Sunset seniors showed off their art at Sunset Park Neighborhood Center

July 8, 2015 Jaime DeJesus
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Sunset seniors showed off their artistic skills at the Sunset Park Neighborhood Center.

NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers’ Services for Older Adults teamed up with Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC), a community arts engagement program that brought arts to the center for six months.

On Thursday, June 25, the centers’ seniors presented their work in “Memories and Materials,” an art exhibition featuring 55 pieces of artwork, including paintings and sculptures created by five members of the Sunset Center.

Director of Services of Older Adults for NYU Lutheran Family Health Center Amy Loewenberg discussed how the program came to Sunset. “Even though I wasn’t hired yet, I suggested to my future boss that we should apply to SPARC and sure enough, Sunset Park did apply and we were awarded a grant and wonderful instructor in Richard Estrin,” she said, also stressing the importance of art. “Many of you think to yourself that you’re not a creative person. You take an artist like Richard who really helps people feel empowered to dig into their creative side and tell them that they can be creative.”

The oldest artist in the group, 87-years-old Louise Scariola, discussed the emotional attachment she had during the classes. “It brought back a lot of memories. We used to go camping and hunting,” said Scariola, who has lived in Sunset for 52 years. “I was so proud to work with art because of our teacher. He was very helpful. I said to him I don’t know how to draw that much. And I did it and enjoyed every minute of it. I’m hoping it will stay.”

Estrin, who started working with the seniors once a week back in February, found the experience to be enriching. “The program is about introducing something new. It’s a way of their engagement. For many, it’s not necessarily in their experience to do artwork or to engage in artwork,” he said, admitting that at first, the process was a challenge. “The fact that we did the work in the cafeteria where those who are a little bit more timid and more reluctant to engage saw others doing it made a big difference. It motivated them.”

The significance the program has on the neighborhood has been felt. “I’m very proud of this program and want it to continue. Sunset needs it,” said Petra Mulet, activities coordinator for the Sunset Park Neighborhood Center.

“It’s a great thing (for Sunset Park). I didn’t realize how proud people were of their work until we hung the work and it really brought the community together,” added Estrin.

The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. until Wednesday, July 22.

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