Allegheny West: Creative Program Helps Bridge Generation Gap

The Senior Partnership Initiative is one of several community outreach programs run by the Center For Emerging Visual Artists. The program creates an environment for fourth- and fifth-grade students to participate in the creative arts alongside senior residents at Newcourtland Life Senior Services

The program has several sources of funding, including The William Penn Foundation, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation.

Each time the program is run, a professional artist is hired to run the creative workshop. The artist, seniors and students meet once a week for 10 weeks. With the help of the artists, each session culminates into one or several pieces of artwork. These pieces are kept by the Newcourtland Life Center and displayed in various locations throughout the building.

Gen Coutroubis, director of artist programs at the Center For Emerging Visual Artists, said there are many  benefits of the program she created.

“When someone comes into one of these buildings, they see amazing pieces and the first thing that they ask is, ‘Who made this?'” Coutroubis said. “And the fact that the participants and the seniors, and the folks who are in the senior centers and the nursing homes, the life centers, were part of that is really inspiring and exciting for people.”

This artwork from a past program is on display in the meeting room.

“The students are able to connect with this artist and make amazing work,” Coutroubis said. “The seniors are able to connect with the students and the artists, so the beneficiaries are numerous in this project.”

A piece created by a former project on display in a common area.

In addition to the students and the seniors, the teaching artist also feels rewarded by participating in the project.

“My goal is not just to make a beautiful piece of artwork, but to get seniors be interacting with students in a way that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise,” said Abby King, the current teaching artist for this program. “When those moments happen…that’s the reward.”

Apart from the personal growth and positive interactions the participants receive, the project also results in a tangible piece of artwork that lives on and reminds those involved of their time together.

Artwork created during a past program.

“Getting to work with them for 10 weeks and then getting to take it to my studio and put it together, all these voices and individual works into one big collective piece,” King said, “that’s definitely rewarding for me.”

– Text, images and video by Emily Pentz.


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