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Intergenerational Art Brings Middle Schoolers and Senior Citizens Together

A five-month project came to beautiful fruition Tuesday when Andrea Harrison's eighth grade art class presented a large three-panel collage to the Tarrytown Senior Center.

 

Juliet Semel, 14, was a gracious and well-spoken advocate for the art and the art-making process on Tuesday as she explained to one eager senior citizen what the triptych leaning on the wall represented.

"In the end everyone contributed and it turned out amazing," Semel said, pointing out details on the piece.

A busload of came to the Tarrytown Senior Center's regular meeting Tuesday to present the long, three-panelled, mixed media collage that would now live in the large hall. The contributors included an intergenerational mix of eighth graders alongside six women who volunteered from the senior center, coming to the classroom weekly, or more than weekly, for an hour each time over the course of five months. (The eighth graders also reached out to kindergartners who contributed to the center piece).

Middle school art teacher Andrea Harrison aims to do such an outreach project with her students annually. (Last year, her class made a ). “They really learned how to stick with something in this day of the computer mouse,” she said of her students. “The presence of seasoned citizens made them continue. It was phenomenal.”

Both camps had only glowing reports on how well they all came together and how hard everyone worked.

“Sometimes we don't know about the potential of our young people,” said senior contributor Diana Walpuck.

And Semel: “Every day was an 'on' day for them. We didn't notice any age difference or anything. They came with better stuff than we did.”

The “stuff” student Semel is referring to were the many collected items that got glued, taped or somehow affixed onto the piece: a colorful and dense array of wallpaper, lace, photographs, ribbon, puzzle pieces.

The theme, conjured up by Francis Pace-Nuñez, 14, are the memories and stories spanning the lifetimes of two people. The two outer panels represent an older man and woman. Between them, unlocked by the key the man is holding, is an outpouring of memories from an opened box: a first kiss, first haircut, fishing with a father, getting a dream job, getting married, first bike, teddy bear, Mickey Mouse.

“We were desperately afraid we'd see it and say, 'that's how they see us?!'” said senior Marlene Lustyik of the older couple, who are, no one would argue differently, quite handsome.

Teacher Harrison was glowing with admiration for her all involved, especially the students who addressed the large crowd (every round table full in the BINGO room) with collectively written speeches and had wrapped thank-you gifts for the older contributors. “You were amazing,” Harrison told her students as they made their way back to the bus afterwards to get back to school, though their education obviously surpasses those walls. “I am so proud of you.”

“It really shows the students the relevance of art, that it's a bridge that connects people and it's meaningful,” Harrison said.

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