The Wellness Movement That’s Empowering Older Adults to Become Artists


Courtesy of Newark Museum Collage Program, New Jersey, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative.
Courtesy of Newark Museum Collage Program, New Jersey, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative.

On a recent Thursday evening in Brooklyn, a handful of older adults clustered around artist Ebenezer Singh in the basement of Williamsburg’s Leonard Library. They watched intently as he deposited several dollops of paint onto a palette, picking up his brush to mix Indian yellow and sepia with a few droplets of water. “See how much water I’m using?” he asked, his small audience nodding affirmatively.

Singh dabbed the resulting golden-yellow wash onto the paper as a base layer, leaving strategic swatches unpainted to mark a tree and the bank of a pond. “Let the paint and the paper breathe,” he counseled. Soon, he deemed his class ready to select their own landscapes to paint from a stack of glossy printouts.

In summary, it was a typical amateur watercolor course. But it’s also part of a quiet revolution helping to redefine how we grow old.

Singh’s class at the Brooklyn library falls under the umbrella of “creative aging,” defined by executive director of the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), Jennie Smith-Peers, as “any opportunity for an older adult to be engaged in a meaningful opportunity to express themselves through art.” It isn’t limited to the visual arts; creative aging encompasses theater, dance, music, poetry, and more.

Courtesy of Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S.  Initiative. Courtesy of Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S.  Initiative.

 

The key element is that the classes teach a skill, rather than simply asking someone to construct a pre-made kit; they push for mastery instead of busywork. Sonia Lopes, one of Singh’s students at Leonard Library, echoed this sentiment. “He teaches like an artist, not like it’s arts and crafts,” the 56-year-old told me.

As recently as 20 years ago, this would have been considered a novel approach. “Historically, both science and culture in Western societies have focused exclusively on the negative sides of aging and ignored the positive,” wrote Gene D. Cohen, a pioneering geriatric psychiatrist, in the introduction to his 2005 book The Mature Mind. The prevailing belief was that getting older meant a decline in brain function and an inability to learn new things.

Cohen, however, challenged these assumptions with a series of groundbreaking experiments. In 2001, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to study 150 adults in Washington, D.C., aged 65 or over. The “arts group” met weekly for much of the year, participating in something akin to a college arts course that incorporated at-home practice and a final project; the control group did not take part in such a program.

After two years, the arts group reported better health, made fewer visits to the doctor, used fewer medications, felt less lonely and depressed, had higher morale, and were more socially active. Experiments conducted in Brooklyn and San Francisco showed similar results.

 

Courtesy of Space One Eleven Drawing Program, Birmingham, AL, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative. Courtesy of Space One Eleven Drawing Program, Birmingham, AL, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative.

These findings, published in 2006, laid the groundwork for the nascent field. Soon after, Maura O’Malley, a caregiver with a background in arts education, was asked to join a committee considering how creative aging might be implemented in New York’s Westchester County. While there, O’Malley reconnected with a previous acquaintance, Ed Friedman, then-deputy director of the Bronx Council on the Arts. Together, they identified a major issue: “There was essentially no infrastructure for developing and delivering arts programming for older adults,” explained O’Malley. It was difficult to find trained teaching artists, and even existing programs displayed ageism by assuming “that older adults are not creative or learners,” she noted.

So the pair founded Lifetime Arts in 2008, with O’Malley serving as CEO and Friedman as executive director. Today, they provide practical training and support that has allowed a wide range of community organizations to build up their own independent creative aging programs. But in their early years, they worked primarily with libraries, piggybacking off a system that already offered free resources to local communities. Most library programming for older adults at that time focused on topics like navigating credit cards or understanding Medicaid, said O’Malley—“all very important end-of-life issues,” she acknowledged. “But there was very little, if any, programming around learning or creativity or engagement, aside from the sort of one-shot deal, passive entertainment. You know, your macaroni-on-cardboard kind of stuff.”

Lifetime Arts also began to train teaching artists to work specifically with older adults. “The majority of teaching artists across the country are working in the K-12 arena, and have been for the past 40 years,” O’Malley said. (Singh, a longtime teaching artist, said he works primarily with children through Agnes Gund’s Studio in a School program.)

In fact, O’Malley points to children’s programming in libraries as a prototype for the creative aging movement. “Thirty to forty years ago, librarians weren’t particularly interested in having kids running around libraries,” she said. “And now, every library in the United States has storytime many times a week, and there is an enormous amount of professional development and program funding and advocacy around early literacy and public libraries.”

The Brooklyn Public Library’s creative aging program—of which Singh’s watercolor class was part—came about through a collaboration with Lifetime Arts that began in 2011. The program is now independently funded, making it “a kind of a model exemplar of the work that we want people to be able to do,” said O’Malley.

 

 Courtesy of Grafton County Senior Citizens Council Multimedia Program, New Hampshire, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative.

Courtesy of Grafton County Senior Citizens Council Multimedia Program, New Hampshire, and Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts U.S. Initiative.

The NCCA also offers training and resources for those institutions ready to embrace the benefits of creative aging. “We’re seeing it become more and more a part of the culture of community centers, of long-term care facilities,” Smith-Peers, the executive director, said. “It’s no longer an afterthought. The arts are what make these places for older adults a more interesting, meaningful place to engage in and to live in.”

A program called EngAGE is perhaps one of the most high-profile examples. Tim Carpenter, EngAGE’s founder and CEO, collaborated with Meta Housing to build several “artist colonies” across Southern California. These affordable apartment complexes feature a robust slate of art courses for residents, as well as dedicated studio and theater facilities.

Creative aging programs, O’Malley noted, can be roughly divided between those that focus on “lifelong learning” and those dedicated to therapeutic work. (Lifetime Arts focuses solely on learning.) Therapeutic work includes programs for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Museums are often involved in this work—Meet Me at MoMA, for example, has invited caregivers and dementia patients to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for tours, and has led to measurable benefits for participants.

Although the field of creative aging has undoubtedly grown since the early 2000s, both Smith-Peers and O’Malley noted that it’s still quite small. To keep up with the rapidly aging generation of baby boomers—between 2005 and 2030, the number of adults aged 65 and older will practically double, jumping from 37 million to 72 million—they will need more hands on deck.

 

Two creative aging program participants at a watercolor class held at a the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. Photo © Herb Scher. Courtesy of Lifetime Arts, Inc.

 Two creative aging program participants at a watercolor class held at a the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. Photo © Herb Scher. Courtesy of Lifetime Arts, Inc.

While there have been additional studies since Cohen’s original experiment, a 2013 report from the NEA identified problems with the academic literature. Samples are often “too small, nonrandom, and poorly defined,” there’s often no adequate control group, and it can be difficult to replicate the experiments.

“When you look at other fields, like expressive arts therapy, they’ve done a really good job at building a critical mass around their work and why it’s important and what it affects. I think we still have a little ways to go before we get to that space,” said Smith-Peers. “We need more research in the community wellness space and the public health space. How does our work affect the social determinants of health?”

But she’s certainly seen the benefits of these programs first-hand. During one of her first jobs in creative aging, with the Brooklyn-based program Elders Share the Arts, Smith-Peers recalls participants saying, “I can’t take that class, I have nothing to offer.”

“I would encourage them to try it once,” she said. “And then I would watch them come back the next week, and by the end, they stuck it out 12 weeks and had a portfolio of art and called themselves an artist.”

“I don’t think that that’s a singular event,” she continued. “So much of our world tells older people they can’t. And it’s not just in the arts. I think there’s so much ageism and isolation that when you walk into a space that says, ‘Yes, you can—and we’re going to show you how,’ it’s a breath of fresh air.”

By Abigail Cain

Artsy

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Kirsteinfineart Introduces Jewelry


Along with Abstract paintings, and related products, Kirsteinfineart introduces accompanying jewelry to complement each KIRSTEINFINEART Collection.  Collections include the “I Love Teachers,” “Justice Series,” “Circus Buddies,” “Wild and Wicked,” and Summertime’s special “Surf’s Up Collection.”

Today and throughout the week, Kirsteinfineart is running a special 20% discount for those who arrive with the code:

 https://kirsteinfineart.myshopify.com/discount/CA3G2SCPWHPK

 

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Click thumbnails to enlarge.

 

 

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The painting both at the very top of the page and also shown here, is from my Underground Cave Series, made with mixed media on stretched canvas, 4′ x 8.’ I am still working on this piece. One of my friends said: “Don’t light a fire around this!”

 

Jan Kirstein

 

 

 

 

 

How to Hang Your Wall Images


Thinking you might like to spice up your walls with a dash of creative spirit in the form of uplifting art, but finding all the choices for frames, mats, and hanging so baffling? Here are some helpful tips for hanging fine art in your home. Check out these suggestions, and maybe this will help clear the confusion!

 

Just click this photo to see this helpful Houzz article on tips for hanging art.

 

 

 

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To see how to select framing options, choose mats or to purchase click here.

 

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To see how to select framing options,choose mats or to purchase click here.

 

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To see how to select framing options,choose mats or to purchase click here.

 

 

To see more images like these,  click here to look around Fine Art America to see more of my works, by Jan Kirstein, or look over the whole website to see many other artists’ works as well! Enjoy your visit.

Hildy Maze Makes Mind Moves


Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery is very pleased to announce that Hildy Maze has been selected as one of the four artists of the gallery’s recent eighth “Solo Art Series” Art Competition.

 

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Hildy will now have a month-long solo art exhibition and she will be featured on the gallery’s front page, in the Gallery’s YouTube Channel, as well as in the “Solo Art Series” archive. See links below to access.

 

Artist Biography:

Hildy Maze is an American artist with Turkish, Russian, Austrian heritage. Born in Brooklyn, NY she received a BFA from Pratt Institute. For years, Hildy lived and worked in her loft in Tribeca, NYC before moving to East Hampton, NY where she currently works and lives.

Hildy is best known for her abstract contemplative oil on paper drawing, painting collages. In her messy paradise, which is her studio, Hildy explores mind and identity. Though her process of collage and the handling of materials she intimately describes how our active mind creates collages of thoughts and patterns, as in a dream. If we examine our thoughts, we can see they are fragmented pieces, empty of solidity. “None of us can avoid thoughts” she says, “but through awareness of our pitfalls, beauty, strengths, and weaknesses we can open windows into the mind”. The core of her contemplative art practice is to visually embody the blind spots as a result of our thoughts.

She is interested in the study of how the mind works as a means of gaining insight into how we communicate, how we create identity through form, emotions, and consciousness, and how we hide in that creation. She explains that essentially this work is about all of us and the empty, clear and unconditional nature of the mind we all have. When we know the nature of our mind we will know the nature of our world.

Hildy’s work is influenced by her long-time study and practice of Tibetan Buddhist meditation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Her studio floor is covered with a vast tapestry of painted paper—ripped, aged, and often walked on for days or months. This, she says allows the process and rhythm of art-making to come more alive with spontaneity and unpredictability. Her work has a rugged, earthy, hands-on, living quality. The treatment of the paper lends to it an inherent living quality. Depending on the passing of time and light, it takes on various characteristics and a quality of accelerated impermanence as the paper ages and becomes fragile, not unlike those things we search for and cherish in an attic or basement, or even at an archeological site, or when retrieving a lost memory. An otherwise ordinary, insignificant quality becomes special. A fingerprint, wrinkle, rip, drip, or tear becomes texture and language. These abstract contemplative works were developed with the view that art has the capacity to infuse our experience with awareness of our inherent nature, and, along with their carefully chosen titles, invite viewers to move beyond the boundaries of the image into a more contemplative consideration of mind in relationship to the phenomena of what we consider objective reality.

An additional activity that informs Hildy’s work is her familiar, family-like relationship with a colony of Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls she’s been feeding hard-boiled eggs to for 20 years at Maidstone Beach Bay. She says, “We know each other well, perching on my head and shoulders, surrounding me as if protecting the bounty they know I have for them. This ritual is filled with a sense of an intimacy with wildness. I’ve learned who is mated to who, each gull’s idiosyncrasies, who their chicks are, when they arrive at the bay in August, how they physically change from white to speckled depending on the mating cycle and season’s light and so much more”. Eventually, she would like to develop an installation called “lover of the open sky” based on this relationship with the gulls.

Hildy has exhibited her work throughout the U.S. including NYC, Long Island City, Brooklyn, California, and Beijing, China. She has won numerous awards and is in several private collections in the U.S, Europe and Asia.

Hildy lives in East Hampton, NY continuing with her study and practice of meditation, making art, and feeding the gulls whenever the weather allows.

 

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Artist Statement:

Years ago, a friend sent me the Prajnaparamita, known as the Heart Sutra based on realizing the non-conceptual simplicity of reality, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. Having a heightened interest about how mind works and how mind is, reading the Heart Sutra changed my life on the spot! Within a week I was practicing and studying Tibetan Buddhist meditation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master and artist. I received ‘pointing out instructions’ from him which brings the investigation and recognition of mind’s flawless nature into personal experience cutting through conceptual obscurations that are our endless, dualistic thoughts and emotions.

My abstract contemplative work is completely informed by these realizations. My path of making visual images became the inner structure of mind and how its’ patterns of confusion obscure our recognition of this vast space of ceaseless energy. For ten years I studied and practiced meditation with Trungpa Rinpoche until his death in1987. Since that time my work has gone through a process of increased familiarity with how mind works and how to present that familiarity thru visual images.

The development of each piece is experiential using collaged drawing and painting on paper with disparate techniques and specific titles discussing how mind, when active, creates collages of emotional thought patterns, like in a dream. The images are intended to be intimate, yet not isolated since the activity of mind is the same for everyone yet personal because each of us is affected by our thoughts and emotions differently. The work is unrefined with an immediate, handmade, unprepared quality, working with the ordinary characteristics of the paper meaning rips, wrinkles, aging, fragile-ness and light sensitivity. A sense of impermanence representing our life progression.

My process is filled with discovery and surprise, playing an edge within myself with deliberateness and imperfection without conceptualization, trusting mind’s innate clarity. For me, oil on paper collage is the most responsive way to investigate the mind. Whether awake or dreaming, mind is like a collage, appearing as countless variations of thoughts and images, as an over-lapping unfinished aesthetic that embraces the unresolved, open-ended imperfections of living. Viewing mind and collage this way contributes to the hands-on realness of intimacy and immediacy of seemingly non-sequitur abstraction with a touch of representational expression.

 

I recall instructions from Trungpa Rinpoche, ‘art arises from a deep merging of mind and heart, seeing from within, drawing from pure awareness without visually grasping, beginning from uncertainty without reference point’. Drawing freely without visual judgment; spontaneous and personal, I use tools and techniques that are intimate and varied, anything that can make a mark with controlled spontaneity. I would like the images and titles to create an accessible, personal space, like hearing a familiar voice. The images can be viewed as individually framed pieces, or informally, closer to how they were made, simply pinned to the wall, or randomly together similar to how our thoughts arise, dwell and dissolve in a seemingly continuous, often unrelated stream. .

Essentially I view my work as an evolving inquiry. I continue to live, make art, and to study the principles of Buddhist contemplative philosophy, a pursuit not unlike cleaning the dust off the windows in a house in order to see the world and oneself more clearly and precisely, with less aggression and with more equanimity, kindness and humor. To view more of Hildy’s artworks visit her website;

 

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http://hildymaze.com

 

Check out this Fab video Presentation of Hildy’s work.

You Tube Presentation

 

Here are individual images of Hildy’s work.

https://www.lightspacetime.art/hildy-maze-solo-art-exhibition/

Many thanks to the Light Space Gallery for this story and images.    

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The Painting Journey Continues


Our painting Journey Continues with Nancy Hillis’ Studio Journey online abstract painting workshop. Her assignments help free up your expressive inspirations through exploration and self confidence. Growth emerges through experimentation. My own personal journey has opened up possibilities far beyond what I faced even weeks ago. Thanks Nancy!

Painting in a Series

Permission to Create Continues the Journey


Painting and sharing in the new web site format Studio Journey, with our artist guide Nancy Hillis, brings the fulfillment of granting the permission to create, for many knowledgeable painters from all over the world. Nancy Hillis is an inspiring painter, teacher and medical doctor who brings us all together through the website to share her projects, resulting in the creation of art work and feedback from one another.

Thank you Nancy for leading our inspiring journey, which has just begun.

Jan Kirstein

Photo courtesy of Pascal

Check out her website to see more about Nancy and her Art Journey at https://nancyhillis.com

As a beginning, our first intention was to work in a series, encouraging experimentation within a framework of self imposed limitations. Some artists chose limited color range, some chose exploring art mark making. An amazing outpouring of creative production rose from this first task, generating a wide range of very well informed results. I hope to share some of these with you after I gain artist permission for the use of their works in my blog.

For now, I share with you the paintings I have created on this Journey so far. I lost my studio about a month ago and this program gave me the impetus to resume painting again. For that, I am indeed very grateful.

The artist’s hand.

Paintings in Memory of the Homeless


I share a studio with two other artists in Louisville Kentucky. We just recently had a very sad encounter with reality in the form of a homeless man who lingered constantly around our studio door. The story around this man unfolded in a series of tragic vinyetts leaving us all with a renewed awareness of the fact that the problems facing the homeless are, in fact, everyone’s problem.




 





Just posted! Latest Paintings by Janis Kirstein






These paintings and more can be purchased at https://kirsteinfineart.myshopify.com