Notable Bronxite | Arlene Alda

Arlene Alda is a true Bronxite, as she says “… born and bred, through and through.”  The famed author and photographer is set to release Just Kids from the Bronx, an oral history of very successful Bronxites, on March 3rd. 

Arlene, born Arlene Weiss, grew up in the Mayflower building in between Barnes and Arnow Avenues.  She attended Evander Childs High School and left the borough to attend Hunter College. She then left the States to head to Germany as a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship.  Her focus then was music. When she returned from Germany, she joined the National Orchestra, conducted by Leon Barzin- the founding musical director of the New York City Ballet.  She then became a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski as a clarinetist.  In 1957, Arlene married Alan Alda - the award winning actor and director best known for his roles on M*A*S*H and The West Wing.  Alan too has ties to the Bronx; he is a graduate of Fordham University.  

Arlene and Alan raised three daughters as Alan focused on his acting career, and Arlene took an interest in photography.  In 1967, she enrolled in a photography course. She studied photography with Lou Bernstein and Mort Shapiro  and eventually made the career change from musician to photographer. 

Arlene found success as a photographer. Her pictures have been featured in Vogue, Life Magazine, People Magazine, and several others. Her work was also featured in Nikon House and the Mark Humphrey Gallery. She became a successful musician and photographer, but Arlene did not stop there. Her next venture was books. 

Arlene Alda has written 19 books, including Just Kids From the Bronx.  The majority of her books are children's books, and most of them feature her own photographs as illustrations.  She has a best seller and an American Library Notable citation award. Her latest works feature first hand accounts of some of the most prominent and successful people our borough has raised.  The stories from Al Pacino, Colin Powell, Neil deGrasse Tyson,  and Mary Higgins offer a different narrative than what most people have been used to hearing about the Bronx.  The tight-knit communities,  the smells, the foods, the summers- it's all there. 

We were lucky enough to ask Arlene to tell us of a favorite memory of the Bronx and here's what she said:

One of my favorite memories of the Bronx goes back to the days before high school when I would go down to the banks of the Bronx river in May to pick violets that grew there. I smile whenever I think of myself as that girl, who loved to explore, going to Bronx Park near Allerton Avenue, coming home with a treasured bouquet of wild purple violets to put into a glass jelly-jar vase. But then again, I have so many happy memories, it’s almost hard to pick one particular one…although I just did!
— Arlene Alda

An award winning author, photographer, and a concert clarinetist- Arlene Alda is a proud Bronxite, and we're proud of her! Thank you Arlene for shining a positive light on the Bronx with your book Just Kids from the Bronx!

Arlene will appear at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on Monday March 2nd for the Spring Gala & Auction: Celebrating Education at the Bronx Museum as one of the Honorees.   Click here to purchase tickets.