“If you want to have fun, stick around here with us.”
These are words of one 90-year-old resident who comes to every class at Kensington Park. I teach a watercolor painting class at Kensington Park Senior Living where residents come to learn how to paint, explore their creativity and enjoy the companionship of their peers.
In our watercolor classes, we explore a variety of topics, many of which are specifically requested by the attendees. We paint scenes from real life (e.g., landscapes or flower still lives) as well as abstract compositions as we learn about the history of modern art. While the classes are indeed about exploring watercolor as an art form, I have two specific goals: to build connections and to make plans.
I believe in art being about inclusivity for all of us, about finding great joy in our own individuality while feeling accepted and connected to others. Art classes are a great setting to have fun. We chat about our paintings or anything else that comes up. On occasion, we sing or recite a poem. We discuss books and current events.
Yet, my favorite aspect of these lively classes is that my students make plans. They invite each other to chat outside of the class, to visit in their apartments, to meet up for a cup of coffee, or to join an upcoming program together. It is through this engagement that I believe art has the power to heal, to connect and to help our seniors thrive.
Sometimes, when I am cleaning up the classroom, I overhear my students admiring each other’s work and joking about selling their artwork at exorbitant prices. They are so kind with each other, complimenting use of color or shading. They go off to their next activity feeling encouraged. To me, that’s the magic of art classes.
Martina Sestakova has a B.A. in communication from the University of Maryland. She has more than 9 years of experience in intercultural communications and has engaged in volunteering in a variety of healthcare settings. Martina also holds an M.F.A. in fashion design from the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco. As a textile designer, she runs RADOST, LLC and is featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. To reach Martina, email firstname.lastname@example.org.