Qns. group calls for senior arts initiative

Participants in Ka-Man Tse's photography class learn photography skills. Photo courtesy Queens Council on the Arts
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In an initiative to make the city more livable for seniors, the city Departments of Aging and of Cultural Affairs created the Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide, and the Queens Council on the Arts has begun taking applications for its SPARC 2013 initiative, which will continue until Oct. 31.

This will be the second year QCA will be conducting the SPARC program at 12 senior centers in Queens. The SPARC program is a community engagement program where artists connect seniors at their selected centers with innovative art programming.

DFTA provided SPARC with $200,000 in funding due to the success of its 2009 Space in Art program. During Space in Art, one of the biggest concerns became work space for artist and funding. Once the idea of introducing the elderly into the program was conceived, SPARC was created and the funding from Aging came in and sent the program into full effect.

Each residency is awarded $4,000, which is to be distributed among the senior centers, the borough art council and the artists for their stipends and materials. There is one artist assigned to one senior center for the duration of the program period.

The program provides a stipend of $1,500 and $500 worth of project materials from Materials of the Arts. Artists are also given access to affordable work space over the course of their residency. After projects are completed with the elderly, the artist must engage in public events such as exhibits, open houses and readings. These events are open to all residents in the surrounding communities. The goals of the program are to increase arts and cultural programming for the elderly.

The program runs from Jan. 1 until June 30. Fifty artists are selected for the SPARC program through a competitive application process. Artists in the program are required to have 40 to 60 contact hours with the seniors. The project must be cultural in nature while artistic and interactive for the seniors. All artists must submit their project proposal when applying for the program. The initial proposal must be clear in order to be considered for the program. Previous projects included narrative videos based on seniors’ memories, movement workshops where seniors performed their routines in a dance show and textile collages.

“I love being in charge of the Queens chapter of the SPARC program,” said Risa Shoup, SPARC coordinator for Queens Council on the Arts. “The seniors loved what they got to do and that is what is most important.”

According to Shoup, the biggest change was which artist goes to which center.

“This year we decided to screen the artist, and out of those who had the best ideas we give the list to the senior centers to let them decide,” said Shoup. “The centers know their space better than anyone and can better decide what program setup works for their center.”

The feedback from seniors and the staff from senior centers was phenomenal, she said. The seniors enjoyed doing crafts that were focused on their lives and got them involved.

In order to make this program happen, Queens Council on the Arts partnered with the Department of Cultural Affairs, the DFTA and the city’s five borough arts councils.

The call for applications began Oct. 1 and will continue until Oct. 30. Applications for the program and all other information can be found on the Queens Council on the Arts website, Those artists who are accepted will be notified by the end of December.

Updated 12:16 pm, October 22, 2012
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