Tina Mednicoff Smokler

Growing up in Coney Island and being elected to Leon Friend's Art Squad at Lincoln High School

Born in Coney Island in 1942, Tina Mednicoff Smokler grew up on Nass Walk, a narrow street which was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Trump Village apartment complex. Her maternal grandmother ran a rooming house on West 35th Street that catered to guests who believed the ocean air and the salt water would cure all kinds of ailments.

Mednicoff Smokler's artistic talent blossomed at Lincoln High School, where she was mentored by art department chair Leon Friend as part of a select group of students known as The Art Squad. She recalls her assignments for the Art Squad, which met at seven in the morning, and being selected to join a painting class at NYU in one of the citywide art contests that Friend encouraged his students to enter. After graduating from Lincoln in 1960 and the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962, she enjoyed a successful career as a fashion designer and interior designer.

"I started to paint again. I didn't paint for 45 years," says Mednicoff Smokler. "I just did a painting with a woman eating hot dogs. I do lots of pictures with people on beaches. I guess it's all in my paintings now of reliving that time. I was terribly inspired by where I grew up so that was definitely an important facet of my life."