By Celeste Kaufman
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. At the beginning of quarantine, Greenwich House quickly adapted their senior center programming to an Online Learning Center packed with Zoom arts and culture classes, exercise classes, and social groups to help combat the effects of isolation. Now, while the centers remain closed for in-person programming, the offerings for virtual programs and events continue to grow. 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, and London. 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 five artists are meeting weekly over video call to work on a project related to that session’s theme, culminating in a final presentation of their creations. 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 have been 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.” Virtual programming is not a perfect substitution for the supportive sense of community that can be found at the centers, but the enthusiasm for adapting to new technologies and creating innovative solutions for staying connected is inspiring. 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.