Age and Creation

A practice journal of creative experience and aging

The Artsy Summer of ’22

Colina Maxwell, Editor-in-chief, Age and Creation

Speaking as the director of an artist-run centre, one of the most valuable experiments our multidisciplinary team of artists and technicians designed for the direct[message] project was the online art series in the summer of 2022.

Using findings from a research survey we conducted with older adults we selected six activities and six older adult artist-facilitators to lead them:

  • A doll-making class: learn about Sudanese traditional hand-made dolls and create your own
  • A photograph digitization workshop: learn about a local photographer’s practice and learn to digitize film negatives using simple tools at home
  • A collage class: learn some history of collage as an art form and follow along to learn basic collage techniques and create your own collage
  • Online art-crawl: learn why galleries and cultural organizations on James Street North in downtown Hamilton came together to host a monthly art crawl, and join an art crawl live from the comfort of your home
  • Drawing class: a gestural drawing workshop is paired with an artist talk and a personal connection through collections or hobbies
  • Digital storytelling: an artist describes her journey to and through podcasting, and a podcast episode of personal stories is collaboratively developed

We asked each team to follow a similar structure:

  • two one-hour sessions scheduled no further than 7 days apart
  • accessed by Zoom
  • some historical context on the art practice or subject in the first session
  • hands-on instruction for creating something in the second session (not including the art-crawl session)
  • some opportunity for participants to talk with or learn about each other

We also had five of the teams develop a materials kit that centre staff sourced, assembled, and mailed out to participants ahead of the second session.

The logistics of doing all this over six weeks were… complicated. Nevertheless we were pleased to run all 12 sessions and engage 40 older adults with this  intervention that put much of what we learned from the research survey into practice.

Providing this kind of opportunity for artistic engagement is exactly what we’ve aimed for throughout the direct[message] project, but we were fortunate enough to formalize what we learned from this series. Under the guidance of Jami McFarland our project team interviewed each of the 40 participants in the summer art series (including Arabic-speaking participants, through translators) to capture what worked, what didn’t work, and where we should go next.

In Ask Your Seniors in issue 1 Simon Lebrun extols the many benefits of an artist-run centre having professional researchers on a project team. Here is another case where we could not have gone so far without that expertise.

As with our research survey, we don’t want to scare artists and community workers who aren’t able to access professional researchers from learning directly from older adults. For this reason, we’re pleased to present not only our findings from the summer art series, but also some ideas for empowering ourselves and our communities to use research tools directly.

As you read what we learned from older adults in Guelph, Hamilton, and London, please remember that we’re eager to hear about what you’ve been learning in your own community. We’d be pleased to see it featured in the next issue of Age and Creation.

 

Colina Maxwell is a practicing visual artist and the co-founder and Executive Director of Centre[3] for Artistic + Social Practice. The centre has helped fuel a growing arts community in Hamilton. She meaningfully engages the core of our community through boundary-breaking contemporary art and pushing the barriers in presentation, education, and community arts. In 2011, Colina was awarded the City of Hamilton’s Arts Management award, and in 2013, she was awarded the Women of Distinction award for Art and Culture. As a feminist and an artist, Maxwell’s artwork is politically charged, exploring gender, social constructs, and labour.