Creative Center and my last day!

Today I went to visit the Mount Sinai Roosevelt hospital to meet Robyn Glazer and to see the work they do with artists in the hospital. This is a re-sceduling of our Tuesday meeting because she became suddenly unwell, and unfortunately only one her artists is delivering today. There is so much that Robyn wants to tell me that it is quite hard to take it all in! She says that it is a very hard time for everyone at the moment, and particularly arts and health working with older people and within hospitals. Her work in Mount Sinai is funded because of the support of an Oncologist Gabriel Sara who is the Director of Infusion and as it happens also, Robyn’s consultant. She explains to me that Mount Sinai is a private hospital and is a very warm and friendly place to attend; this is evident from the number of people who greet her on our way up to Haematology and Oncology. She explains to me that there is a crisis in health care here and that private hospitals are dominated by ‘corporates, insurance and pharmaceuticals.’ She explains that people under the public health care system such as Belle Vue are 80% from immigrant backgrounds, and 50% are uninsured or underinsured.  With Obama Care being cut things will get even worse.

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She tells me that they work with 12 artists over 30 sites and that many of the artists work over multiple sites. That she recently got awarded a contract to work in a public hospital for a year through funding from the Beatrice Walters Foundation but that when it came to the signing of the final agreement it hadn’t happened, as  the Health and Hospitals Corporation had had to lay off all of the middle managers due to a 1.8 billion deficit! She also tells me that any government funding they receive pays for the programme and not the overheads, and that public liability has gone up and that she has to pay $350 for each artist per year!

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I get talking to Helen the artist who is working today. I actually see her do very little delivery but I assume that’s because we are visiting. It is very different from our work in that is has to be one to one and seems to be based around making; knitting, necklace making and so on, although I see some painting on the walls too. Helen came to New York fifteen years ago from the U.K. to do a Masters in Fine Art at Hunter College and has stayed ever since. She is involved in a programme funded through the New York Foundation for the Arts to mentor other immigrant artists. They meet three of four times and year.  Helen’s main bread and butter is selling her art to big companies. She specialises in photographic prints. I ask her if she can show me some of her work, and it is very beautiful; city scapes superimposed with a ghost like quality drawn on tracing paper. Even her black and white photos taken on her phone during a residency in Swansea are beautiful!

They talk a bit more about funding and how ‘everyone is suffering at the moment.’ and tell me that Trump wishes to cut the funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and say, ‘The amount represents the same as his yearly budget for his weekends away in Florida.’, which is $3.4 million.

Artists are paid $30 an hour which is less than we pay our artists at Artlink and Helen tells me that her healthcare alone not including dentistry is $350 per month, and that is subsidised.

Later we visit an elderly Brazilian woman on the ward. She shows us pictures of her watercolour paintings on her phone; she is clearly a talented artist. ‘I am ninety years old’, she says. We are all bowled over, as she looks around seventy!

So, this is New York. When I set out on this journey I had no idea what an incredible experience it would be. I have learnt of the dedication of the people working in this field and the extremes of poverty and hardship alongside the contradictions of opulence and excess. More than anything, I have learnt what a real bunch of warm, interesting, and intelligent people the New Yorkens are!

Thank-you once again to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for the opportunity to undertake this Fellowship, and also thank-you to Artlink for helping me along the way. There has been a kind of magic in the way these past ten days have unfolded, and I realise now the WCMT are the keepers of the best kept secret, which is only released through the taking part of the journey.

Watch this space for the next phase!

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MoMA

Yesterday I visited Carrie McgGee who is the Assistant Programme Manager for the Museum of Modern Art. When I arrive I am greeted by her, her mother and her two year old daughter. She explains that her and her husband have just moved to New Jersey and that they don’t have childcare until the end of June, so her mother is staying with her to help until then. We go up to the staff canteen and I am offered de-caff coffee whilst they sort out breakfast for her daughter. I am struck by her warmth and the relaxed atmosphere in this building. Would this be ok at the Tate Modern for example, to bring your two year old and mother into work? I think not. Later Carrie tells me that it is due to her wonderful line manager Debbie Woom and I am intrigued to meet her.

They have a vast education department headed up by Francesca Rosenberg who is the Director of Community, Access, and School Programs, with Debbie Woom as the Deputy Director. She tells me that in all there are 25 staff running this department and a ‘ton of freelancers’. I tell her how impressed I was with Paula’s delivery at the Interpreting MoMA session last Thursday and she looks pleased. She says that here in New York they can get the quality, since there is enough work for people. She also tells me that Paula is a practicing artist and painter.

As we chat it turns our that Carrie is very well connected in Britain and Australia. She knows Artlink’s previous Chair Mary Robson, and also Clive Parkinson and Alice Thwaite who is a previous Fellow. All of these people are very prominent in arts and health in the UK. She tells me that before she had a child she travelled widely, and reminds me of Dadaa in Perth Australia and what amazing work they do there. I know of their work since we had a visit from some exchange artists a few years ago, organised by Mary. But it does make me think about how amazing it would be to visit them at some point!

We start to talk about Artlink’s evaluation process. How we have embedded ethnography into our practice and how profoundly affirming and organisation changing it has been for us. It is wonderful how interested and engaged Carrie is with our work, and she asks me so many pertinent questions. I also give her the ‘Get Started’ book that has just been published and as set of postcards from the project, and she exclaims how beautifully presented they are.

She decides to call down her Research and Evaluation specialist Jackie Armstrong for her to see and discuss the work which Artlink is doing. I am delighted and amazed to to find that Jackie is from an Anthropology and Archeology background, and she has been guiding the department in documenting their data in a very similar way to that in which Anni has trained us over the past three years! It is so exciting and affirming to know that the MoMA, the biggest and most famous art gallery in the World is using similar methodology; Anni will be very pleased!

I ask Carrie about their funding and discover that they are 100% privately funded. She tells me that there are some very wealthy sponsors including Estee Lauder who own the Rockefeller building. She tells me that they are funded by some of the richest people in the country. I ask her if this means that they have control over what takes place in the museum and she says that absolutely not and that it is made clear to them that, ‘You fund, but you do not get a say.’

I am intrigued as to the history behind such a vibrant and thriving education department and she tells me that it was established by Glen Lowry in 1995 and he ran the department for over 20 years. Before that she says that in 1925 MoMA was the first museum to set up an Education Institute and that in 1937- 1970 the Director Victor D’Amico was instrumental in establishing the education programme. He was ground breaking in setting up recreational activities for war veterans in 1944. She says that once D’Imico left there was no educational activities at the museum for a decade.

I ask her who is behind the vision of the department as I know from experience that behind all great work their is a visionary. She says that the department has really improved since the appointment of Wendy Woom ten years ago, and that before that the museum didn’t value education for a period of time.

On our way out I am fortunate enough to be introduced to Wendy and Carrie tells her proudly that I had asked who was the vision behind it. She looks at Carrie and says, ‘It is the staff that make this place work.’, and I smile and say that, that can only work if someone is holding the vision in their mind to channel it forwards. She smiles and says that she is keynote speaker at a conference in Paris in next week! I hesitate momentarily, thinking, ‘Can I get to Paris next week and hear her speak!’

Later I sit in the beautiful MoMA garden after visiting,  Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction. I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do about fulfilling ones potential and speaking proudly about the work we do!

Later in the evening I meet for dinner in Greenwich Village with previous Fellow Miriam Kelly. We were due to meet three years ago, so it has been a long time waiting. Miriam has moved to Brooklyn following her Fellowship in 2014. In fact she got offered a job with an architect’s company three months after her visit and hasn’t looked back. She tells me she prefers New York to London and is happy here. As I wait for her there is a demonstration taking place in Waverly Place and a man sings the most beautiful rendition of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ that I have ever heard!

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After our meal she surprises me with a visit to the Winston Churchill Garden!

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Elders Share the Arts – Meeting the founderI

On Monday I made my way to the offices of Elders Share the Arts in midtown Brooklyn. I was really looking forward to meeting Susan Perlstein who I discover when I arrive,  is the founding member of the organisation which was set up in the 1970’s. Susan has returned to the organisation because they have had problems recruiting a manager since the previous one left over a year ago. She is in her mid seventies and passionate about the work that they do.

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She says that in the seventies there was a global movement of socially responsible work which included the ‘Alliance of Culture and Democracy’. She describes the people she linked up with in Europe and South America as ‘soul sisters and brothers’, and also refers to the work of Augusto Boel who I mentioned in a previous blog who set up the ‘theatre Foro’ or Forum theatre and ‘theatre of the oppressed.  She talks passionately about ‘honouring the history and culture of older people, since they are the keepers of the culture’. For this reason they established the ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ group which is the group of elders I saw perform at the school in Brownsville.

Susan is busy having to set up a Skype session with Julie Kline who is delivering training for artists who have been doing a six week project in an elders centre, so I take the opportunity to talk to Jeanna Sung who is the Managing Director. Jeanna did a masters degree in Health Advocacy at Sara Lorens College and as part of this undertook three placements totalling 300 hours, one of which was her placement with Elders Share the Arts.

After a while Jeanna and I go for a walk to get coffee and snacks so that Susan can eat before the training session. It is interesting to hear a little more about her life and the workings of the organisation, and to taste the most amazing decaf coffee from a little place on Fulton St!

On my return I ask Susan a little more about their funding structure and turnover (‘budget’ as they do not use this term!).  It turns out that it is very similar to our own, but they do not have reserves, unlike us. They have three streams of arts funding including; government funding which consists of national and local funding, as well as funding from the Department of Ageing and then some private funding. Like us, she says that private funding is not easy to come by.

It is great to talk to Susan as there is so much synergy and understanding in terms of our struggles to maintain our work and to keep the funding coming in. She also says that they never know from one year to the next how it will be, and over her fourty years of working for ESTA she says that it has been like an accordion; and this metaphor strikes me as so perfect for the situation that we find ourselves in too! She talks intensely about demonstrating the benefits of our work and she says, ‘We do quality not bums on seats!’, and yet again it strikes such a cord! I tell her of our ethnographic evaluation with Dr Anni Raw and she tells me that they have also enlisted external evaluation over the past ten years with Dr Jean Cohen. When I look at the forms they use however, it takes me back to the way we used to try and report about our work with the real in-depth detail missing, and I think that it would be good to read some of their reports and that I should send ours onto to Julie and Susan.

I find out that the building they are in has over 20 arts organisations in it, and is subsidised by the City Council. It is clearly a hub of exchange of ideas in the arts. Susan also tells me that she was the keynote speaker at last years annual arts and health conference in Australia, and I feel very honoured to have had the time to talk to her about her work. ‘We need a movement,’ she says, and I get the feeling that for Susan there was a hey day in the seventies and eighties, which she mourns for in the current climate of cuts and conservative government.

She talks of the fact that over the past five to ten years they have implemented a system of training for artists and staff and that they usually start off with a six week pilot project and then evaluate the work and train both artists and staff at the end of the programme to look at ways of taking this forwards. I realise that there is so much more I could find out about and there isn’t the time. She tells me that because of her sound track record the New York state Council are currently funding this piece of work.

Towards the end of our meeting Susan apologises for how rushed it has been since she has the training Skype session to do. Jeanna says, ‘But Sylvie could come to our party on Thursday’, and I am honoured to be invited to Susan’s house of an artists gathering on Thursday evening. It is the night before I leave at 4.30am however and far into Brooklyn so I am not sure I will make it!

After the meeting I walk over Brooklyn Bridge and visit the Tenement Museum. It is a fitting end to the day. The design and aesthetic beauty of the bridge is quite breath taking and I chuckle at myself for taking so many photos.

The Tenement Museum is a fitting compliment to the visit to Ellis Island and I attend a talk which focuses on two families during the late 1800’s and then the depression of the 1920’s. It is so moving to hear of the trials of a woman surviving to bring up her three children alone after her husband has deserted her due to lack of work during the depression. Apparently, many men left their families at this time and I ask the question do we know why so many did this? The young woman giving the talk has no answer for this and I think it is an area of history that I would like to know more about.

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The weekend!

Over the weekend I have decided to do as much sightseeing as I can. Judy contacts me and asks me if I would like to have breakfast with her and her husband at Utopia near 72nd st. I have tickets booked for Ellis Island for 1pm but am keen to meet Judy and her husband.

We have a lovely breakfast and I talk to Mariano and Judy about politics here and in the UK. We talk of our pasts and backgrounds and how Mariano would very much like to get a job at a University in NYC because there are financial problems in Puerto Rico. He also tells me how much harder it is for someone of a non-white background to get a job, and that his work would have to be incredible for him to get a break. I feel ashamed and humbled that he is telling me his story, and later Judy asks me if my buddist friend could chant for them to achieve success in their future move! She gladly accepts the task when I message her in the middle of the night at home!

Judy decides to come with me to Ellis Island as I have spare tickets and she has a free day. Mariano works on his research every day even over the holidays and bases himself at the New York library. On the way Judy shows me a sculpture at Battery Park which was damaged during 9/11. It sparks much conversation about the attacks and the impact it had on her and her family. Her mother is still traumatised from viewing it unfold from her Brooklyn apartment. Judy tells me that her husband’s best friend was in the building at the time and that they assumed he has died until he managed to ring them hours later.

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Ellis island is amazing and profound. I am struck by the number of immigrants who came over in the 1800s; 9,000,000 from Europe. All fleeing some kind of persecution, including pogroms and religious alienation. In fact my AirBandB hosts have relatives from all over Europe who came over during this time, including farmers who were baptists from Sweden.

It is an imposing building in which the people are vetted for mental health (I thought perhaps learning disabilities), lice and health conditions. Some are not let through and separated from their families. Outside there is a vast list engraved on metal of all the people who came through the island.

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On Sunday I go and see the play 1984 with Shauna and Roger my hosts. It is amazing going to the theatre in downtown Manhattan; seeing how the New Yorkens spend their weekend. It is a brutal and moving performance particularly by the two lead actors. At the end there is a standing ovation.

Shauna and Roger walk me around Bryant Park and Central station after the performance. I am in awe for the interior of that incredible building which was refurbished thanks to the efforts of Jackie Kennedy. As we walk past Bryant park and the central library there are engraved quotes embedded in the pavement from poets and authors over the centuries.

 

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Elders Share the Arts II

In the afternoon I visit the Stanley Issacs Neighbourhood Day Centre. I walk in and there is a lively friendly feel to the light and open interior. I am taken down to a bright room where Julie Kline and two artists are setting up the space. I am introduced to John who is a clowning and performance artist and another young visual artist.

A group of elderly people enter in dribs and drabs. People are curious as to who I am and John suggests they introduce me properly when everyone is there. He does say however, that I am visiting from England, and one bright eyed woman says, ‘Has the Queen sent you?’ I say, ‘Yes’, and that she says that we should all have afternoon tea together. They hoot with merriment!

Later, I tell them a little about the fellowship and they seem very impressed. I tell them that in fact the Queen is the patron of the WCMT and so they are not so far off from the truth when they ask if the Queen has sent me!

John starts off with a warm up game. One person is in the the centre of the circle and  they say to us; ‘Bapety bap bap bap.’ To which we have to respond ‘Bap’ before they have finished the sentence. My brain is slow as I had little sleep the night before, but these elderly people are on fire! By the time I am in the middle John has also introduced, ‘Hopety, hop hop hop!’. To which we have to a hop before the sentence is finished. It is a wonderful vibrant game full of laughter and warmth.

Afterwards, John discusses the storyboard for their upcoming performance. Not everyone is there for the various scenes and they make remarks and quips about one of the group who is not there.

The scene they focus on is the ‘Burger King scene.’ One lady recounts the true to life story of how her and her friend decide to go to Burger King, in which one has a stick and the other is using a frame. She recounts how they walk slowly, slowly to the counter, all the while being stared at by the young man behind the counter. When they reach the counter, he tells them that they are closed! And to add insult to injury, a young man walks in after them and is served straight way! She has a flash of inspiration and says,’ Do you know who I am? I am the undercover boss!’ And so the story unfolds of them suddenly being treated with the respect they deserve. She says, the story is about discrimination towards older people, and more relevant because it is her own story. I am interested to notice that she does not mention racial discrimination in this instance.

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There is much hilarity and re-enactment of the scene which unfolds. Two elderly men join the group and one plays a guitar. Ed does an impersonation of Winston Churchill for me as he was a someone he impersonated over the many years he has acted and proudly tells me he has an agent.

 

I am interested to see how much Julie is involved with the direction of the drama. At one point I suggest that it would make sense to have the man get served whilst they are at the counter to add dramatic tension. Julie takes this on with gusto re-enacting the scene for the women. ‘But that’s not the way it happened’, says one. But Julie replies that it is better drama that way.

At the end of the session I chat a bit to Ed who tells me that he is involved in a few drama groups across the city and how much he enjoys it, and that before he retired he has no idea how much was going on!

John asks the group to pose for the publicity of the final performance, which will take place at the end of June.

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I ask Julie if she usually directs as much, and she explains that her and John are good friends and that before she was project manager she was a delivery artist for ESTA, and that she doesn’t usually take such an active part.

I also chat to John at the end and he tells me that he delivers drama workshops in many other settings including work with refugees. He also delivers Theatre of the Oppressed workshops, which is interesting to me as Artlink hosted Kelly Bartolli from Brazil last year for a workshop using this technique, as part of Anni Raw’s Potency and Potential project linked to Leeds University. This is a form of theatre that was developed in Latin America as a means of  tackling overriding problems of inequality. Augusto Boal developed the techniques so that ‘the oppressed become the artists.’.

I leave the session feeling inspired and interested and also pleased that I am to meet Susan Perlstein the founding Director of Elders Share the Arts on Monday! I tell Julie about the Winston Churchill Fellowship Trust and she asks if they do it in America? I say we will have to set up an exchange so that she and artists can visit us. I also give her a Winston Churchill commemorative crown. ‘I think I might give that to Ed,’ says she.

When I get back to the AirBandB late it the evening there is a full moon over the Manhattan skyline.

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Elders Share the Arts

Brownsville

On Friday I get up very early for my visit to a school in Brownsville at the far end of Brooklyn. I am a little apprehensive about this visit as back home I was told by a New Yorker expat that it would be a no go area for a white person like me, and that I should definitely not get the subway, and check that the taxi driver will even take me there! (I find myself translating constantly here; cab for taxi, rest room for toilet etc etc!)

My AirBandB hosts are a little more laid back about it and although they have not been there, recommend I get the subway part way and then a cab. On Brooklyn High Street I manage to flag down and cab driver to asks me to put the address into his phone so he can find the way there! The landscape changes around me from opulence to an inner city landscape of poorer housing and petrol stations, from white to black.

I get talking to my cab driver after a while. He has moved over from Morocco and before that was commuting back and forth and paying for his children to go to private school back home. He is clearly very proud of how well his children are now doing in a Public School in New York, since they have been here for two years. I guess this is the America of possibilities; that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything.

I walk into the school which is a vast cavernous victorian style school building. When I go down to the basement auditorium I see a few women at the front and am introduced to Julie Kline who is the programme manager for Elders Share the Arts. I am struck by how sparse and run down the building seems, and when the children start to come in, so beautiful and lively and full of hope; it seems so wrong that the environment they are in does not reflect their own beauty and vitality.

The MC and Hostess is a lively Ms Kitty Joyner and the morning starts with the Pledge of Allegiance spoken by all the children, and the School Pledge spoken clearly and confidently by the a young girl who can be no more than eight years old.

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An elderly lady tells us a story of her younger days and how she lived with her Aunt and Uncle in North Carolina and how much she wanted to go to an all white school, but for a long time was not allowed to by the Aunt and Uncle. She talks of her first job in 1959 and how they would get food during their lunch hour at the local Woolworths, but were not allowed to sit at the counter because it was ‘whites only’. There are archive images of protests which took place, and a cause which was finally won in 1960. She says ‘Every movement needs a leader,’ and a girl re-enacts the account,  leading protesters with placards. I learn that in Greensboro, North Carolina, hundreds of students, civil rights organizations, churches, and members of the community joined in a six-month-long protest. Their commitment ultimately led to the desegregation of the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter on July 25, 1960.

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She says that this  sort of behaviour doesn’t happen any more…, much of the time.

I am introduced by Julie to Judy Rivera who is one of their committed volunteers. Julie and I immediately click and talk intensely about politics and life. I chat to the two elderly women as we walk up the stairs and they tell me that what they do is spread the word about real life stories. One of them tells me that her family have always been storytellers and that she re-enacted Harriet Tubman regularly.

Harriet was born into slavery in 1819 or 1822, in Dorchester County, Maryland. Harriet Tubman freed herself in 1851 using the system known as the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by enslaved Africans to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.

I am struck by their strength and dignity.

Afterwards, Julie drives Judy and I to a day centre nearby where the performance will be show again next week. Julie and I talk intensely about our work, our funding, and how many projects we deliver a year. We touch on evaluation and I tell her about our ethnographic methods of detailed observation and she is really interested and says that she always struggles with evaluation. I realise there is too little time to find out everything I want to know, and am glad that I am meeting her Director Susan Perlstein on Monday to find out about it all.

I grab a photo opportunity with them outside in the blazing sunlight. Julie then drops us off in downtown (look at me using the lingo! I keep thinking of American songs ; Billy Joel’s; ‘I’m gonna try for an uptown girl / She’s been living in her white bread world / As long as anyone with hot blood can / And now she’s looking for a downtown man… ). She takes me to eat the most amazing pizza I have ever tasted!! – I know I have been saying this a lot about everything but it is all so true!

Judy also gives me a quick tour of the area; a typical Brownstone building, and a gigantic art deco building that she went to as a child to have her braces checked. She tells me a little about her life, and that she grew up in the area to Puerto Rican parents working in a factory which made cardboard boxes, and clothes. How the area has become gentrified over the years. How she wants to come back and live here again to be closer to her elderly mother and to receive health care, as Puerto Rico is now bankrupt and life there is very uncertain for her an her academic husband. She has volunteered for ESTA for many years and now comes back during her husband’s Summer breaks.

I say goodbye to Judy and we talk of maybe having breakfast in the Upper Westside over the weekend. Get the Q train which goes over Brooklyn Bridge to spectacular views!

Central Park and MoMA

On Thursday I walked across Central Park from where I am staying on my way to visit an Interpreting MoMA session. The park is teeming with people enjoying the beautiful weather; lots of children with parents and carers. I notice that an awful lot of the young children seem to be in the care of nannies of various cultural backgrounds.

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On my way I visit the Neue gallery which holds the famous ‘Woman in Gold’ painting by Gustav Klimt. It is amazing to behold. In fact I don’t think I have ever seen such an incredible painting. Perhaps more poignant because of it’s history and the battle to return it to it’s rightful owner Maria Altman,  who was the niece of the father of the woman in the painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer, since it was stolen by  the Nazis during the second World War. There is something so real and at the same time other worldly about this painting with it’s gold colouring and dense adornment of shapes and swirls.

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I move onto to my session at the MoMA and I meet various members of staff and volunteers, including Lara who is the programme manager and Paula who is a freelance deliver for the MoMA. People arrive to the session in dribs and drabs. They greet each other warmly and hold hands almost intimately with one of the older men who is hard of hearing as well as being visually impaired. Young and old they join together, looking delighted to see each other again. I find out later that they meet every two months and I can see that they relish the session. I count twenty-two at one point and many are regulars.

We start with an array of cheeses, wines and crackers. Everyone sits and chats and eats, until we are taken up to the second floor gallery where there is an exhibition of ‘Rauschenberg Among Friends’. Sadly Lara tells me I cannot take photos, which is such a shame as I see people using cameras during the session later. Paula takes us to the first display,  which is an image of two indistinct bodies superimposed onto photo sensitive paper. The group are fascinated and ask many questions about the technique used and why it is blue; with ribald laughter at the end because they realise that the artist posed naked for the works.

The three presenting work do it in a team of three; Paula presents the background and history of the work and the artist in great detail, another lady Debbie stands on a platform and uses sign language to depict what Paula has said, and another woman re-interprets in spoken word the questions that people ask. I am absolutely amazed by the slick co-ordination and teamwork of these three women. How effortlessly they seem to manage this incredibly complex situation, how kind and patient they are. At one point they are all asking questions at the same time, because they cannot hear each other! Someone says, ‘One question at a time!’ and they ask Paula to point to each person.

Paula takes us to another picture which is titled ‘bed’. Paula tells us that he has used his own pillow and quilt in the painting and apparently it is the start of a movement of using found objects as art. One woman notices the variety of brush strokes on the piece and mentions Jackson Pollock, which we are all very impressed by! She also alludes to the intimacy of the piece as if it has the textures of bodily fluids within it!

I am stunned by the groups’ attention to detail their knowledge of art as if they are critiques themselves. I spend quite a bit of time ‘talking’ Susan who  wants to see the ‘Woman in Gold’ and takes down details of the museum from Paula’s phone.

I am the outsider in this group of hearing impaired people. At the end one of the guys signs to me; ‘Are you a hearing person?’ I smile sheepishly and nod. ‘Ah’, he says, ‘You coming next time?’ ‘No I am visiting from England’ I say.

I felt honoured to be part of something so special and it makes me want to learn sign language when I get home!

In the background of all of this is the mounting tension of the elections! I go back to my apartment tense and apprehensive about the result and sleep fitfully, constantly checking my phone for the latest update!