If you’ve walked through the lobby of the Koret Center in the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that the empty space has been livened up a bit. Countless brightly colored paintings and sketches are now displayed on towers throughout the entrance. Each work is accompanied by the smiling face of the artist and a short biography of his or her remarkable life.
These pieces are a part of the Art With Elders program, an 18-year-old institution that provides elderly people in long-term care facilities with art classes. The program allows older people, many with chronic illnesses to express creativity, learn a new skill set and contribute to their community from the comfort of their homes. Through Art With Elders, emerging artists are able to share their works with over 60,000 viewers throughout the bay area.
The Koret Center has been affiliated with this program for 13 years, and exposes the paintings and the program to a huge base of potential clients. Most of the paintings are for sale, and all of the proceeds go to the Art with Elders program. Koret director, Chuck White, said, “We’ve been doing it a long time. We like it, the patrons love it, the students like it. It’s really a great program.”
The artists both benefit from as well as endorse the program whole-heartedly, as evidenced in their biographies attached to the pieces. The program has inspired many people who are feeling down on their luck and provides them something something to learn and look forward to. In her artist biography, Jin Liang said, “When I do it, I think it looks good and I’m proud of it.” Liang lives in Laguna Honda Hospital, where they teach an Art With Elders class in Cantonese. Mary McNeill wrote in her description how she loves everything about her classes and often, “sings along cheerfully with the music played in class.” Many of the artists confess that before Art With Elders, they were never interested in being artists, but they found inspiration through this unique opportunity. One artist was taught to paint with her left hand after a stroke.
The paintings created by these elderly artists are often strikingly beautiful, vibrant and surprisingly skillful. It’s easy to see how the program has been able to continue so successfully with such positive feedback. The Koret Center plans to continue its affiliation with Art With Elders as long as the institution exists.
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