October 15, 2020
While restrictions are lifting around the city, seniors are still practicing strict social distancing as one of the populations that are most vulnerable to COVID-19. Greenwich House continues to expand our Online Learning Center for seniors, packed with Zoom arts and culture classes, exercise classes, and social groups to help combat the effects of isolation. In August, a new program was launched that pairs artists from around the world with seniors to collaborate on projects in their chosen fields.
Michael Leibenluft, an Obie award-winning director, created Inter/Generate as a way for artists to both give back and find connection with new creative partners. The art world has largely been put on pause, and these artists have also been stressed about their futures and feeling stifled by confinement. This project, funded by Asylum Arts, helps artists across generations to support one another and create together, finding solace and hope in the process of making art again. Jesse Freedman, Julia Vogl, Noa Ginzburg, Rutie Borthwick, Sophia Janowitz, Victor Esses and Yehuda Hyman signed on from New York, Boston, London and Tel Aviv. Then Leibenluft reached out to Greenwich House, who knew the project was a natural fit for their particularly creative community of older adults.
For eight weeks starting August 10th, groups of two to four artists met weekly over video call to work on a project related to that session’s theme. The artistic mediums range from writing and performance to painting and fiber arts, with the seniors carefully matched to an artist from their same area of interest. Members of Greenwich House Senior Centers have been turning to art as a way to cope with the pandemic from the beginning, attending arts classes and showcasing the work they’ve created independently in a virtual art show, and were eager for a new creative outlet and to make some virtual friends.
“We were so thrilled to add Inter/Generate to our arts programming,” says Laura Marceca, Director of Center on the Square. “It’s such a creative way to connect older adults with artists from different generations, and art can be a really powerful tool for healing that I think our members are needing right now.”
The Inter/Generate project culminated in a virtual showcase on October 14th where participants shared the work they created and discussed their creative process and what they learned from the project. Seniors raved about their experiences. “Julia was able to get me through all my concerns about my artistic limitations,” said Rose. “She broke down my anxiety about my inability to paint or draw and I was able to just be free to be creative and explore. She encouraged me to break all these rules I had for myself; each week she’d assign me three rules to break as I worked on my collages!” Sandra gushed about how she wished she could go to London to meet fiber artist Rutie. “The combination of being communal and creative was very satisfying to me in these times of isolation.”
The artist leaders also found solace in the project. “Meeting with Diana was the only constant in my life,” said multi-disciplinary artist Noa. Sculptor Julia shared how working with Rose helped her own work. “During lockdown, my work stagnated and this gave me the inspiration and the momentum to keep going.” It was clear that strong friendships and creative bonds were forged despite never meeting in person.
During a time when it’s easy to feel isolated, projects like Inter/Generate help to remind us that we are not in it alone.