The Peekskill organization helps promote the arts for all ages – cialisdfr
The Peekskill organization helps promote the arts for all ages
The Peekskill organization helps promote the arts for all ages

Antonia Arts, a Peekskill-based nonprofit led by Scarlett Antonia, back row, center, offers a wide range of classes in theater, dance, writing and more in its downtown space.

For Scarlett Antonia, her yellow brick road led her to Peekskill.

In 2000, when Antonia, whose successful dance career has seen her perform at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, among other venues, first arrived in Peekskill on a trip from New York, she spotted the old Paramount Theater. She falls in love with the theater when she sees it for the first time.

Antonia was inspired to return because the community was where L. Frank Baum, who wrote one of her favorite stories, The Wizard of Oz, spent two years at Peekskill Military Academy in his youth.

Her decision to put down roots in the community greatly contributed to the arts scene, as she created the non-profit organization Antonia Arts, a space where classes are offered to beginning dancers, actors and musicians, and arts groups can rent out the use of approximately 1,200 square feet of foot studio on South Street to plan their own events.

“I’m really happy here because I believe in the creative and performing arts, and here we have the opportunity not only to perform, to have classes, but also to create and develop performances, to express ourselves in writing,” said Antonia, born in Minnesota . “To me, it’s like having your voice heard, and that’s what I believe in.”

In 2015, Antonia produced a run of six sold-out shows at the Paramount of The Wizard of Oz with her local company. This event, which brought around 10,000 visitors to the city for its performance, was a precursor to Antonia Arts’ now annual OZ LAND FESTIVAL, held every August.

The event is a day-long celebration of history featuring actors dressed in character, performances including Antonia Arts’ Wiz Kidz, food trucks, games and other activities. But the festival, which will take place on August 17 this year, is more than just something to do on a summer weekend afternoon. It helps promote the mission of Antonia Arts, said Sonya Lee Garber, one of Antonia’s instructors.

“People who come and enjoy it know that they’re supporting more than just coming to a festival, they’re supporting everything that Scarlett is doing at her school,” Garber said.

What’s happening at Antonia Arts is a wide range of workshops and classes for almost every age. Since dance is Antonia’s professional training, there are youth theater dances and youth Latin dances, plus programs for adults, including beginner tap dance, LatinX dance and theater dance.

There is also youth drama and creative movement and creative writing for young people, along with a theater company and Wiz Kidz.

Then there are occasional weekend family movie screenings at the studio.

Eva Goetz, 11, has been with Antonia for about four years and has been part of the OZ LAND FESTIVAL since the beginning. While performing is fun, so is interacting with a different set of kids and making new friends, she said.

“This is my fourth year and the best part of it is meeting new people and getting to meet new people,” Goetz said.

Ten-year-old Braydan Macedonia will be part of this week’s performance of Cinderella Story, where he plays a prince.

“I like the feeling of being on stage, the spotlight on me,” he said. “I don’t know, I just feel like it’s meant for me.”

Macedonia’s mother, Megan, said the structure and discipline that regular classes and rehearsals provide her son is invaluable.

“I’ve seen a big boost in his confidence, so he’s following directions really well,” she said. “It was also a great way to focus it, where, believe it or not, it’s not all just acting or performing. Many of them wait for your turn and wait for your cue and come on time with it.

For Antonia, she regularly explores new offerings in a wide range of classes. Since closing due to the COVID pandemic, Antonia has been rebuilding its offerings and student base and is always open for locals and kids to explore what’s available.

“I just believe in the creative and performing arts,” she said. “That’s the whole mission because there are similarities when you create art, it’s just the techniques you use are different, but it’s all important.”

To learn more about Antonia Arts and its programs, call 914-393-2382, email or visit Antonia Arts is located at 925 South St. in Peekskill.

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