CASE STUDY: Visual Arts Workshop

Photo credit: Herb Scher
Photo credit: Herb Scher

Stemming from the New York Public Libraries mission statement, “to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities”, the library staff were determined to build their programming capacities.

Based upon the results of a patron survey, which indicated a desire for a watercolor arts course, the library staff were able to reach out to a professional teaching artist and develop the creative aging program.

With a focus on historic Greenwich Village, the teaching artist lead participants in exploring watercolor techniques to transform their ideas and feelings about their neighborhood into paintings.

Participants worked from direct observation as well as from historic imagery sourced from the library itself. As the class built skills, they related their experiences and their work with each other.

The curriculum also included discussions about artists, whose work related to the materials and techniques learned. During the culminating event, participants’ watercolors were mounted and displayed in the library.

An 8-week visual arts workshop. Each session was 2 hours in length, and the program ended with a culminating event in the form of an art exhibition.

April – May 2012

20 participants

New York Public Library

Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. Their mission is to improve the health care and overall quality of life for the elderly of New York City. Through a competitive application process, the Jefferson Market Library was selected to receive funding.

Located in Greenwich Village, New York City, the Jefferson Market Library is an architectural landmark, which makes it a destination for both library users and sightseers. Easily accessed by public transportation, the library serves patrons from their local neighborhood, the West Side, and Brooklyn. Although the local neighborhood is primarily white (over 96% of the population), due to its location, easy access, and popularity, the library serves a very diverse population.

Prior to this program, Jefferson Market Library did not offer sequential arts instruction workshops for older adults. Lifetime Arts assisted the library in developing their first creative aging program.

Following the success of this program, the Jefferson Market library was encouraged to consistently offer high quality programming for older adults. The library applied for and received a second round of funding from Lifetime Arts. In addition, the librarian witnessed the forming of friendships among participants. Some participants also decided to continue their learning by taking further watercolor classes outside of the library.

I learned some of the basics of using watercolors,  and I also learned not to be afraid to use watercolors. I found that creating art helped me focus on the task at hand for hours at a time, and that it is a very enjoyable leisure time activity.

The other class members and I discussed our artworks with one another, and we gave each other verbal support and constructive criticism. To say that I enjoyed this watercolor class is an understatement. — Participant

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