Check out our latest podcast from Clocktower Radio documenting our Creative Conversations meeting on Wednesday, October 25, hosted at the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center in Jamaica. We were joined by many Southeast Queens Artist Alliance (SEQAA) members as well as the curatorial staff of No Longer Empty. Artists also came from across the city to be a part of the dialogue and learn more about what's happening in Jamaica and with southeast Queens-based artists. No Longer Empty is currently working in partnership with York College and members of SEQAA to launch the first Southeast Queens Biennale in Spring 2018.
In 2014, I was a SU-CASA (formerly SPARC) Artist-in-Residence. Although I had taught the arts to young people for almost a decade at that point, this was the first time that I would be teaching older adults. I was both excited and a bit nervous.
Programs like SU-CASA are very important and can make such a great difference in the quality of life our city's elders. The majority of older adults in New York have no income beyond social security benefits and so many live at or below the poverty level. So this is a great opportunity for seasoned arts educators who would like to work with older adults and artists who are new to arts education to provide valuable service to their communities.
I was placed at Hillcrest Senior Center in Jamaica, Queens. Since I'm originally from South Jamaica, it was great to have the opportunity to do some good work in my old 'hood. At the time my grandmother was ill and the senior center was only a 15-minute walk from where she lived. So, during my residency, I was in the company of elders all of the time.
For two days a week I taught my senior students the fundamentals of drawing and painting and the class culminated in a large-scale mural on canvas. But I also learned a lot from my students as well. There were the small things that you can only learn by teaching older adults, but I also learned some amazing history and wisdom.
Hilda, my oldest student, was a 90-year old Cuban expat who witnessed when Castro came to power and talked about how he went from loved and supported to feared and distrusted. Rosa, my 60-something year-old makeshift assistant teacher and Spanish translator (all but one of my students were native Spanish speakers) always beat me to class and would give me a hard time if I was even five minutes late. Since the residency begins in the dead of winter, I was always impressed to see most of my students show up through rain, sleet, or snow. That was one of the small things that showed me how important the class was to each of my students.
In an effort to improve the quality of arts education programming for our elders, the Department of Cultural Affairs, New York City Council, and Department for the Aging has continued to support the SU-CASA residency with an award of $4500 with a 40-hour commitment. I encourage my fellow artists to use their talents and experience to bring some joy to the lives of our city's elders by applying to the SU-CASA program. APPLY HERE.
Are there any artists out there who can share their experiences working with and teaching seniors? If so please comment below!
On Friday, November 3, QCA's LAB presented "Dancing on the Head of a Pin," an improvisational performance hosted by Katha Cato, Co-Founder of the Queens World Film Festival. Katha's fellow performers- Antonio Marcus Jones, Leah Goldfarb, Joe Perce, Vickie Eastus, Ian Prior, and Phil Nee- comprise the collective 'Improvisors of a Certain Age'. This LAB event was the collective's first time doing a public performance together.
'Improvisors of a Certain Age' made the audience an integral part of the performance by asking them to share phrases and words that would provide direction for their improvised acting. The audience was able to ask the collective about their creative process and what went into preparing for the event. The event drew a packed house of artists and art lovers from across the city.
On Wednesday, October 25, QCA hosted Creative Conversations in Jamaica at the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center. Artists came from across the city to be a part of the dialogue and learn more about what's happening in Jamaica and with southeast Queens-based artists. We were joined by many Southeast Queens Artist Alliance (SEQAA) members, "Jamaica Is", and the curatorial staff of No Longer Empty, led by Rachel Gugelberger. No Longer Empty is currently working in partnership with York College and members of SEQAA to launch the first Southeast Queens Biennale in Spring 2018. Clocktower Radio was present to interview participants for our monthly podcast.
On Friday, October 20, 2017, at the Astoria Bookshop, four Queens writers presented a literary event entitled "How We Learn." The reading highlighted the forces of culture, immigration, and childhood that shaped their identities and their relationships with the world. The writers included QAF Award winners Catherine Kapphahn, Malcolm Chang (a QCA Artist Peer Circle alumnus), Nita Noveno, and Rene Vasicek, The event was moderated by Tim Fredrick, founding editor of the Newtown Literary Journal and QCA Artist Peer Circle alumnus, and was followed by a Q&A in which the writers shared their inspirations and creative process.
This reading was made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.