Francine Perlman

Francine Perlman
New York, NY
Collage, Drawing, Mixed Media, Sculpture
English, Yiddish
College/University, Arts/Cultural Organizations, Community Center, Independent Living, Senior Center

Ongoing since 2012, I teach drawing in weekly classes in my studio, and the students happen all to be seniors. Some have been attending since the beginning. Several times a year I teach a sculpture workshop for adults at Tompkins Square Library in New York City, in the use of Plaster of Paris as a sculpture medium, students’ ages ranging from 50-80. In 2013, I was artist in residence in a six month drawing class at an East Harlem Senior Center in the SPARC program (Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide) of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Seniors with all levels of ability and prior exposure to art concepts drew with charcoal and pastel from imagination, personal stories, and from still life. There was a field trip to the Guggenheim Museum. I teach six-week drawing workshops at the Morningside Retirement and Health Services (a NORC), in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for students of varying levels of experience. All workshops include drawing from still life, using charcoal with gradual introduction of other materials, mastering of techniques, and emphasis on students’ developing a personal style and approach to art-making. I give volunteer classes once a month in collage and drawing at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Lower Manhattan, where 1200 lunches are served daily. Class participants have various living conditions but have in common that they cannot afford to feed themselves at this time without help. I have taught undergraduate sculpture at City College, NY, and Westchester Community College.

Except for undergraduates, students in my workshops and classes have either been seniors or people who came from or are now in difficult living situations, and many are both. Some are active professional people, and some are down on their luck, and many in between. They bring to the workshops the whole gamut of life experiences and respect for each other’s stories. In all my teaching, my most satisfying has been the SPARC program (Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide) of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, 2013. My drawing class at a senior center in East Harlem had a remarkable mix of participants: some who had been teachers themselves, some who had a true artistic bent and some experience, one with dementia, and several who had not lifted a drawing implement since childhood. From these students I developed an approach that worked throughout the semester, once a week, until our final exuberant exhibition in June. Older people are entirely supportive of one another. They share their stories. The atmosphere is one of caring. It’s true that some come mainly for the social interaction, but everyone participates, makes an effort. In the drawing class in my studio, going on continuously since 2012, where everyone is 70 plus or minus a few years (including me) we have formed a tight bond of camaraderie in acknowledgment of the huge reservoir of experience we collectively bring to the drawing studio.