I was assistant to the director during the early 2000's and working with ElderGivers was an amazing experience. I'm an artist who designed their curriculums and class schedules, curated and hung their art shows and of course taught in the classes to the elderly and frail. At first, I thought I would be doing art as "therapy". But instead, I saw the elderly become happier and more engaged with life because the art helped their self esteem, made them feel useful and important in society. And on top of that, many of them were able to improve motor skills with their hands and also in their memory of happy times in their lives. They learned skills in art as well, anatomy, proportion, light and shadow, color. After serving 5 years as a teacher and as Assistant to the Director, I realized the power of art and this organization supersedes the expectations and breaks stereotypes of the elderly as being vegetables, useless, or a burden to society. Instead, their art shows have enlightened our society.
As director of a full time Art Program at Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living(4 levels of long term care) since 1990, I learned about Art with Elders in 2000. I was so impressed with their show at the De Young Museum that year, in its breadth and variety of personal expression, techniques/media and formal concerns being included in the process, I approached Brent Nettle, the executive director of AWE. He came out to see my then, 10 year old program and invited us to show our residents' art with them. Since 2001, our residents, families, caregivers and staff have looked forward annually to this event as the highlight of their year.
Though we had wonderful response and interactions to our own exhibits at sites in the larger community of the East Bay, the Gala for AWE added the extra dimension of the artists seeing other work- by elders -in long term care from all over the Bay area.What was so exciting was that AWE connected elder artists in many nursing homes to each other and immediately expanded their artistic horizons. The gala opening brought everyone together, creating an artistic community and fostered awareness in the elders of their own abilities as individuals, artists, and mentors. They also became aware of themselves as a collective group that could communicate with a larger audience. Families and staff saw the elders in a new and positive way, and the continuously touring exhibit widened the audience to include people who encountered elder art in their work places, recreational centers, and public buildings.
Art with Elders helps to open the artist’s eyes to see they have a unique and life changing perspective to share; it enlightens the other generations to look to these elders for direction -and a glimpse into what positive and creative aging may look like in their own lives.
I've had the pleasure and privilege of serving as a volunteer for Art With Elders for over 7 years. These years have flown by during which time we've seen the transition from the old hospital site at Laguna Honda to the beautiful new facility. It has been a special joy to know the residents/artists who come to the art class and to watch them as they grow in their ability to express themselves artistically. All of the teachers and volunteers agree that we all benefit enormously in this exchange as we share in their excitement and pleasure in creating their own art that represent them and no one else. The Director Mark Campbell is to be commended for his dedication, his humor, his talent and enthusiasm which is infectious and spurs all of us on. There is nothing about this program I would change. I would just like it to continue forever and ever, just as it is.
Two years ago I volunteered at Eldergivers’ Art With Elders annual exhibit in San Francisco. I witnessed the diversity of seniors who benefit from this program -- those entirely mobile to those in wheelchairs dependent on aides, those with high cognitive functioning to those with Alzheimer’s, some arriving from their home with their children and grandchildren and others on buses straight from the facility they lived in. They represented a myriad of ethnicities, and in every face I could see the pride that they felt in their being honored for their art. When I had a chance to view their art, I was amazed at the work. Every piece was unique and you could sense the artist behind it. But even more rewarding was watching the artists proudly view and point out their art to others. Art with Elders provides seniors with a feeling of self-worth and self-expression, something that those in care homes have little opportunity to experience.
I just found out that an Art With Elders program will be started at my mother’s care home next month. I’m excited to see the program in action, the difference that it will make to their daily lives, and the art that she and her housemates will create!
While visiting San Francisco in 2009/2010 I had the privilege of being introduced to ELDERGIVERS by a very dear friend. I helped with some clerical tasks, and distribution of newsletters at various organizations and sites in San Francisco. My friend invited me to accompany her during a visit to Laguna Honda Hospital and I was very impressed with what I learned about the Art With Elders Program. It was a real pleasure to see inspired and inspiring individuals sharing their stories, creativity and wisdom and ART. ELDERGIVERS is a stellar non profit organization that other groups should examine and use an example of the power of discovering, encouraging, fostering and supporting the creative process.
Some of the paintings created are fun, some pretty basic and some spectacular. What really matters is not the quality of the artwork, but that it brightens the lives of all the people who are creating the art. Many are in long term care facilities. After leading full lives of careers, raising families and saving democracy in World War II, many have no relatives or children who live close enough to visit regularly. Whether they use acrylics, oils, gouache, colored pencils, graphite or watercolors, they are stimulating their minds in a creative process and have something fun to look forward to every week.
As a Program Coordinator at a Senior Housing Community in San Francisco, I have first hand experience of Eldergivers. Our residents have painted through the AWE Art program for many years now.
I have witnessed the positive impact of the art class on both the artists and the community as a whole. Many great artists have emerged from the program and I continue to be inspired by the program.
The Annual Exhibit is a high point of the year - honoring elder artists is a great way to showcase the work and give the residents something to work toward as they paint throughout the year.
Great organization, excellent values and fills a niche that remains otherwise unaddressed....
I was surfing the internet for art programs involving elders. I was deeply impressed with the level of enthusiastic committment to the creative process for elders. I teach/coach an elder art program for Park Shore in Seattle. I am particularly impressed with Eldergivers ability to provide an interconnectedness for different facilities. It is great for artist to be able to met and discuss their work with each other. Art can be thought provoking, colorful, beautiful, sorrowful and even ugly. It is a personal tool of expression for each of us as individual. I know of no better way to age than to succeed with a creative outlet.
ELDERGIVERS has been a wonderful collaborative partner with the San Francisco Women Artists at our gallery on Sacramento Street. Visitors to the show have been introduced to the artists from ELDERGIVERS-- as well as learning about them in the short bios provided within the framed art piece (in addition to the nice portrait photo also included). Visitors are greatly enthusiastic to learn about the organization and its activities.
I commend AWE for the wonderful work they are doing with our elders. My 80-year-old aunt has been participating in the program for the past seven years. It has given her a new lease on life and she looks forward to the weekly art class. She is creating beautiful art that inspired me to write a book and produce a short film about her art. I want to thank AWE for providing my aunt the opportunity to discover and share her artistic talents.