Skulls and Coffins and Sun Catchers, Oh My!

Author: Lin of RhodyArt on Etsy

It’s well known that creative activities can help ease boredom for senior citizens and disabled persons. More importantly, working in the arts may help prevent depression and improve hand/eye coordination, cognitive abilities, and concentration.

working-together-lin-craft-oct-001Many people, senior or otherwise, avoid artistic pursuits because they feel they’re not “creative enough.” That’s the case in the craft program I run, where some participants regularly comment that they “flunked” art class in school. Some even believe that one has to attend art school to be creative, and I’m frequently asked if I went to the Rhode Island School of Design (the major art school in my state).

Given the chance, though, the people who attend my program find themselves making something they’re proud of, something they’re happy to display in their homes, or even give as a gift to a loved one.

Art is a vital therapy

As a disabled person myself (cognitive and psychiatric), I know how much doing art has helped me to stay interested in living. Though I have limited formal art training, I’ve been able to carve out a small art business that keeps me inspired and able to deal with my health problems. And it’s for that reason that I agreed a year ago to take over the then dormant crafts program in a government-run apartment complex for low-income elderly and disabled residents. As I’d previously done a similar program at a local studio for those with mental illness, I knew how important it was to resurrect these activities. And, since I lived in this very complex, I wanted to help my neighbors.

Art creates community

Our program has been successful in ways that belie the limited numbers that consistently attend workshops. We have a core group of 7 who are almost always in attendance, but others drift in and out as their lives (or health) permit, or depending on what sports teams are playing on TV. Even with such a small group, there is enough interest building wide in that I’m always being asked when the next class will be held and what we’ll be doing.

Each group presents a new challenge, requiring new solutions

Although I’d had experience running a previous program, this one has had a steeper learning curve.

First, I was mindful that attendees were my neighbors, that I was going to be judged by them, and I was raising expectations in a group of people used to having things go wrong. I knew I couldn’t let them down.

Second, I had to ratchet down my expectations of their interests and abilities. I started out by trying to teach specific skills and have them work on specified projects. Epic fail. My neighbors weren’t interested in what I thought they should be interested in. It took me several tries, but I finally realized that it was perfectly OK for them to do whatever the heck they wanted, and I started just bringing down a lot of possible projects for them to work on, ranging from jewelry to magnets to key chains, to painting

Tune in tomorrow for the second part to see what participants created in their October workshop!

 Article written by Lin of RhodyArt

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