In March 2022, seventy-two-year-old Carolyn Walston discovered a new hobby when her local senior center, RiseBoro’s Stuyvesant Gardens Senior Club, began hosting an Afro-Caribbean dance and drumming class.
Though initially uneasy with the idea of trying something new at her age, Walston gave it her best. Just three months later, she was performing before friends, family, and community members at a Juneteenth festival, held in the club’s back garden on Wednesday, June 29.
The classes were organized by Persephone DaCosta, founder and artistic director of Batingua Arts Dance and Drum Productions and Stuyvesant Gardens’ latest artist-in-residence, a position funded by New York City’s SU-CASA program. SU-CASA places locally minded working artists in senior centers and clubs across the city to design and lead engaging creative classes for older adults. Each class culminates in a public event where students can showcase the results of their creative work.
Creativity is essential to healthy aging. Community-based artistic and cultural classes taught by professional artists have been shown to improve overall health and wellbeing and foster more social connections and engagement in older adults. Stuyvesant Gardens has previously hosted two other artist residencies focused on painting and choral music.
Throughout the festival, Walston and her fellow students, known as the Stuyvesant All Stars, danced, drummed, sang, and performed skits about love, friendship, and finding yourself. Each took a turn dancing solo before the energized, cheering crowd, and spoke about what the classes had meant to them. Walston drummed with confidence and ease, sometimes standing to put her entire body into each strike.
“I really loved playing the drums, and I wanted to be here every time the drums came out” Walston said. “I didn’t miss one class. I don’t think I’m the best, but I learned a lot from it, and I feel really good about that.”
For current information on arts programs at Stuyvesant Gardens Senior Club, contact Denise Emery at [email protected] or 347.318.3313.