Art Therapy Projects and Starting Out
Starting Out Watercolor Classes
I get letters and notes all the time about starting a program for the enrichment and advancement of the elderly as only art can do. My program was watercolor classes for senior citizens and only lasted 14 years until the program in my city was canceled because of budget cuts, but the effects and love of that program lives on. Below are some of the questions I often get and my answers.
Do you have any hints for me to start a similar program?
I’m so glad I have found you!! I am a self-taught artist and live in a small rural village. Which is growing. I started an art social group last Oct, which is going really well, and now have 15 regulars. I have also started doing art workshops for an elderly group in our village once a month. They love it, as so do I and now I am studying art therapy, especially to help the elderly.
I’d like to try other projects as well. Do you have any hints for me?
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.— Henry Ward Beecher
That sounds wonderful. I'm very excited to learn more artists are using their gifts to help others and spread beauty in the world. I would say you are on the right track. You are a step ahead of most people who want to start something like you described. My rule of thumb was to keep things simple for the elderly. They like a little detail but not so much that is taxing their shaky hands and your time limitations. I create paintings for them that had large areas of washed color with just a few spots of detail. An example would be a snowscape with one little cabin in the distance. It had charm and interest but wasn't too complicated for the elderly or children or even the disabled group that occasionally joined us.
As for other projects, I assume you mean something like different creative things for them to try. A great example would be painting rocks with acrylic paint. It has become all the rage. One friend described it to me as encouragement stones. They are meant to make the finder smile. People are walking along watching their feet and they come across a colorfully painting rock that makes their whole day a little brighter. If you pick it up and keep it, you are supposed to leave another one in its place.
Another project you may want to try is the pour painting. Although I believe the cost of the materials might be prohibitive, the fun of pouring paint just to see what it will do would bring a lot of joy to the elderly. If you had some way of getting a grant to cover the cost of the paint, silicon, and canvases, you might find that a really lovely project.
I actually have a lot of ideas that would take a huge amount of time to describe so I will link a few of the articles I’ve already written that may be of interest.
We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.— Galileo Galilei
A Degree In Art Therapy
Hello. I'm just wondering if you are actually an art therapist. You may not be aware of this but if you don't have a degree in art therapy you really shouldn't be calling your art classes "art therapy".
Yes, I was aware and I didn’t call my classes “art therapy” at the time I first started them. But let’s face it, it WAS art therapy and still is. When I started these classes for the elderly, I did not have a master’s degree in art, however, now I do. I doubt that I would have changed a thing in the way I presented the classes or in the responses I made to my elderly clients. These classes were advertised as watercolor classes with me (an artist) as a teacher and that is all. The therapy is in the art not in the name. I saw some remarkable transformations in these lovely people. I have always known the benefits of art in schools, in education, in mood motivation, but I was still amazed daily by the attitude change in many of my elderly friends. They would come in angry, frustrated by their own physical and mental limitations, and leave feeling life was good and they could handle anything. Just that is worth the term “art therapy.” I am not a psychologist or licensed counselor either, but I witnessed people who came to my classes because they got to engage in conversation, tell what was wrong with their world for one hour and go home feeling better. One woman told me it was the cheapest therapy/counseling visit in town. Maybe, maybe not. But they usually felt like it was so and so for them it was.
Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.— Wayne Dyer
Whether you have a degree in art therapy or just talent and interest in art, to share your time and love of painting with the elderly is a lofty and commendable goal. They can benefit from any time you give them and mostly you will find them so grateful and lovely to visit with. Don’t forget that we all will be elderly one day (if you are lucky enough to live so long) and you will want someone to spend time with you when that day comes. Why not pay it forward and bring a smile to someone’s sweetly wrinkled face today.