Barbara Westermann, a 2018 SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence, is currently working on a series of collage projects with her senior students. She shared some of her students' work and her own experiences as a teacher at Newtown Italian Neighborhood Senior Center in Elmhurst.
What inspired you to do this project?
I was inspired by the neighborhoods of Queens where I live, with their patchwork quilt of different communities, languages, religions, ethnicity and a rich and dynamic visual appeal. I thought of the music and art that's come from Queens (Long Island City - where I have had a studio for years- Astoria, St. Albans, Corona, the stretch of Utopia Parkway in Flushing where Joseph Cornell once lived) and related it to my own artwork which has so often dealt in historical traditions of collage, constructivism and cutouts.
How do you think SU-CASA benefits the seniors and the community?
In the case of the Newtown Italian Neighborhood Senior Center, the group of ladies who meet each week, some with a love or art that goes back ages, others who are new to it, love to see themselves reflected in the projects we've worked on. This, a love of flowers connected them to artists like Matisse- and craft traditions like the collage - and their Chinese heritage drove an interest in the Chinese horoscope in this year of the dog.
What would you tell another artist about the SU-CASA program?
SU-CASA brings interesting artists with high-quality art and a tradition to an underserved population with its natural gifts and talents and interests and expertise. SU-CASA also focuses on artists who can teach and share their vision and their craft. The programme allows an artist to work in her own comfort zone and tradition, while bringing a gift of visual arts (and music) to a rich and ever-changing community.