Thanks to the continuing programs of Arts East New York, the neighborhood at the far end of the #3 train now enjoys all sorts of arts opportunities, year round.

Again this summer, from 12:00 noon-2:00 p.m. every Saturday throughout July and August, Arts East New York is hosting the free eight-week Summer Saturdaze series of cultural events for East New York residents, friends, family and other culture vultures.

A stage is set up on Schenck Ave. between Livonia and New Lots avenues at the East New York Farms farmers market with many folding seats for the audience comfort. Schenck is near the #3, New Lots stop.

This summer’s themed programs are: July 21 – multi-cultural artists from across the globe with the International Celebration, Juy 28 – dancers from East New York with the Extreme Dance as well as a teen poetry slam with the Spoken Word Competition. On Aug. 4, neighbors are encouraged to wear costumes – prizes awarded for the best – as Caribbean talent celebrates carnival.

Aug. 11’s Urban Gumbo will incorporate what you have when you mix a little tap dancing, sprinkle some spoken word, and add a dash of contemporary dance and a drop of theater on the side. On Aug. 18, a model competition with prizes will be part of East NY’s Next Top Model and a Michael Jackson Celebration on Aug 25 finishes up the season.

On the hottest day of the year, the series kicked off with an Afro Latino celebration-paying tribute to the strong cultural heritage shared by the two communities. Held at the New Lots Triangle Plaza at the foot of the #3 line, five groups drew an audience who sat in a tented refuge from the sun to enjoy an amazing array of dance and musical talent.

Danza Fiesta created a huge party on stage and stole the show with energetic partner dancing to their troupe’s singing and talented percussionists. Always interacting with the audience, performers asked for participants –and there were many not shy– to join, on stage, for a mini dance lesson to the drum. Finishing up their act, four dancers in costumes with huge masks twirled onto the scene to complete the Fiesta theme.

Youth and children dancing from the Brooklyn-based Purelements dance program started off the afternoon. A brief adaptation. All the dancers who regularly dance barefooted were forced to don their shoes; the stage was too hot.

Jazz and tap performances from Dance Atlantic followed. The music group Sheps Hotep played jazz with ballaphones, percussion, and sax and the showcased Queens of Fela, women dancers from the Broadway play, performed.

For this kick-off program, the Arts East New York website reads: “Today, the African diaspora is apparent all over the world and, in our own backyard, African cultural influences continue to enrich East New York’s cultural diversity,” thus the Africa Latino theme that acknowledges the strong shared cultural heritage of the African and Latin America communities.

Among its many other programs, ARTs East New York’s Young ARTist Institute program offers quality instruction to youth ages three to 18 in dance, theater, and visual arts. Over the course of two semesters, classes are offered at the Institute all day on Saturdays. For students interested in pursuing the arts professionally, YAI offers an intense, multi-genre curriculum in portfolio development for visual artists and audition preparation for drama and dance students.