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Seniors Display Artwork in Community Center Show

By Katie Honan | June 23, 2014 3:56pm
 The art class gave seniors at a community center the chance to express themselves. 
Senior Artists Show Off Work at Show
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — You're never too old to learn something new — and a group of artists at a local senior center put that adage on display at a show that celebrated their lives and feelings.

Hand-bound books filled with watercolor paintings and pastel sketches were lined up inside a room at the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services Catherine Sheridan Senior Center, based out of St. Joan of Arc Church on 82nd Street, for the show, entitled "Show Your Talent No Matter What Your Age."

Ten artists took the six-month class which sponsored by SPARC — Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide — a program funded city agencies that pairs artists with senior centers around the city.

Some came with prior experience, while others had barely drawn before, according to Aya Rodriquez-Izumi, 28, who taught the class.

"They always want to tell their stories, and they all have interesting stories to tell," she said.

Many struggled with language barriers, however, so art was a better medium for self-expression.

"If they could somehow tell their story through a visual perspective, they could reach more people," she said.

Izumi-Rodriguez taught sketching, watercolor and collage, and also took students on field trips to museums, including the Brooklyn Museum and MoMA P.S. 1.

There they saw the exhibit by Maria Lassnig, a contemporary painter who died in May at 94. Her success at such a late age was an inspiration to the artists, Izumi-Rodriguez said, helped them prepare for their show.

The memory books are the culmination of their class, and artists chose different forms of art for expression — including collage work, photography and painting.

Program director Larry Harfmann said the class allowed the seniors, most who live nearby in Jackson Heights, to connect with one another.

"A lot of the students opened their hearts with this project to share with others," he said.

Artist Violeta Lota said she "learned a lot" through the class and dedicated her handmade book to her grand nephew, Ryan, who died in 2011.

"I really try to paint or draw what I see," she said. "Every time I draw, he comes to my mind."