I started an outreach program at the community art school where I work (Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art). It was sparked by the vision of our Founder, Jill Funk, modeled by our Curriculum Director, Alayne McNulty, supported by the Board of Directors and funded by the BACF. The outreach is, in part, to seniors citizens who wrestle with memory loss and cognitive decline. It is also to healthy mature adults who live vibrant active lifestyles. It is to these individuals that I am forever grateful for helping me find my place in purpose-driven art.
When I began working with the seniors over a year ago, I thought I was there to help them learn new skills and have fun in the process. Of course, this actually did happen with many of the individuals. It continues to happen today, but many of them have taught me that it's more about the social interaction or community, remembering old skills, and expressing creativity with safe boundaries.
Students with memory care issues need to be reminded that they matter, that beauty is found in the marks that only they can make on a canvas or paper - and that is just what I see them creating. Affirmation is given to each student as they wait and listen for their "work of art" to be appreciated. This gentle reminder that they are unique and special brings life, for a moment, to the faces of those whose memories are fading.
Healthy seniors with vibrant lifestyles find art enrichment to be a worthwhile endeavor. Exploration of art creates a wonderful social setting where individuals can learn new skills with their peers. Students learn about different media, growing in knowledge while fostering friendships as they simultaneously create and socialize.
Below are examples of sketchbooks that I have used to spark the creativity of our precious senior citizens! The repetition of working with residents, both healthy and those with cognitive decline, has helped me get to know individuals' stories, in part. When affirming their art, I "wrap" pieces of their story around the beautiful marks I notice in their unique creation. By validating their creation, I validate them! That is what I consider purpose-driven art.