Joyce Dutka, Bronx-born arts champion


Joyce Dutka could make a watercolor painting glow with the light of creation.

The animals she painted come alive — you can feel them going about their daily routines, smiling at the world, like she did. She also was good at sandcastles, squeezing the water through the sand, minarets and castle gates would form before our eyes.

She was magical. And so are her photographs and ceramic pieces.

She never got old. She kept doing what she loved, and kept making everyone her friend. She was born in the Bronx, raised in the Bronx, and she died in the Bronx.

When she was younger, she was a tap dancer, an actress, a singer. She attended P.S. 19 in her childhood neighborhood of Woodlawn, and went to Walton High School. She had her own radio show at Adelphi University. She was campus queen.

She landed her first offer to be in a Broadway show, but she turned it down to start her family. She raised her three sons and grew vegetables in the backyard in Yonkers. She would sing around the piano with her friends while she played every song they put in front of her. She also sang while carrying laundry up and down the stairs, with the Westchester Chorale, and later with the Riverdale Choral Society.

She went on to get her master’s degree in voice and diction/speech communication, and taught as a professor at Montclair State and Mercy colleges. She traveled around the world to faraway places, where she captured street scenes and vistas with her camera. Israel, Morocco, New Zealand, Africa, South America, Europe, San Blas Islands, Hawaii, Tahiti, and even Cuba just after Thanksgiving 2018, to name a few.

She always told people she met that she “lived in a little village called Riverdale.”

She always saw the good in everyone. Her friend Amoree said that she was so very talented in so many media, but her greatest talent was being a friend.

She was a founder and later the president and program director of the Riverdale Art Association. She was the curator of Gallery 18 at The Riverdale Y. She was on the board of directors for the Bronx Council on the Arts, and president of the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation.

She lived to help young artists and musicians get a good career start. Many of her winners went on to achieve notoriety in their fields.

She was very active in the Riverdale Senior Center, and kept painting, sculpting, writing poetry and exercising there, while making her new friends feel loved. She contributed to countless worthy causes around the world.

She was so proud of her three sons and three grandchildren — they called her “G.J.”). She was very close with her sister, nieces and nephews. They called her “Aunt Joyce.”

Her life was full, very rich, and colorful.

Sometimes a wave comes and you can see the beautiful sandcastle dissolve in the moving waters. All of those who were blessed to know her will always see her sandcastle sparkling in the orange-red sunset, and glowing in the morning light. Wherever there is beauty and kindness, she is there.

Contributions can be made to the Joyce Dutka Fund for Promising Artists, P.O. Box 1634, Pawcatuck, CT, 06379.

Joyce Dutka,