Monday, June 12, 2017

Cemeteriescape Photography Contest Captures the Beauty of Cemeteries and Attention of Local Residents



by Victoria S. Jessie
Public Information Specialist II
City of Norfolk Recreation, Parks, & Open Spaces

"Angel" by Bill Niven, Elmwood Cemetery


When people think of intricately carved statues and sculptures, massive marble monuments, towering columns and brilliantly colored stained glass, they most likely visualize seeing these items in the long hallways of a museum. To the surprise of many, seeing these treasures doesn’t require membership to a museum or even tickets; these magnificent sights can be found in your local cemetery. Unfortunately, the art that exists so prominently in cemeteries goes largely unnoticed. Since most traffic in cemeteries occurs during burial services, many people never have the opportunity to appreciate – let alone notice – the wide variety of beauty in cemeteries. The Cemeteriescape Photography Contest and Exhibit has changed that reality.

"Kaleidoscope-1" by Jim Heath, Elmwood Cemetery


Sponsored by the non-profit organization Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation (NSCC), Cemeteriescape invites people to visit local cemeteries in Hampton Roads and embark on a creative survey of cemeteries. Void of many technical and stylistic restrictions, the contest rules allow contestants to enjoy a great deal of freedom of expression. Whether using a cell phone or traditional camera, contestants can snap pictures of anything in the cemetery that they deem worthy of recognition.  Now in its fourth year, the contest continues to draw interest from amateur and professional photographers alike. With nearly 100 entries, this year’s judges were tasked with selecting winners for four winning categories; Best in Show, Second Place, Third Place and Board Choice. The recipient of the first place award – Best in Show – earns the highly coveted prize of $1,000.  Although the official contest ends with the judges’ decisions, Cemeteriescape continues with a large exhibit of all contestants’ entries during the reception.

"Christs's Crucifixion" by Russell Morrison, Cedar Grove Cemetery


The impact of Cemeteriescape goes beyond simply highlighting the beauty of local cemeteries. For many contestants, the contest created a fun and quite unusual opportunity for an outing. For Melody Agnew, the real award was quality time with family. Agnew commented, “At first I was sad I didn’t win, but then I realized that I did because I had a great time with my son taking these pictures!” This type of participation is reminiscent of the way cemeteries were once used. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, cemeteries were not only places of burial, they served as gathering places for extracurricular activities. Unlike in more modern times, destinations for fun and past times were scarce. While the thought of dining in a cemetery would most likely draw ire today, it was very common to see scores of people picnicking in large, picturesque cemeteries such as Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery. For this reason, people frequented cemeteries – sometimes considered outdoor museums – for a host of activities including carriage races, leisurely strolls, reading, knitting and even hunting, when the landscape permitted it. Although such activities are certainly characteristic of a bygone era, today cemeteries coast to coast still provide creative opportunities for leisure. Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Santa Monica, California for example, is a popular movie screening event that has at times, attracted up to 4,000 moviegoers. Likewise, Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. has become such a favorite destination for its pet friendly policies that it has a waiting list for its dedicated dog park program.

"Beneath the Snow I Sleep" by Susie Coplon, Elmwood Cemetery


The Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries, a division of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space, wants to see a resurgence of similar non-invasive activities. The division continuously identifies ways to increase public interest in non-burial related activities in Norfolk’s eight municipal cemeteries, which are considered to be open space.   The Bureau of Cemeteries meets this objective by supporting a variety of NSCC’s special events such as Cemeteriescape, volunteer workdays, walking tours, as well as holiday memorial services through its public-private partnership with the non-profit. Though these special events have many exciting elements that attract participation, their foremost purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, education and advocacy for Norfolk’s cemeteries. With six of its eight cemeteries established before 1900, the City of Norfolk is dedicated to preserving both the memories of the people of Norfolk and the rich history of the city. For more information on how you can contribute to preserving Norfolk’s cemeteries, visit www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org.  Information on Norfolk’s historic cemeteries, can be found here http://www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SRG: Talking About Ageism in the Swamp of Public Thinking

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation


“Words once they are printed, have a life of their own” – Carol Burnett



The conversations about aging are changing.  AARP has a campaign called Disrupt Aging which champions personal choice and owning yourself no matter what decade you were born in.  Dr. Ayn Welleford’s #DisruptAgeism hones in on the way negative ways society describes aging, whether in conversation, writing or advertising.  It seemed time to bring the conversation to the senior center where I work.  Engaging with participants about how older Americans can be agents of change regarding the negative perceptions that surround getting older would be a great start.

I enlisted a presenter.  I wrote the description for the discussion and submitted it for publication.  We were going to talk, learn from each other and affirm our changing demographics.  People were living longer and that was a good thing. I was looking forward to being part of a meaningful discussion. Here is a description of the program:

Talking to Your Family About Ageism
Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination.  One look at the cosmetic aisle in any drugstore will confirm that.  How your family perceives you as you progress through life will determine how and where you live as well as other choices.  Take part in this discussion led by (name left out) to help you and help your loved ones.

The write-up produced a reaction I did not expect. An irate call came shortly after the program guide starting arriving in the mail. A citizen read my write-up and came to the conclusion that I was supportive of ageism.  This person called the place where the presenter worked, the Senior Center and gave everyone (including my supervisor) who happened to be on the other end of the phone the “what for”.  The situation was made worse because I was out of town and never got a chance to speak to this individual.  I did get a blow by blow account (from more than one person) of the interaction. It was torturous.  This is crazy, I thought.  I carefully crafted this write-up. But, in the end, my message backfired. What happened?

Well, there were many things I didn’t include in the write up. The Frameworks Institute, a non-profit that looks at how communication relates to how social policies are discussed, developed a tool-kit to talk about aging.  They compare public thinking to a swamp because something can come out of nowhere and attack you unless you learn to anticipate how your message may be perceived.  Yup.

They noted that there are huge differences between what professionals think and what the public thinks.  Without the proper frame, phrases or words can trigger negative responses.  So my first sentence should have defined ageism and offered an immediate solution.  There were so many things I could have done differently.   

This most recent experience has made me think about how those of us who work with the 55 plus population trek through the swamp of public thinking every day.  Our purpose in the recreation field is to create different programs that will engage and encourage regular participation in a demographic that is at risk for social isolation.  The challenge is that we interact with an incredibly diverse population in terms of age difference, education, experiences and cultures.  While I am sure we all agree that you can’t please everyone it’s important to make sure everyone at the very least feels included.

How do you navigate the swamp of public thinking? 

June

Monday, April 24, 2017

SRG: Two Hands for Helping

by Adriana Carr, MPA
Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation


“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands - one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn.


Just about anyone who works with volunteers will agree that they are the reason the program is a success; the work gets done; they are backbone of the organization and so on and so on.  It’s hard to imagine the daily grind without them.   The benefits are reciprocal because volunteering also has a positive impact on the volunteer in a variety of ways.   According to research conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service “older volunteers report lower mortality and depression rates, fewer physical limitations, and higher levels of well-being. (2015)”.

Other researchers found that the benefits of volunteering affect various aspects of a person’s life such as social, physical, emotional health.  For example, older adults who had few opportunities for social interactions in their lives found that volunteering increased their opportunities for friendship and the socializing helped to improve their self-perception. This same study connected social health to improved emotional and physical health.  I would suggest that keeping these ideas in mind may also help us manage our volunteers and volunteer programs better.

Take a look at how your volunteer program affects your volunteers.  They are certainly helping you out.   So think about how you can support your volunteers with a multi-dimensional approach. Go beyond the usual recognition activities and take the 7 dimensions of well-being into consideration to make your volunteer program a holistic one.   Affirming someone’s worth in the community, helping them remain vital and connected is the foundation of most of our work with our clients/participants.  It would be natural to extend that approach to our volunteers.

Some examples of whole person volunteer management from around the Old Dominion include:

In the Norfolk area,  Hope Lomax Jones of Recreation, Parks and Open Spaces Senior Programs tells us that older adults help out as volunteers all the time, especially during large city-wide events like Senior Olympics and Grand Parents Day Events.  Additionally, the volunteers are “either intrigued or feel a sense of empowerment that we value the use of their skills.” This also adds excitement to the event and helps to generate interest.

In Loudoun County, volunteers are a vital component of senior center operations and programs. Cheryl Wheeler of The Senior Center of Leesburg tells me that that volunteers share their time as Advisory board members, front desk and library staff; kitchen assistance, concierges who give tours, hospitality help, class instructors, kitchen servers and delivering meals to homes.  One special group, the Community Ambassadors provides a grassroots effort to enhance safety among the seniors in the community.

Volunteers not only help us do our jobs; they strengthen our connection with our communities.  If you take whole approach to developing your recreational programming, increase its value by implementing whole person management techniques with your volunteers.


Join the conversation by telling us what your volunteer management style is.