Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) at Pregones

Organization Associated with Program
Pregones Theater
575 Walton Avenue
The Bronx, New York 10451

Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) is a community arts engagement program that places artists in residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The program provides selected artists with access to workspace in senior centers and a stipend, in exchange for the creation and delivery of arts programming for older adults. Participating seniors engage in an art project or a series of cultural programs over the course of the residencies. There is also a public program component: exhibits, open houses, performances, and other cultural interactions open to the surrounding community. SPARC is a collaboration among the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department for the Aging, and the city's five local arts councils. For details on each borough’s SPARC activities, visit the individual council pages: Bronx Council on the Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Queens Council on the Arts, and Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island.

During the 2012 program, 50 artists delivered more than 2,000 contact hours of arts programming to hundreds of older adults at 44 senior centers. Programs ranged from a ukulele orchestra in Brooklyn to Bomba dance in the Bronx; from calligraphy classes in Staten Island to photography in Queens; and from Shakespeare performances in Manhattan to dozens of other programs in visual arts, mixed media, dance, and more across the city. Additionally, hundreds of senior center members, neighborhood residents, local officials, and community leaders visited senior centers to experience SPARC project events, reinvigorating the centers as vital community spaces.

There are three goals of the SPARC program: 

  • Increase the arts and cultural programming available to the city’s older adults and positively impact their quality of life;
  • Increase opportunities for arts residencies and access to workspace for artists in a city where affordable space is limited; and
  • Increase the cultural interactions between senior centers and their local communities, reinvigorating the centers as vital community spaces.
Program History

SPARC was developed as part of Age-Friendly NYC, a citywide effort to make the city more livable for older adults. After a successful pilot in 2009-2010 called Space for Art, the program operated in 2012 with support from a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In October 2012 Department for the Aging (DFTA) Commissioner Barrios-Paoli and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Levin announced that DFTA would provide $200,000 to support the 2013 SPARC program. 

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Program evaluations are conducted by staff of the five local arts councils and the local senior centers. Programs are evaluated multiple times throughout the year by means of interviews, individual assessments, attendance numbers, and press reviews.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Presenting a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in an Ensemble
Arts Discipline: Theater
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education, Housing / Placemaking
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center)
Program Service Area: Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice