Even Remotely, Art Creates Connections
Watercolor postcard by Mary, resident of a CommonBond Community
For nearly five years, I have had the pleasure of being a teaching artist at CommonBond Communities in the Twin Cities area. Click the link above to read about the remote class: Watercolor Postcards.
Even though I have always painted, I spent many years as an administrator in elder care settings, working to improve dignity and quality of life for older people. Following my passion for the arts, I eventually began to teach watercolor classes in these communities, first at the places I worked, and then at other senior settings, including Volunteers of America, Covenant Village of Golden Valley, The Glenn of Hopkins, and Westridge Retirement Community. Now, having hung up my administrator's hat, I get to enjoy painting and teaching exclusively.
Teaching offers me a chance to bring years of experience with older people to the table. Students may have significant disabilities, from dementia to diminished vision – but through encouragement, simple approaches, and a sense of play, every student can find joy in painting and learning.
I think of it as symbiosis. For me, teaching elders allows me to continue my commitment to improving life and "aliveness" as we age, but in richer, more fulfilling ways. Studies show that creative engagement in its various forms promotes health in elderly people – reducing hospitalizations and reliance on medication, as well as decreasing the incidence of depression. My own work as a teaching artist has offered me rewarding personal experiences with individuals who seem to blossom in the context of creativity, color, and new paths to self expression.