Thoughts from a Crosswalk Artist

Urban Gateways’ new creative aging initiative, Crosswalk, brought together students as young as 16 and seniors as old as 94 at Montgomery Place, a senior living facility in Hyde Park. For eight weeks this summer, the students and seniors worked with teaching artist Grace Needlman and got to know each other through collaborative art-making that culminated in an August 14 exhibition exploring the theme of Home. Through art and dialogue, participants in this program (the first Urban Gateways program to specifically engage seniors) bridged the generational gap and built new friendships. Below, read one senior artist’s thoughts on the program:


At first because the program called for an “artist” I felt I didn’t belong. I then realized that art is not just being a creative artist expressing oneself in paints. So, I joined up.

The first meeting was kind of a relax, have fun and get to know each other as was the second. The group was made up of mostly elderly whites and young black Americans. We all became very attached to each other as we began to build our ideas of “home” with odd pieces of rummage type stuff. It was amazing what our groups put together (groups were made up of seniors and teenagers mostly) and how we all blended. We began to know our young partners. One who worked on our “home” which we called the world, with a landing spot for aliens, worked the entire time on the entrance. He showed patience and resolve, figured him for an engineer or doctor. Others showed other great talents, leadership, goal orientation, hard workers and great sense of humor.

Our end project was to define “home”. I made many mistakes because I wanted to “talk through my work” about our destruction of the planet Earth by humans, global warming etc.

I decided to show the beauty of the earth and the cosmos and the differences between its people.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this project. I hope it brings to you what you desired it to bring. Thank you for letting me be part of the fun. I learned a few things about myself and you would think that at 82 I should know. Shows we are all learning all the time.

-Marilyn Weigensberg, Resident

Qadash Troutman, recent graduate of University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn campus, discusses a collaborative work he co-created with Montgomery Place residents Marilyn Weigensberg and Alex Elwyn. Photo by Waldemar Reichert.

Teaching Artist Grace Needlman leads residents from Montgomery Place and students from Chicago high schools in a discussion of art. Photo by Waldemar Reichert.

Zana Carter, a student at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and Montgomery Place resident Barbara Greenberg share a warm moment at the Crosswalk exhibition at Montgomery Place, having worked together on an art piece depicting their sense of home. Photo by Susan Degrane.

The Hyde Park Herald wrote about this program; Read more here! >>