“You should see this! It looks like a sunset!” Abby lightly guides Cartier’s hand on a sheet of mixed media paper. A few at the table smile a little – Cartier is blind, so he can’t see it – but he can sure feel what is happening beneath his hand and in the room around him, alive with music and chatter.
Purple Art is a Boulder, Colorado based creative art program for seniors of all abilities. Abby Sivy and Cindy Parker have been leading an expressive art class at Tru PACE for five years and we look forward every Monday to faces lighting up when we walk into the room to start a painting session.
According to a Journal of Aging Studies study, there are six features of successful aging: a sense of purpose, interactions with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, and health.
The findings indicate that “creative activity contributes to successful aging by fostering a sense of competence, purpose, and growth. Artistic creativity also facilitates successful aging by encouraging the development of problem-solving skills, motivation, and perceptions that translate to practical creativity in the way these individuals manage their everyday lives.”
Purple Art’s magic lies in the unique approach that we bring to each session. There is no right or wrong. No representation. Just the joy of moving color around the page, using a paintbrush, fingers, sponge brushes, whatever feels right. It does not take long for the inhibitions to melt away and the play to take over. Coloring within the lines is not allowed! The goal is to make a mess and have fun.
Artists look forward eagerly to Mondays and some organize their PACE days around the class.
We often bring images from famous artists and paint “in their style” or provide pictures to inspire, or big bunches of wildflowers (“you brought us the mountains!”) Some participants have painted in the past and have renewed the practice with enthusiasm. Others just paint, paint, paint. It’s so heart warming to see the support and encouragement that the participants give each other.
We instituted an “Artist of the Month” day and have installed a gallery of paintings on a long hall. On Artist of the Month day, we all go out into the hallway, walkers, wheelchairs, staff, and see who is the proud Artist! We’ve seen tears of excitement and so many congratulations as we read the statement on the wall about the person who “won” this month.
Our allies are the activity professionals and the care staff. They share in the excitement of the session, help with materials and set up and often sit with a participant who may have mobility or other issues to help guide them.
People of all ages need validation and a sense of belonging. PACE is one of the excellent organizations we work with that recognizes that creative programming is a crucial component of care.
There is beautiful reciprocity in working with a different generation. This connection is deep in our work: we learn tremendous lessons from PACE participants in each session and take a gem with us every time we leave. And we know that we leave gems in the hearts and minds of our artists.
By: Cindy Parker