“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.” — Unknown
Too often, the need for seniors to continue to grow and share their talents in their golden years gets overlooked or ignored. But on Sat., Jan. 21, MPS Community Ed and the Magnet Program met this need head-on as families, friends, and City officials came together for a joyful afternoon of art and storytelling.
The occasion highlighted and celebrated the creativity and wisdom of elders across three Minneapolis communities—North Market (Northside), Sabathani Community Center (Southside), and Westminster Presbyterian Church (downtown). The “Sharing Our Wisdom” artist showcase is part of a larger project led by Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Community Education in collaboration with the Magnet Senior Program at Westminster.
Organizers recognized a need for older adults to have social enrichment opportunities and reconnect with their communities after years of Covid restrictions and various degrees of isolation. Both programs collaborated to offer free, six-week art and well-being classes at the three respective sites.
“Many older adults lost their social muscle during the pandemic. Their will to engage outside their home had atrophied,” said Angelique Kingsbury, coordinator of the Magnet Senior Program. “This project allowed them to get out in the community again, meet new friends, and indulge in their creativity.
“We discussed legacy and the importance of taking ownership of individual legacy for the greater good,” Kingsbury continued. “Looking at three generations before us and three generations ahead, what have we learned, and what do we pass forward? What can we strengthen? What must we do away with?”
Each site hosted a cohort of 12-15 older adults who met regularly with a teaching artist and additional Minneapolis Adult Community Education facilitator to share in storytelling, exchange knowledge, and work on individual art pieces representing life lessons they wished to share.
The teaching artists used different mediums at each site, with Esther Osayande leading painting on canvas at North Market, Taneka Graves teaching woodburning design at Sabathani, and Christopher Lutter-Gardella overseeing casting and sculpture at Westminster.
The unique program was made possible through a Community Wellbeing grant from the Minneapolis Health Department (MHD) and State Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP). Classes started with mindfulness and meditation practices and closed with healthful snacks.
Tommie (last name withheld), a participant in the North Market cohort, said, “This experience has been fantastic, just great. I stopped doing artwork, and I have had some depression. This was the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.”
“I want to keep my mind open and to keep learning,” said Carol R. from the Sabathani cohort. “During Covid, all I did was sleep, eat, and worry. I couldn’t exercise or visit anyone. I liked coming to the project to be around people, learn something new and think about something new.”
“In the last six weeks I have learned new skills, had to develop an idea, practice, produce a piece of art, and meet and work with new people,” said Sue Kolar of the Westminster cohort. “This was a confidence-building and freeing experience, much like riding a horse.”
For the second half of the Sharing Our Wisdom program, participants and others who would like to join will meet monthly through May 2023. Each gathering will focus on work from a well-known artist and a small art project.
Registration for upcoming art meetups and other adult enrichment programs can be found at https://bit.ly/AdultEnrichmentMPS. Send inquiries to the Magnet Senior Program at email@example.com or call 612-540-2928.