Mi casa es SU-CASA is a culmination of a 16-week series of art workshops facilitated by Mexican-born, Bronx-based artist Blanka Amezkua at JASA-Friendship House Senior Center in Throggs Neck in the Bronx. Funded through a grant from SU-CASA, a community arts engagement program that places artists and organizations in residence at senior centers across NYC, this showcase features artworks made through a variety of materials and mediums: re-assembled silk flower on plastic straw stems; colored paper collages; acrylic paintings on canvas; basic printings on paper; and portraits/faces made with thread and felt.
The artist designed her classes as open artistic spaces to explore. Her first time working with seniors, she was sensitive to the different capacities and abilities of her students, who were first time art makers, to mold and work with the materials. Rather than focus on aesthetic formalisms, Blanka presented a simple yet generative system of art making to express and articulate ideas and visions stressing techniques that the seniors could access regardless of age or capability. Introducing the right materials in the right context allowed them to gain confidence in their abilities and commit themselves to create the kind of artwork that they never knew they could make.
By tapping into the creative energy and spirit of collective art making to transform and inspire, Blanka was able to develop strong and lasting relationships with her senior students. It lead her to establish a kind of trust where they became comfortable not only working with various art mediums for the first time, but also at ease sharing their life stories as a group. This even deepened the pre-existing relationships the elders had with each other, forming a tight and engaging community of senior artists sharing and caring for one another.
Blanka soon discovered, they are and possess a wealth of rich and embodied Bronx history that unfortunately goes underappreciated. They are fighters and survivors who continue to bring vibrancy, color, and joy into this “throw away society.” The radiant art on the walls of AAA3A attests to the transformative spirit of collective art making and community building with Bronx elders when under committed creative guidance.
Founded in 1968, JASA-Friendship House is one of New York’s largest and most trusted agencies serving older adults in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. JASA's mission is to sustain and enrich the lives of the aging in the New York metropolitan area so that they can remain in the community with dignity and autonomy.
SU-CASA is a program funded in FY17 by the New York City Council that provides grants to artists and organizations for the creation and delivery of arts programming for seniors. Teaching artists will engage participating seniors in an art project or series of cultural programs over the course of the residency, which will also include a public program component – an exhibit, reading, performance, open house or other cultural interaction open to the surrounding community.
Blanka Amezkua is a Mexican-born, Bronx based contemporary artist. Her most recent artistic collaborative venture, AAA3A, Alexander Avenue Apartment 3A, is housed in the former home of BBBP.
- Rene Valdez