Dear Berman Community,
As we continue working towards our vision of providing avenues where all of our students can grow and excel, it is important that we provide our students with outlets for creativity through the arts. The arts teaches students many things including, but not limited to, confidence, collaboration, creative problem solving and self-expression.
With this in mind, we are working to enhance and expand our arts programs, both visual arts as well as performing arts.
The visual arts program at Berman, which begins in lower school with fundamental art skills and appreciation, and works up to the Helene Berman Seidenfeld Visual Arts Center (HBSVAC) in the upper school, focuses on painting, drawing, photography, and ceramics. The Visual Arts Center was founded in 2002 as a result of the vision and generosity of Helene Berman Seidenfeld, herself an accomplished artist, who felt that art should be for everyone. She believed that visual and fine arts should be an integral part of each student’s education.
With that mission in mind, I am pleased to share that we have appointed Ms. Nicki Toys as our new Art Department Chair and Director of the Helene Berman Seidenfeld Visual Arts Center. “Ms. Nicki” (as her students call her) has built a great rapport with our students this year and has implemented methods to help each student tap into their artistic curiosity and creativity.
Under Ms. Nicki’s leadership, we will continue to grow and enhance the Visual Arts Center, providing a program that allows our students to showcase their talents through painting, ceramics, and photography. We plan to continue making investments in the fine arts curriculum. We have already begun designing our plans to upgrade the art spaces this summer and in preparation for the 2022-23 school year.
Beyond the visual arts, we plan to expand our performing arts program. To that end, I am thrilled to announce that we have hired Mrs. Claudia Rosales Waters to serve as our new Director of Performing Arts. Serving in a brand new position, Mrs. Waters will work to develop our school-wide vision for performing arts. We will integrate specific performing arts opportunities including theater, music, and dance at age appropriate levels in different divisions of our school. We will also continue to enhance our Hebrew Academy Dramatic Arts Society (HADAS) productions in middle and upper school.
Please join me in congratulating Ms. Toys on this position and welcoming Mrs. Waters to our school.
Rabbi Dr. Yossi Kastan
Head of School
Ms. Nicki Toys earned a B.A from Brandeis University, Massachusetts and a M.A in Conflict Resolution from Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa.
This past year, Nicki taught high school Studio Art as part of the faculty of the Helene Berman Seidenfeld Visual Arts Center. Before joining Berman, Nicki owned and operated her own arts and crafts business for over 4 years in Johannesburg, where she taught art workshops and programs for parties, schools, and many community organizations.
For Nicki, Art education at Berman is about helping our students develop the artistic habits of mind and practices that will help them grow not only as people but also as professionals. The ability to understand a problem, think of many solutions, evaluate the best idea, and then execute it autonomously, helps all art students grow to be agents for change in the future, regardless of their chosen field.
Nicki recently moved from Denver, CO to Kemp Mill with her husband, Aaron and their three kids, Max (9th), Zavi (7th) and Issy (4th), who are all proud Berman students, although Nicki confirms that she will forever be a Broncos fan at heart.
An educator, playwright, and performer, Mrs. Claudia Rosales Waters has been an active member of the arts and arts education community in the DMV since achieving her Master’s of Performing Arts from the University of Maryland in 2013. Claudia has been a teaching artist for fifteen years, getting to explore learning through the arts in classrooms across Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C and even as far as Transylvania. She is a firm believer in the power of arts education to provide students with the tools to become collaborative, empathetic, and creative global citizens. For the past five years, she has been the Program Manager with Young Playwrights’ Theater, an arts education organization in DC specializing in playwriting and storytelling. She has developed and taught programs for students throughout the DMV that have helped them recognize their personal stories.
Her professional work includes her newest play She Sings Light, which premiered July of 2019 as part of Capital Fringe’s Curated Series. She has written and performed the radio-play, Café, with Full Service Radio. Devising work includes Helen-Hayes Nominated The Trojan Women Project (more…) She has performed internationally, touring Peru as part of the Danza Nueva Festival as a member of Japanese-based performance company Izumi Ashizawa Performance, as well as nationally in Florida, Colorado, New York, and Washington, D.C.
At home, Claudia loves cooking traditional Cuban dishes while dancing around the kitchen with her husband James and her one-year-old daughter, Lyra Rose.