Our Story

Elders Share the Arts (ESTA) is an award winning community arts organization that offers high-caliber arts programming that ignites creative expression, cultivates elders' role as bearers of history and culture, and generates new pathways to connect them to their communities. ESTA's residencies are a springboard for developing and researching replicable programs, and through our training we provide opportunities for organizations to help serve this growing population.

ESTA's programs address needs arising from the rapid aging of New York City's population. In less than 10 years, older adults will outnumber youth. Many are looking for meaningful, creative ways to engage with their community. Our city needs a major paradigm shift in the types of services delivered to communities, and ESTA's programs, which serves isolated, low-income older adults in areas that are art deserts, has been recognized as a model program fulfilling this mandate. Interested in getting involved? Contact us! 

Susan Perlstein, Founder

Susan Perlstein, Founder

Starting in 1979 by Susan Perlstein with a single living history theater workshop at the Hodson Senior Center (the nation's first senior center located in the heart of the South Bronx), ESTA soon grew to work in five other senior centers in the Bronx, and from there it became a citywide program. The performing groups that emerged, all working with material drawn from their own lives, laid the basis for the formation of the Pearls of Wisdom, an acclaimed ensemble of elder storytellers that continue to tour New York City to this day. Soon after, ESTA began to explore the use of other art forms such as writing, dance, and the visual arts so that living history theater quickly became living history arts.

Our Methodology 

Living History is the main methodology through which ESTA conducts all its programs. Our methodology is grounded in the belief that art provides a significant opportunity for social engagement. Much like physical exercise, some of the benefits of long term participation in arts activities include increased brain function and general well-being. Studies show that when older individuals have a sense of control or mastery in what they are doing, and are exposed to situations that enhance meaningful social engagement with others, they experience positive health outcomes. ESTA's art programs promote creative risk-taking and the building of social skills, which include participation and interpersonal interaction. As the programs are attended by the elders week after week, the positive effects on the individuals' mental and physical state are multiplied.

Our Values

ESTA values work that sheds light on stories that might otherwise go untold.

ESTA advocates for equal arts access on behalf of older adults and the artists who challenge traditional notions about how people experience aging.

ESTA strives to foster the idea of healthy aging by focusing on the potential of the individual through creative expression.

ESTA supports the creation and presentation of the elders' art and the opportunity they have for strengthening community relationships.

ESTA acknowledges elders as artists and respects them as creative individuals.

ESTA works to bridge communication and build relationships between young and old through innovative arts programs that offer students a positive perspective of the elderly.