BY LESLIE DANIELS | Valery Daniels, a Lower East Side artist and sculptor, died Nov. 16 at age 59, encircled by family and friends. She succumbed to a rare cancer after three brave, hard years.
Daniels completed her bachelor’s of fine arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts of Tufts, and her master’s of fine arts at Yale University, where she received the Tallix Foundry Fellowship and the Susan Wheedon Award.
Her second career was as an art therapist, for which she received her degree from the School of Visual Arts. She brought deep creativity and compassion to her work with the mentally ill on the inpatient psychiatric unit of Bellevue Hospital.
She lived in a loft that she and her husband, Andrew Knox, built in the early 1980s on Allen St. near Rivington St. The whole building was initially in terrible shape, and they repaired it with a group of other artists. Her husband and their two children still live there.
Her husband is an architect who mainly works on New York City schools.
An active member of her neighborhood, Daniels was generous and effective in her actions on behalf of many individuals and causes.
At the East Village Neighborhood School in 2004, she was instrumental in getting a beautiful new library built, beneficial to the entire school community. Two schools continue to share this extraordinary space: P.S. 63 (the STAR Academy), and P.S. 363 (the Neighborhood School), where the library has become the heart of the school. The library’s mission statement echoes Daniels’s life and work ethic: “To promote the love of reading, inspire curiosity, and cultivate the skills that are necessary for critical thinking and lifelong learning.”
In 2006, when Daniels was interning at Bellevue Hospital, she learned that the cherished Sobriety Garden, a resource for patients and staff, was slated for demolition to create parking. Rapidly and effectively, she built awareness and consensus to ensure that the garden would remain a healing space of growth and of nature.
Valery Daniels is mourned by her beloved daughters, Annamariah and Claudia Knox, and dear husband, Andrew Knox, family and an enormous community of wonderful friends.
A memorial service to celebrate her life will take place at a later date.