The NewCourtland Artists Fellowship

Submitted by Elisabeth Nickles

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Client: The Center for Emerging Artists, NewCourtland Senior Services and Masterman High School

Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $5,000

Project Team

Artist

Elisabeth Nickles

Client

Comfort and Joy Program

NewCourtland Senior Services

Overview

NewCourtland Senior Services and The Center for Emerging Artists offer a Fellowship to work on a cross-generational project over ten one-hour workshop sessions. I worked with members of Allegheny Senior Center and a class from Germantown Friends School. The project I created Through the NewCourtland Artist Fellowship was a piece that is permanently installed at the newly completed Allegheny Senior Center in Philadelphia. The participating seniors interact with the piece on a daily basis.

Goals

NewCourtland is a recognized leader in innovative senior programming. The NewCourtland Artist Fellowship is a part of their program, Comfort & Joy™, an award-winning interactive arts and cultural program, which celebrates intergenerational artistic achievement by pairing seniors with school-aged children and local artists. Comfort & Joy™ has garnered national attention and has given voice to seniors while encouraging them to remain involved and active in their communities.

Process

As the artist, I interviewed seniors and gathered information based on their memories and life history as it related to landscape and geographic origins. The seniors researched images, based on interviews and questionnaires, about their upbringing and experiences while growing up during the civil rights era and their visual memories of childhood as it related to the landscape. We also looked at larger migration patterns. Many of the participants came to Philadelphia during a period known as The Great Migration in American History. Many of the African American Seniors had vivid memories of growing up on farmland, working on cotton fields, going to segregated schools and most had experiences of institutionalized racism. All came North, to Philadelphia, in search of a better life to escape the Jim Crow policies of the South. The experience gave the children a more human view of the history they learn in school and the senior citizens felt their story heard by another generation.

Additional Information

The senior citizens worked with drawing and painting from visual imagery printed based on their interviews. Children from a local Quaker school worked with some of the seniors who had less manual dexterity, to illustrate their imagery. The result was a rich vocabulary of chromatic drawings and shapes. The drawings were digitally manipulated and arranged in a large- scale composition that was fabricated in painted MDF and Vinyl by the artist.