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Serviam Superstars

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

This piece by F. Thorburn follows the development of Flowers of my Neighborhood, a new crochet mural created by Serviam Seniors in collaboration with Concourse House mothers. Throughout the summer, F. Thorburn, along with Isabelle Gutierrez, led a series of interviews with senior participants to learn of the stories that inspired the project.

Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

According to the seniors at Serviam Gardens, art allows us to comfort our hearts and to freshen our minds. Friendships and a sense of community have grown within the art program hosted at Serviam. Together, residents have made crafts for each other, as well as for the world to see. Through the Serviam art program, senior residents have designed bags, taken photography, made crochet murals, and more. Residents at Serviam Gardens have collaborated to make public artworks, Flores de Otono, a crochet mural; and Look at this, I’m Healing, billboard photography. They collaborated to create another crochet mural, Flowers of my Neighborhood, which was installed on the fence of Serviam Gardens in September 2021. This project consists of crochet flowers which represent the residents’ ancestral countries. Below, senior residents have reflected on their past projects and related experiences, as well as their current work with Flowers of my Neighborhood.


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Minerva practiced crochet when she was a little girl in Santo Domingo. Through the art program, she was reminded of the joy it brought her and so she decided to learn to crochet again. In her own time, she watches Youtube crochet tutorials and she writes down every step. She enjoys the work of learning the art over again, and she plans to take on new kinds of stitches to remain challenged. She crocheted an orchid which will be displayed in Flowers of my Neighborhood.


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Lilian made many of the chrysanthemums in Flores de Otoño. Her favorite colors to work with include warm yellows and reds, like the colors of autumn flowers. She is currently crocheting a deep red Puerto Rican hibiscus, which is Puerto Rico’s national flower.

Lilian’s favorite art is photography. In Look at this, I’m Healing, She and her friends can be seen together in formal portraits and fun “selfies.” She loves to photograph nature, from small leaves to wide landscapes. Over a photo of a green shrub, she placed a large, yellow text stating, “La Belleza de Naturaliza,” which means “the beauty of nature.”


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Dorothy prefers to crochet, draw, and paint. She has made very large blankets, but she has yet to learn how to make socks. The difficulty starts when she gets to the shaft of the sock, which requires a change in crocheting technique. She is determined to learn how to make socks so that she can give them to her loved ones. Dorothy likes to make art because it keeps her hands busy and it exercises her mind. She argues, “If your brain goes to sleep, you’re in trouble!”


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Charles makes everything and anything. He makes hats using the looming technique, he makes jewelry with beads, he weaves key chains, and he loves photography. He has been drawn toward arts and crafts ever since he was a child. In high school, he wanted to take classes to learn sewing, but it was only preserved for women at the time. He took it upon himself to learn how to make accessories by watching Youtube videos. His jewelry is often inspired by what actors wear in African movies. He loves working with his hands, and he makes his creations very neatly and thoughtfully. He shares his works with his family as holiday gifts.


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

One day, Carmen was walking outside of Serviam, and she saw a group of people admiring the crochet mural outside. She walked up to them and listened to them marvel before saying, “I made that!” The admirers were surprised to see the artist before them. She felt very proud to see passersby admire her work and congratulate her.

Most of Carmen’s peers have had previous experience in crochet, but she hasn’t. She was nervous to make crochet flowers at first, but she had support and encouragement from her friends. Now she has made several crochet flowers for the murals at Serviam.


Photo credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Gloria recalls when the pandemic first began. The art program went on, but by delivering supplies directly to the seniors’ doors. She remembered every project, from cutting and sewing fabric to make purses, to painting, photography and crocheting Flores de Otono. “We were so proud last year when they took pictures of us and put them outside . . . It was so exciting. We became superstars!” Nearly a year later, people still posed by the Flores de Otono mural and took pictures, which Gloria interprets, “It not only helps us, but it helps the community.” Gloria emphasizes that her community wasn’t going to feel sorry for itself; they made sure to do what they love and “get a kick out of it.”

The seniors made their own flowers which reflected their heritage, and then they stitched them all together to create one garden mural. What a beautiful representation of their neighborhood! Their reflections teach us the importance of creative collaboration. Share your creations to strengthen relationships, to set an example, to bring people together, and to congratulate yourself. Most importantly, keep each other strong and happy.

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