Monday, January 25, 2010

Unique Agency Combines Babysitting and the Arts

Unique Agency Combines Babysitting and the Arts
Affordable Service Provides Helpful, Educational Alternative in Age of Decreasing Arts Funding

NEW YORK, NY – February 26, 2009 – In the wake of the economic downturn, city and state governments are increasingly cutting back on arts programs, and families are looking to find ways in which to make better decisions with their money. Manhattan resident Shannon Darin’s agency, Artist Babysitting, has introduced a natural pairing to address both needs: childcare and support of the arts.

Artist Babysitting employs professional, established artists who do more than simply watch children—they educate and encourage them in creative exploration. “Parents want their children not only to be watched, but to be enriched,” says Darin, who founded Artist Babysitting in 2006. “And there are a lot of artists in New York City who are smart, caring and have flexible schedules. People are coming to expect more from their babysitters, and we feel that ours fit a very distinct need.”

Carolyn Bost is a client of Darin’s agency, and agrees that it satisfies a strong demand. Bost says working with Artist Babysitting allows her to combine a family necessity—childcare—with her strong passion for the arts. “It’s a no-brainer for me—my children get a bright, engaging babysitter who not only watches them, but engages them creatively,” she says. “And I get to go out to dinner with my husband without worrying about who my kids are home with. It just makes good sense.”

It is this removal of worry—giving her clients peace of mind—that Darin feels is a strength of the agency. She is quick to point out that her babysitters are more than just creative—they are well-qualified and committed. “Each of our babysitters is certified in infant and child CPR,” she says. “We do background and reference checks on each of them, and all are required to attend bi-monthly meetings to come up with new ideas and review client feedback. Our sitters need to be committed and qualified, or they simply can’t work with us.”

Luckily, there are many artists in New York who are more than willing to take the necessary steps to become an Artist babysitter. Darin says the agency’s babysitters run the gamut of the arts community. “You might see your babysitter’s work hanging at a gallery in Soho, or you might see them starring in an Off- Broadway play,” she says. “But they all have something in common: they are hard-working artists, following their passions. Supporting those passions just happens to be a passion of mine—along with singing.”

Darin’s experience as a professional singer—she has performed around the world in musical productions—along with her background as a babysitter made her realize how complementary the two worlds were. Her babysitting clients were truly interested in her work, and she took the development of their children very seriously. It seemed a natural fit. “I started the agency because I saw there was a need to connect responsible, hard-working babysitters in the arts community with families who were looking for more from their babysitters,” she says. “I loved babysitting—caring for kids, helping to spark their imagination and creativity—and the families I worked with really appreciated what I did for the kids. They were very supportive of me and my art, and I saw an opportunity to create this kind of relationship on a larger scale.”

The agency has grown considerably since 2006, now pairing artists with families all over the city. The reason for Artist Babysitting’s success lies not just in creativity but in practicality, according to Bost. “My children know their babysitter and they actually look forward to her coming over. They gush to me about what they learn with her,” she says. “And if for some reason she isn’t available, I have a whole group of other great babysitters to choose from. I already know they have been vetted and checked. Plus, someone from the agency checks in with me monthly to make sure everything is going well. All my child care concerns are solved by this one service.”

The success of the agency has pleased Darin, and she feels it is because of the unique benefits the agency offers. “We can respond to clients’ emergency needs—usually within four hours. All scheduling can be handled by us, if they choose. We are very affordable, and our clients get the good feeling of knowing they are helping the arts.”

Once again, Bost agrees. “I am a big supporter of the arts in general—and this service allows me to be a supporter of an individual artist. My babysitter helps me take care of my family, and I help her work toward her dreams. It’s a win-win situation.”

By: Phil Mccluskey

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