservancy. The possibilities are vast. It is gratifying -- on many levels - to undertake these endeavors to keep my mother's work alive."



Document Actions
Alumni website feedback:
East Building, Room 1314
(212)-772-4087 | email us
695 Park Ave
NY, NY 10065