“Golden Girls” Meets Yaddo at a Burbank Senior Art Colony

“Golden Girls” Meets Yaddo at a Burbank Senior Art Colony

posted in: Essays | 20

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. ~Pablo Picasso

After 20 years in healthcare and senior housing, Tim Carpenter hit a wall. Bingo, donuts, and Medicare would be his undoing.

One day, he encountered an old gentleman sitting in the club room alone. Turns out the fellow had been Preston Tucker’s right-hand man.

Francis Ford Coppola fought 20 years to bring Tucker and his doomed automobile to life ( in Tucker: A Man and His Dream written by late bloomer David Seidler).

Tim was astonished. “What are you doing here?”

The man answered, “Well, I’m dyin’ here.”

And Tim thought, “There’s gotta be another way.” He eventually channeled that conversation into founding EngAGE, Inc., a nonprofit that provides “arts, wellness, lifelong learning, community building and intergenerational programs to thousands of seniors living in affordable senior apartment communities” in Southern California.

Tim took the university model for these communities:

We started hiring college-level professors and doing real programming. We put things on a semester basis, and end every semester with culminating events and opportunities to use skills in real-life applications. If you do a painting class, you have an art show. If there’s a poetry class, we have a poetry slam.

The program’s average participant is age 72 with an annual income under $11,000. They struggle to pay for groceries and medication. Without EngAGE, they’d never get a chance discover their inner artist.

"Golden Girls" Meets Yaddo at a Burbank Senior Art Colony at Debra Eve's LaterBloomer.com
A resident of the Burbank Senior Artists Colony

The Nation’s First Senior Artist Colony

In 2005, EngAGE catalyzed the development of the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, located not far from Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Studios. The New York Times describes it as “Golden Girls” meets Yaddo (the legendary arts center in upstate New York).

The Burbank complex includes art and sculpture studios, a digital film editing lab, an outdoor performance space, and a 45-seat theater.

An agent once paid the acting class a visit, looking for commercial talent in this fast-growing demographic. Tim Carpenter says,

“We try to offer a large variety of things. It’s all about reinventing yourself. We have a lot of people who dust off their dreams to try something for the first time.”

No prior artistic experience is necessary, but residents must be 55 or older. Most of the apartments rent for market, which can be pricey in Southern California, but 30 percent are earmarked for low-income seniors. Two more Colonies will open this year.

Who Might You Meet at the Burbank Artists Colony?

Retired dental surgeon Gene Schklair, age 80, now a full-time sculptor. He sells his quirky, life-size figures for as much as $18,000.

Singing cowboy Buck Page, age 84, a regular at the Thursday night jams. Mr. Page performed with Audie Murphy and others in dozens of films, where he was best known for the line, “They went thataway.” (He passed away in 2o06.)

Susan Knode, age 63, who took her first screenwriting class at the Colony. Several residents collaborated to bring her script, “Bandida,” to life. The film did well on the  festival circuit and Susan was featured on Showtime’s “This American Life.” Susan’s prior artistic experience  — single mother to two daughters.

"Golden Girls" Meets Yaddo at a Burbank Senior Art Colony at Debra Eve's LaterBloomer.com
The Clarence Johnston Band in the BSAC courtyard (Johnston, the drummer, is a resident)

Someone once asked Tim about the major obstacle faced by EngAGED. It wasn’t funding or support.

Most of the resistance comes from the seniors themselves. Many don’t feel they are deserving of these classes or of becoming artists.

We are all deserving — and it is never, never too late!

I’m a few years away from being eligible for the Burbank Senior Artists Colony. If if weren’t for my handsome hubby, who’s several years younger, I’d be putting my name on the waiting list tomorrow. What about you?

Here’s Tim Carpenter giving an 11-minute TEDxSoCal talk on “Thriving As We Age.”

Sources

20 Responses

  1. Dave Leggett
    | Reply

    Another great article Baby!

    Thanks for the mention (slightly blushing). I’m very proud of you for overcoming obstacles (as I’m sure a lot of your followers are doing/have done) to follow your passions. I will do whatever I can to help support your passions as you have done for me.

    Love
    Dave
    X X X

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thank you so much, baby. Don’t worry, we’re in this together. We’ll have our own D&D artists colony!

  2. Lindsay
    | Reply

    When I read this, I thought of the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, which for 9 weeks every summer becomes a utopian community. Chautauqua is one of the oddest places on earth. Arts (watching and participating) are part of what it offers. The impulse brought to life in the Burbank community is in everyone; it gets set aside in the everyday world.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I’m familiar with Chautauqua, Lindsay. It’s always been a dream to visit there. It would be a different world if we could always live this way (and seniors were so valued), wouldn’t it?

  3. florence fois
    | Reply

    Debra: You never fail to amaze me, never !! You might be getting “close” to that age, and I might have already gone over the “hump” but this is the kind of inspirational story that only you can bring into cyber space. Thanks always 🙂

    Don’t you love the tag line of Bandita??

    • Debra Eve
      |

      You’re welcome, Florence. Your support means so much to me! We’ve got to collaborate on a project some day.

  4. David Stevens
    | Reply

    What a great story Debra,
    Inspiring. Thankyou so much for sharing this…there’s always something positiove that you can do with your Life.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, David! Truly shows age is just a number, especially when you keep the creative juices flowing.

  5. Emily Woodhouse
    | Reply

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a true source of inspiration. When you think good you also do good. That’s the motto.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      You’re welcome, Emily. Tim is truly an inspired social leader.

  6. Sonya
    | Reply

    What a fantastic post and video. I can just imagine the positive outcomes that living in such an artistic community can bring to seniors. Lowering suicide and depression due to isolation and stagnation would be the immediate effect. I’m 38 now, but I’d love to be part of this community when I’m older.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I agree, Sonya. The concept is completely inspired. I read some of the “testimonials” on the site — people finding a whole new lease on life in their 60s, 70s, 80s. EngAGE is looking expand the program nationally, so maybe by the time you’re ready, there will be one in your community 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Dave Doolin
    | Reply

    We need a few of these in the Bay Area.

    Actually, we need thousands of these everywhere in the world.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      So true, Dave! Tim is expanding throughout California and nationally. I wish my parents would have had something like this — it would have made such a difference in their lives.

  8. khaula mazhar
    | Reply

    This is so good to know. What a great way to retire, it is so scary thinking that after all those years of hard work and sacrifice ( to raise and take care of a family) in the end you just go to a senior housing. To wait. But going to a place like this where you can still ‘live’ and be appreciated and constantly learn. That is wonderful. Great post.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Glad you enjoyed it, Khaula. I’m obviously jazzed to know such a great option started in my town!

  9. Pat O'Dea Rosen
    | Reply

    Love this post, Debra! Thank you for the reminder that there’s no upper age limit on thriving.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Pat! I was so jazzed to find out about EngAGE and their model. I hope it spreads far and wide!

  10. Madeleine Kolb
    | Reply

    Tim Carpenter’s talk on the Burbank Senior Artist’s Colony was eye-opening and inspiring. The audience seem to be taking it in with great interest. It’s terrific to see life-celebrating alternatives to all those depressing “assisted-living facilities” out there.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      So true, Madeleine. I’m so excited this movement has started in my area. Can’t wait to visit!

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