Before Senior Action opened its new headquarters near the intersection of East North Street and Howell Road, Executive Director Andrea Smith and her team imagined it as a place where creativity could flourish. The facility, which opened May 3, is spacious and light-filled, with dedicated rooms for fitness activities and gatherings, dance, music and visual arts.
“Our vision is a conservatory for artists age 55 and up, a world-class center that’s accessible to diverse communities,” says Naina Dewan, director of Senior Action’s Fine Arts Center. “So many people have talents but they’ve been too busy working or raising kids to explore them. Now, there’s a place where creativity can be ignited or rediscovered.”
The center’s dance, music and visual arts studios, funded in part by a grant from Greenville Women Giving, are designed to celebrate participants’ life experiences and encourage free expression. The halls are lined with the work of local artists, like Jimmy O’Neal’s large painting inspired by dancer Isadora Duncan. Works by pottery instructor Jim Webber and paintings by Emma Hartman, a faculty member who’s also a professor in the Art Department at Bob Jones University, are also on display.
Senior Action is ready to welcome artists and art lovers so that the building can fulfill its promise. Registration is open until Aug. 23 for the Fine Arts Center’s first 12-week semester, which will begin Sept. 7. Anyone 55 and older is invited to register, with or without a Senior Action membership.
The Fine Arts Center’s inaugural semester features music history, voice, and composition classes as well as instrumental instruction. Dance offerings include modern, ballet, improvisation, choreography, dance history and the Alexander Technique. Visual arts classes are scheduled in pottery, fiber arts, photography, drawing, painting and art history. Faculty members are well-qualified both as artists and instructors; many hold arts degrees and several are current or former high school and university-level teachers.
Single-class introductory workshops began over the summer and will be scheduled throughout the year. In Megan Hannon’s July 14 oil painting workshop, each student’s depiction of the still life arranged at the center of the circle of easels was unique.
Student Hope Ashford, who spent her career as a computer programmer, is now exploring other talents. She’s enjoyed line-dancing classes at Senior Action for years and has already signed up for painting classes in the fall, as has her classmate Ginny Bubek.
“I liked painting with acrylics and watercolor in high school,” Ashford says. “This is a good opportunity and it’s a beautiful facility.”
Hannon, who studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and also teaches several types of dance, says the 12-week semester will allow students more time to experiment with paint and bring past experiences into their art.
“It’s always fun to take an art class. Even if their painting isn’t finished, students often leave satisfied,” she says.
In Stephanie Cureton’s Dance for Every Body workshop, students started out shy but soon found themselves moving confidently to music by James Brown. She’s looking forward to seeing how much they will grow with a full semester.
“The Fine Arts Center is such a gem in Greenville,” says Cureton, who holds a B.A. in dance. “People can try something new, put themselves out there and have fun — that’s the vision.”
Senior Action is open weekdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with extended hours (until 9 p.m.) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some fine arts classes will be offered in the evenings to accommodate those who work during the day. In addition to classes, the center will host art exhibitions, music and dance ensembles and performances.
A free, super-sampler event of 30-minute arts classes will be held from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., Aug. 12.
For more information, visit senioraction.org.