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Retirees say future holds ‘less’ and ‘more’ for them…

October 25, 2011
Building an arts program to engage nearly and newly retired baby boomers? 
Consider the findings  in a recent  Huffington Post Blog where 1,000 retirees and pre-retirees shared their expectations for the future. The prospect of  “less government entitlements, less money and less respect from younger generations” is coupled with an expectation to be  “more active and youthful, more likely to continue to learn and grow in maturity and … compared to previous generations, they ultimately expect to be  living more interesting lives.”

That said, how is your organization engaging the older set in your community? 

In the Upstate, The Arts Center of Clemson considered arts engagment of its retirement community as a new opportunity.  It  built a program called ” ArtBeat” to turn its some of its oldest citizens into its newest arts patrons and students.    As part of the Statewide Initiative on Arts Participation,  the Center used a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to create specialized classes and workshops for senior citizens to engage them more effectively in their organization. 

Still life...a scene from an ArtBeat class

As part of an ongoing effort,  specialized art classes are now offered at nearby retirement communities as well as The Arts Center.  Each class session culminates in an art exhibit where the participants live; one large annual exhibit is hosted at The Arts Center.   Instructor Lane Owen helps make up the cadre of teachers for this unique program. He shares his personal and endearing story about his experience as an ArtBeat instructor.

 In his own words… Lane Owen’s thoughts on being an ArtBeat (and first-time) instructor

Artist Mary Stewart participates in ArtBeat, classes designed especially for retired community members.

“Through one of the many outreach programs offered by The Arts Center, I recently had the privilege of leading (I dare not say “teaching”) a watercolor class for Anderson Place,  a retirement and  independent living center in Anderson, S.C.   This program was designed to meet the increasing need of engaging young at heart seniors and tapping into their vast creative talents.

Due to my unconventional style of instruction, I’m certain no one (including me) knew what they were in for.  After the initial “demonstration,”  I wasn’t certain how many would return for the actual class. When all but one returned for the first class, I knew we were in for a fun ride!  I found the class rewarding on many levels, including some very unexpected ones. 

Amid occasional protests of lectures past, the students’ thirst for creative knowledge and a rekindling of their talents were evident. Their hands may have showed the effects of many years of labor and caring for others but their hearts and wittiness more than made up for this. Having brush in hand and spreading color on paper, gave glimpses into inspired souls and  fanned embers of talent long since forgotten. 

Students gather with Art Instructor on the occasion of their exhibit.

The students began to feed off of the creativity flooding the room with new found ethusasium producing wonderful works of art that surpassed even their creator’s expectations and began to teach the teacher a few things about life, love and what mattered most. As class progressed, I found my guidance less on technique and more on freedom of expression.  Through intriguing life stories and fits of laughter, a series of grand works of art emerged along with renewed, and, in some cases, first-time artists.

ArtBeat Program Manager Cheryl LeCroy with Art Instructor Lane Owen on the occasion of the student exhibit.

 The overwhelmingly positive response from artists, residents, employees & guests at the student show was resounding proof of the talent that was awaken during the class. Many comments from “I had no idea I could do THIS!” and “I can’t believe I did that painting, it was fun!” to “We had no Idea we had this kind of talent in our midst” were repeated throughout an evening filled with kind words and many hugs.

The Arts Center made it possible for new friendships and memories to be formed, touching many lives including mine.  The rewards of programs like this one extend way beyond a few great paintings. They tap into a resource often forgotten by mainstream society, a resource with so much to offer & so readily given. I look forward to many more opportunities to serve both.”

What the Arts Center said about Lane Owen…”He has participated with The Arts Center as an exhibiting artist in the past but had never taught in a formal classroom setting. While not one of the original ArtBeat instructors, Owen is one of the founders of The Artist Loft in Seneca and is very dedicated to expanding the cultural experience through the Upstate. His work is phenomenal.  Although a little uncertain in his teaching skills the beginning, Lane quickly settled and thoroughly engaged a group of women (mostly 80 and older)  in their artistic journey.  In fact, Lane says that he learned as much from them as they learned from him; perhaps even more. 

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