- Monday, July 30, 2012
- NRP Radio - check your local stations
- 11am EST - Noon EST
- Listen online at www.NPR.org
- Listen online at Sirius/XM radio Channel 122.
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I was selected to be part of a monthly art exhibit that is part of the Open Show series throughout the country and the world. I think it's a pretty nice "tip of the cap" to be selected for this. Anytime someone is recognized for their work or project is a nice acknowledgement of the work that is being created. Most of the people selected are photographers but there are others like documentary filmmakers, multimedia creators, mixed-media artists, etc. It's an honor and privilege to be a part of this show/exhibit. This show in late March was held at the Venice Arts Center.
The exhibit features 4 artists and we each get to present our projects, show our work and talk with people attending the exhibit. For some reason, I was first (alphabetically) and got to get up and make my presentation on my photography and video work for the documentary "Leftovers." I think this may be the first time I have ever been selected first from an alphabetic perspective but I have no issue being in front of people and was able to get up, introduce my project, show the trailer and the display the photos from the project while talking about the film and life changing experiences this processed has provided me over the last 16 months.
I was surprised at the reception this documentary received during my presentation but since a film like this has never been made before I think a lot of people in attendance can relate to what is happening to our seniors and the journey I had taken to make this film. I was asked several questions from several different people and was genuinely surprised at the overall interest in this project. Some of the questions asked were personal about my experiences but several people asked about a "solution" to the problem. What's interesting about that is that the film does provide a solution but seeking a solution was something we weren't initially looking for in the initial outline/storyboard of the project. However, after traveling to a number of places and hearing people talk about solutions (but never really offering solutions) I knew we had to get extra money to travel and find the solutions. I am so thankful to Meals on Wheels Association of America for giving an additional $30k so we could travel to Austin, TX and Detroit, MI to talk about and showcase some solutions.
The rest of the night went well and I got to watch and listen to the other featured artists that night. One of the fellow presenters is my friend, Patty Lemke, who is working on a lifelong photography project of balloons. And, another exhibitor, Bret Van Ort, talked about his photography/documentary project about Land Mines in Bosnia. Here' s a link to Brett's work "Minescape" (http://www.brettvanort.com) - which I found quite fascinating. If there is an opportunity to get involved or be selected by Open Show in your respective city then please do so. Hopefully your work will be selected and you can share your passion and projects with the community.
I talked with the people at the Health Fair (those displaying as well as the attendees) and wanted to hear how important they thought this was. It was interesting to see the weight machines, blood pressure machines and nutrition information. This information is important to all of us regardless of age. But the most interesting display on hand that day was the STD Awareness table/booth. After doing some research I have learned that seniors are one of the bigger rising groups contracting STDs. I guess it is true that some things don't have to stop when you get old. 🙂 As the Health Fair ended and in between the BINGO session I started walking around taking photos of some of the people in attendance. I took a lot of photos and too many to post here but I will do something with them eventually. I saw all kinds of people and they were doing everything from knitting to talking to laughing or playing cards. After a while of taking photos I started having people come up to me and ask if I would take their photo. I could see the joy in their faces when I would take their photo because someone was paying attention to me. In fact, one woman approached me asking me to take her photo stating, "I just bought this dress. Do you think it's pretty?" That statement made me somewhat sad because, even though I could see the joy in her face, I believed her request to be more about attention than anything else. I could tell she wanted someone to pay attention to her and that's what I did. I took her photo and thanked her for letting me do so. I also let her know how beautiful I thought her dress was. She smiled and walked away. After calling a few rounds of BINGO I handed the mic back to their normal BINGO caller and started taking more photos. One photo, shown below, I took at the end of the BINGO session. I wanted to get all the people I could in frame and just snap a photo. This photo brought a tear to my eye (literally) because all the people here were so happy and grateful someone was there to film them. Everyone there was so happy and it was great to see the three different groups interacting together and enjoying their time at the community center.
After BINGO was finished then everyone ate lunch. I made my way over to the Asian table and started talking with the group there. Fortunately I had an interpreter who was able to tell me everything the people were saying. Most knew English but some of it was broken so Andrew (the group leader) was able to interpret for me to make things easier. The only time I have been yelled at during this entire documentary process came when I asked the table of Asian women a question about the treatment of the elderly. When I asked the table if it would be acceptable for them to put their elderly relatives into a nursing home or assisted-living facility like it is in the United States. After the interpreter asked my question one of the Asian women started speaking very quickly and angrily and pounded her fist on the table while looking at me. I had no idea what she was saying but I am smart enough to realize she was PISSED! Andrew told me that this question is an insult to the Asian culture and something that is just unheard of to them. However, Andrew informed me that this is starting to change in the Asian culture. He said that as more and more western culture trickles into the Asian culture the younger generations are not seeing the importance of taking care of the elderly relatives. It appears as if this problem could be growing because I have always admired the way the Asian (as well as many other cultures) admire, respect and revere their elderly. After talking with them it was time for me to get out of their way and let them do their Tai Chi. I ended up snapping off a few photos while being completely intrigued and mesmerized by their balance and patience while performing this beautiful, ancient art.
On the last blog of the documentary I will share an interesting time Kaleb and I had at the Ms. Florida Senior Pageant. The women competing are gorgeous and wonderfully agile. It's nice to see how some seniors are not letting life pass them by and are as active now as they were in their younger years.
See you then, Seth
NEIGHBORHOOD LUNCH PROGRAM
The following morning we were meeting Lisa and Jan at the west-side office of Seniors First, getting some interviews and video here and then making our way to the Engelwood Community Center where their Neighborhood Lunch Program takes place. As I mentioned before, I want to show different elements of senior hunger in this film and not just people delivering food to seniors. Let's face it, 20 minutes of seeing people delivering food will get old very quickly to the viewer of this movie. And, seniors have so many more needs than just food. One of the most critical elements to anyone's well-being is social interaction. We are all social creatures and having that time to connect with other humans is something we often take for granted but are reminded as to how precious that interaction is when left alone - sometimes for days. Seniors First does an incredible job of not only feeding seniors but working with city and county officials to provide a lunch program at a community or city center. The day we were coming was a special day too in that the community leader (Nilda) was having a post-Easter celebration with dancing, and a DJ and balloons and cake and the most wonderful chicken I have ever tasted. Did I mention that this location serves a large Hispanic community? One thing I have to mention here too (as to not polarize the people reading this blog or who watch this film) is most of the people you see at Engelwood hail from Cuba, or Puerto Rico and are very much here legally. I know the immigration issue is one that can polarize many people but these people are no different than any other red-blooded American who came to this country in search of a better life, pay taxes, worked for many years and are now enjoying life in a better environment than they once had and are close to their families.
We arrived at Engelwood and are immediately greeted by a bus dropping off passengers coming to the celebration. These are regular attendees but today was a little more special considering all the festivities taking place. As you can imagine, most arrived in their best attire ready to dance, socialize, laugh and enjoy some great food. I love that Seniors First makes it easy for their clients to utilize their services and enjoy time socializing with one another and still feeling like they matter and people genuinely care about one another. We started getting video of everyone and thankfully Seniors First took care of getting all the waivers and releases signed by the people attending. Personally, I believe people in attendance were happy to see Kaleb and me and were smiling and waving at his video camera and my still camera. I had no issue taking photos that day. Before lunch was served the DJ fired-up his laptop and began spinning the hits. It was great to see so many people dancing and one man even brought his own maracas. He only stopped playing his maracas whenever it was time to eat. You just had this feeling that he was happy to be there and loved being able to play his maracas with passion and finesse.Time passed and we got some wonderful interviews with many of the people in attendance as well as the community leader, Nilda. But the one interview that stands out to me was when Tony (I forget his last name but he's in the documentary) a politician from the community and former Deputy Sheriff came to visit the celebration. He also agreed to be on camera and talk about how important something like this is for the community. He then started talking about how he got involved and shared a story about his mother who had special needs and relied upon services like the ones Seniors First provides. During that conversation he became choked up and started to cry and I could tell the true emotion and sincerity this man has for seniors. You know, I don't have a lot of love or positive thoughts towards our politicians these days but was reminded how great politicians CAN be when they truly care about being civil servants. I expressed my position and thoughts with Tony and thanked him for reminding me there are still some wonderful caring people working in politics to truly make a difference in this world and their communities. I also have to thank Lisa and Jan from Seniors First who really know how to work with the people in their communities to make a difference in the lives of seniors.
Tomorrow I will share our experience at the L. Claudia Allen Community Center where the African-American community and the Asian community share an great space. Until then, enjoy these pictures from our time at the Engelwood Neighborhood Lunch Program.