Cathy Schutt | Apr 12, 2023
Art is more than creating a piece of artwork; it is also the process of creating a piece of artwork. Many studies have shown the mental health and cognitive benefits of making art. For the older adults living in Walker Methodist communities, the process brings joy, social connection, confidence, and purpose. In short, it enriches the lives of residents.
Mary Eileen Sorensen, a former Walker Art Center guide and current resident at Walker
Methodist Westwood Ridge is one whose life is enriched by art. She attended an art workshop funded through E. A. Michelson Philanthropies, a funder who specializes in granting funds to organizations bringing art to older adults. Walker Methodist secured more than $55,000 in art grants from different funders last year. These funds bring teaching artist workshops and professional art performances to many of our communities.
Mary Eileen was asked to speak at our President’s Dinner last November, where over 100 people were in the audience. She talked about her life living at a Walker Methodist community and spent a great deal of her time talking about her art experiences. She read a poem she wrote in a poetry workshop. She invited a friend, Yvonne, another resident who also attended the art residencies. They both brought two pieces of artwork to showcase, including their personal collages from a workshop called Artful Memory Stories. Teaching Artist Teresa Cox taught this workshop where participants created their own unique mixed-media drawing/collage story based on a particular memory of place, time, or experience. Here is what Mary Eileen shared, “We just finished a collage class. We created self- portraits based on a story or memory from our past, collaging whatever the story or memory triggered.
Over the weeks, we would return to the story, to guide and inspire us. It was hard for me at first, I AM an artist. What ELSE can I still learn? My story was a gentle, inner one. I wasn’t sure how it would work. However, I let go of expectations, went with the flow and, wow, did it work! The teacher’s style helped our confidence grow along with the art. I learned a bit about myself. I created something TOTALLY OUTSIDE my comfort zone.” Mary Eileen received a standing ovation. She is just one example of the difference art makes to older adults. The benefits reach all these artists, whether they are experiencing art for the first time, or they have been artists their entire lives.
Artist Jennifer Abrahamson visited Walker Place (Minneapolis) to lead residents in an acrylic painting class. Not only did the group have a great time, they produced some beautiful artwork.