Year of the Snake ssssizzles at spruced-up center
BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Greenwich House Senior Center has been transformed since volunteer Phil Katz undertook the project to improve it almost two years ago. Tired wall décor has come down. The smaller dining room shines with a fresh coat of radiant yellow paint and members’ paintings — mostly created in the Friday afternoon art classes — hang on the walls.
In early February, the center, on the fourth floor of 27 Barrow St., celebrated the spiffed-up senior digs by hosting an expo with a reception of the seniors’ art.
The former, overstuffed storage room is now a comfy reading room and a micro-museum. Historical photographs — many of them public-domain images from the Greenwich Village Historical Society — hang alongside several paintings. The space doubles, as needed, as a multipurpose room for other activities.
Almost rhetorically, Katz asked, gesturing to the photo exhibit, “Did you know that Greenwich House is one of the oldest settlement houses in New York?” Pointing out specific photos, he noted, “Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart and Betty Davis were volunteers here.”
Sami Shub, a longtime volunteer at the center, gestured to paintings hanging beside the photos.
“These are some of the best artworks on exhibit,” she offered, referring to two Greenwich Village streetscapes painted by local artist Stu Gottfried, who is also a board member.
Katz reflected, “My involvement here has given me a focus — almost a calling.” A former advertising copywriter, he happily discovered volunteerism following a bit of floundering after retirement. He’s been coming to Greenwich House for eight years.
Offering an impromptu tour, he asked a visitor, “Have you seen the theater posters in the large dining room?” Katz personally sourced these from archives and members’ collections, creating a theater theme in the largest of the center’s spaces.” It’s a theme that certainly resonates, since, as he noted, “So many of our members are artists, actors, dancers and painters, living here in the Village.”
“We’re known as ‘the theater senior center,’” Katz boasted. “For two or three dollars, members get tickets to Broadway, Off Broadway shows — also, concerts, dance performances and even sports events.”
Giving Katz kudos, Shub said, “Phil has managed to achieve a totally different feeling in the center.” She should know after volunteering at Greenwich House for 10 years — and being known for organizing far-flung “trips for active seniors.”
“The rejuvenation uplifts our spirits when we’re in these rooms,” Shub added.
At the Greenwich House center’s reception, unique hat/paper sculptures were also on exhibit, created under the direction of Whitney Museum docent Melanie Adsit. The snake-themed creations burst with color, form and creative energy.
“We worked out a theme in conjunction with this Chinese New Year’s Year of the Snake,” said Shub, who also organizes a banquet dinner for the center in Chinatown every new year.
The whimsical headdress/artworks were shown at the Whitney last November in a one-day exhibit. Following the exhibition, more seniors made even more snake-themed paper headdresses to bring them to the 10-course Lunar New Year banquet.
Without a little less hoopla, a new senior art expo went up at Greenwich House on Tues., March 19.