Making Art Work

making art work provides access to arts and arts education to underserved communities and populations. making art work is a unique program that provides opportunities for seniors to engage in creative group activities while learning a new skill such as watercolor or quilt making.  Art and craft classes that are offered to senior centers and programs throughout NYC allow participants to experience the pride that comes from successfully completing a project. Classes are taught by making art work teaching artists, Liz Curtin and Diane Schneck, elite craft artists with years of experience in a wide range of techniques.  Both have exhibited their work and received recognition from the arts community.

Yearly projects and classes include the following:

  • Senior Center Arts Programs – These classes are critical to helping senior centers throughout NYC offer arts programs to their members. Discretionary funding from NYC Council members helps us provide some of the classes for free.  In 2011, five senior centers in East Harlem received crafts programs at no cost to the center or the participants. Topics included quilting, tote bags, jewelry, greeting cards and holiday ornaments. Free classes were also offered at two senior centers in Lower Manhattan, making quilted totes and pillows, necklaces and greeting cards.
  • Fee-for-service crafts classes in a wide range of topics can bring expert programming to senior centers, groups or residences. The teaching artists work with site directors to design a class based on the interests and needs of the participants. Projects can be adapted or created for populations with special needs or disabilities.
  • Participants in the senior center arts classes often make the decision to donate their handmade items to charitable groups within their communities such as hospitals and homeless shelters.
  • UJA NORC Project – In 2011 we were again chosen to be one of three arts organizations participating in the Jeanette Solomon Cultural Arts Fund of UJA Federation of New York. This fund awards grants for arts programs in NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) in NYC and Long Island. The RFP requires that the NORCs create arts programs in their senior centers by establishing their own new initiatives or by purchasing the arts programs from organizations that have been approved by UJA.  In 2011 the making art work teachers provided classes to three NORCs in the Bronx. Seniors at the Amalgamated Park Reservoir NORC made a pictorial quilt of their neighborhood to display in the NORC Senior Services Office.  A nine session intergenerational class was held in the Co-op City Senior Center. Participants made various items including beaded jewelry, greeting cards and quilted tote bags.  Seniors in the Pelham Parkway Senior Center participated in a five session jewelry class where they created button necklaces, beaded bracelets and pins.
  • Intergenerational Projects – Art and craft classes held at senior centers that include both seniors and young people provide opportunities for both groups to help each other and develop friendships as they engage in a shared created activity.  Intergenerational classes are typically 4 week sessions, each session 2 hours.  Some past projects have included embroidery, quilt making and making items for donation.  This is an important vehicle for bringing two disparate groups together.  The socialization built into the creative process facilitates conversation and the formation of bonds.  Following the completion of an intergenerational embroidery class at the Carter Burden Center, students from St. Jean High School expressed an interest in taking other classes with seniors.  The seniors were invigorated by the presence of the students which adds to their enjoyment of the classes.
  • Carter Burden Senior Program Christmas Ornaments – Each year the Carter Burden Luncheon Club hosts the only Christmas Day Party for seniors in the area. It is a wonderful event which seats 160 people.  The Christmas Tree has become an established part of our Christmas Party preparations. Over the past three years, the teaching artists and senior center members have created over 350 handmade ornaments for the tree. The incredible array includes techniques from knitting and crochet to paper arts, embossed metal, sewn felt objects, mixed media and more. In 2011, an additional 75 ornaments were made for inclusion in the homebound gift bags.

The teaching staff is constantly developing new projects and initiatives that can bring art to people who might not otherwise have opportunities to participate in creative arts programs. Last year, one of the making art work teachers introduced a new project for participants in our social model adult day program:

  • Quilt Project – C.V. Starr Adult Day Services – C. V. Starr is a program that provides a therapeutic day for seniors with low to mid level dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  Diane Schneck, making art work craft teacher developed a 6 session project to introduce participants in the program to some of the history and popular themes quiltmaking, as well as enlist their aid in “designing” a series of quilts. Precut pieces are provided, and the participants create their own fabric compositions. The quilts are then pinned, labeled and assembled by the making art work teaching artists. The finished pieces are colorful and evocative. The entire series of quilts will be shown sometime in 2012.
  • Downstairs Art This small gallery, located on the lower level of our headquarters at 1484 First Avenue features work by artists aged 55 and up, including professional artists, senior center art and craft students, and social work clients. There are six shows per year, each with a specific theme or technical focus. Each show has an opening and artists’ reception, attended by family, friends and Burden Center staff. Liz Curtin, the making art work teaching artist serves as curator and coordinator for the gallery.

For further information, please contact:

Liz Curtin, Teaching Artist

Diane Schneck, Teaching Artist