Over the past several years we’ve had the incredible opportunity to grow partnerships with Brooklyn area senior centers through Su-CASA, a city-funded community arts program. Su-CASA has allowed us to bring ongoing mosaic classes to senior adults across the borough, giving them the platform to master a new skill, create community with their classmates, and share their stories through glass art. When the city shut down last year, the three classes we had underway were forced to close as well. Disheartened, we were unsure of when we would be able to safely come back together and sought new opportunities to stay connected with everyone during our closure, focusing on sharing free virtual resources. Still, we knew how painful and isolating this time has been for seniors, which is why we were so thrilled to receive a surprise grant for a Su-CASA program this June!
Since senior centers were still closed at the time, the program would be fully virtual. This gave us the chance to expand beyond our partner centers and offer spots to all seniors in Brooklyn ages 55 and above. To our delight, nearly 50 seniors applied for the 20-spot program, so we expanded our capacity to 25! Our 2021 program, The Many Facets of Glass, engaged seniors from the Bay Ridge Connects Community Center, alumni from our own Bead Project program, and members from our previous Su-CASA partners, Abe Stark Neighborhood Senior Center and St. Charles Jubilee Senior Center. Led by teaching artist Courtney McCloskey, the multi-week curriculum included a virtual tour of our studio, glassmaking demonstrations, one-on-one conversations, at-home art making activities, glass history discussions with visiting artists John Drury and Jane Bruce, and a culminating digital exhibition of the students’ artwork.
The program provided a (virtual) place for seniors to connect, express emotions about this difficult year through art, and learn about how glass informs and shapes our daily experiences. Encouraged by McCloskey’s generous warmth and friendly expertise, creativity flourished. Students made work about the pandemic, social justice, family, and friends, alongside explorations in design. We celebrated all of this amazing creativity with a digital exhibition during our final Zoom session. Family and friends joined us to cheer on the stunning artwork as participants presented their thoughts on design, shared their inspiration, and discussed themes in the imagery created. As one participant put it, “I loved the program, it really cheered me.”
The program has been a highlight of this difficult time for the seniors, our instructors, and our staff. Feedback from Patricia Lynch, Director of Abe Stark Senior Center, further illustrated the vital importance of this programming as a source of fulfillment, joy, and camaraderie. “I really appreciate UrbanGlass so much, not just for the artwork they provide… but I appreciate the kindness you show to our seniors,” said Lynch.
We congratulate all of our participants on their beautiful work, and are thankful to them for sharing their experiences, humor, friendship, and creativity with us each and every week.
Check out the Virtual Exhibition:
The SU-CASA program is funded by the New York City Council. It is a collaboration among the City Council, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), the Department for the Aging (DFTA) and Brooklyn Arts Council