#ArtForAll

seniorpainting-2-1481050229-6280Arts Unbound and The Baird Collaborate to Boost Senior Creativity

Arts Unbound has long been known for challenging the assumptions we make about the artistic contributions of people with disabilities. For over ten years, they have also been challenging beliefs about the limits of elder members of our community.

Thanks to the support of South Orange and The Baird Community Center, the non-profit will bring its participatory art program to residents at an affordable rate. These group fine art classes include quality visual arts instruction, first-rate art supplies, and a professional teaching artist experienced in working with seniors. Arts Unbound will be offering a ten-week painting course at The Baird starting January 10th. Classes are on Tuesdays from 10am to 12pm. Participants will get to try various painting techniques and create original works of their own. Participants pay $8 per two-hour class.

The regular South Orange senior jitney schedule will allow people to get to class on time. The Baird is located at 5 Mead Street in South Orange.

What makes the program special, according to arts education director Armisey Smith, is the emphasis on participation and skill-building. “Attending art exhibits and visiting museums are wonderful experiences,” says Smith, “but they are not the same as making art oneself.”

Smith has a strong case. The research has shown clearly that participating in making art has real impact on the emotional well-being of seniors. The growing body of evidence supports positive outcomes related to mental, emotional, and social well-being for seniors when they participate in art activities like painting, photography, or quilting. The Baring Foundation published a review of the evidence of the positive impacts of participatory arts on older people in 2011. Thirty-one studies were included in the review, covering a population ages 60-96. The review found evidence for increased confidence and self-esteem, improved cognitive functioning, enjoyment of life, creative thinking, and a sense of increased community connection.

The premise of the classes is the belief that people of all ages are able to learn and grow. “Our classes are not simply “activities” to keep seniors busy doing things they already know how to do. We challenge and support seniors to master new skills,” says executive director Margaret Mikkelsen.

To sign up and learn more, contact Armisey Smith, Director of Arts Education at Arts Unbound at 973-675-2787 or asmith@artsunbound.org. Students may also register through The Baird website or Arts Unbound website.

Arts Unbound is a non-profit visual arts organization that provides fine art instruction to everyone, with a special focus on classes for seniors and people with disabilities. Arts Unbound has been providing participatory arts programming for seniors since 2006 and serves approximately150 seniors each year through its group classes in the community. Find more information at www.artsunbound.org.

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