What I Learned as an Intern During a Time of Pandemic

This painting was painted by and gifted to me by my grandma. This past summer it served as a constant reminder to me of how art allows us to express ourselves and why Arts for the Aging’s work is so important.

What I Learned as an Intern During a Time of Pandemic

By Mira Dwyer

Back in early March, I sat in my college dorm room interviewing with Arts for the Aging about a potential opportunity to intern during summer 2020. As we chatted, I sat looking at the painting from my grandma that was hanging in my room and knew it was an opportunity I wanted to pursue. Throughout my life, art has been something that has drawn me closer to other people, whether it be through photography, music, or jewelry making. I also have a professional interest in marketing and communications, so the alignment of an arts-focused organization that needed help with communications and social media was an exciting opportunity. When I first realized my internship was going to be virtual, I was a bit bummed. I wasn’t going to see my coworkers in person, I wouldn’t be able to attend live programs, and I’d be doing work out of my childhood bedroom. Little did I know all these factors that seemed like disappointments ultimately enhanced my ability to communicate the importance of Arts for the Aging.

About halfway through my internship, while I was creating social media content and website updates , I attended one of Arts for the Aging’s new pandemic-resilient online workshops, with teaching artist Wall Matthews. As he sang using Zoom to older adult participants, many of whom were in extreme isolation due to the pandemic, he began substituting their names into the chorus of the song to make the program more personable. I watched as one senior, who had been quiet for most of the program, light up as Wall Matthews sang her name. I realized that if I had been feeling isolated in quarantine, with my family and two joyful dogs, then to seniors at high risk and often with less access to socialization, moments like these made all the difference in their days.

Stories like these are compelling in understanding and imagining the power of creative aging—especially when safe social interaction with seniors is simultaneously so difficult, yet so necessary.

In addition to attending online workshops, Zoom also gave me the ability to meet more of Arts for the Aging’s teaching artists, as they would sometimes pop into our weekly online team meetings. When teaching artist Nancy Havlik introduced herself and talked about Arts for the Aging’s older adult dance company, Quicksilver, her passion in describing how she helps seniors find their own voice through improvisation I felt so strongly, even through a computer monitor.

I wanted this passion to translate to social media. I began publishing regular “teaching

artist spotlights” to share the faculty’s enthusiasm and to recognize their hard work. I hope

that these posts create a sense of community and camaraderie among the teaching artists, while urging others to support Arts for the Aging’s inspiring work in the coming months.

Working with Arts for the Aging in such complicated and uncertain circumstances, I watched and learned from a strong and resourceful team of women that made me feel welcome. Completely reorganizing a nonprofit that is centered around in-person programming with a high-risk population during a pandemic is no easy task, and I was impressed daily by the team’s swift ability to adapt. From them I have learned skills that I will continue to hone in my future endeavors.

While this summer did not pan out how I imagined back when I first interviewed in early March, it taught me invaluable lessons. Although I was taking Zoom calls in my childhood bedroom, during those times, I was looking at my grandma’s painting that I had taken home from my dorm. It was the perfect reminder of what Arts for the Aging represents.

Black Lives Matter

Raise Your Voice Against Ageism, mixed media, 2019, by seniors at JCA Kensington Club at Parklawn


The brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Emmett Till, George Stinney, countless black lives in our communities, are rocking the country to its core. Laid bare by not one but two pandemics -- racism and covid-19 -- systemic disparities continue to deny the freedom, safety, and lives of black communities and communities of color.

In this country and the world over there is a reckoning. One that demands action.

Arts for the Aging is standing with black lives and those who seek justice against racial violence and police brutality.

Saying it isn't enough. We will take action.

Our multi-cultural programs and therapeutic community impact are core to our mission. We are committed to transforming the makeup of our board and leadership so that we better represent our communities and nation. With that horizon, we eagerly dive into change.

In our next steps:

  • We are starting a race-equity learning series for our entire organization;
  • We will intentionally partner with more black-owned businesses and like-minded organizations to carry out our mission;
  • We will share our stories of where we have failed, and how we are righting it using our e-news and social media platforms to hold ourselves accountable.

Self-expression is central to Arts for the Aging's mission. So is our multi-disciplinary arts curricula and multi-cultural programming. We stand as a beacon for healing through the arts, focusing our reach on vulnerable and underserved citizens and communities.

We believe that black lives matter and that our very own humanity depends on it.