Museum Camp

A project of the
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

“Ageless Art” reception at Loudon Nelson Community Center

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    A few of our artists

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    artwork by artists present at reception

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    results from the collage art sessions

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    gathering info at the reception

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    the popular crafts/bling display

Team Members

Anna Foucher
Kristin Ko
Ron Ottinger
John Zinn

What was your hypothesis?

The well-being of the artist is enhanced by the creative process culminating in a public exhibition of that art.

(A bit of background on the Ageless Art program: Ageless Art’s mission is to help revitalize creative expression and a sense of worth for people living in residential care homes. A vital part of this program is exhibiting the art in public venues throughout the County, allowing community members to benefit by seeing the aging and disabled community in a new light.)

What indicator did you measure?

Increased social connectedness

Enhanced positive outlook

Benefits of the creative process

How did you measure it?

Interview questions and observations of volunteers, senior artists and family members at public exhibition (on site)

Interview and research with program leader (on site)

What did you learn?

We had some great learning that we organized into three sections, inspired by our indicators, and then below that we have included some general learning that we gained in operationalizing the project:

Public Exhibition
Seven out of the eight artists interviewed expressed positive sentiments to their work being displayed: Two artists mentioned they were proud of their work, three said it was “nice” to see their work displayed and two showed a positive physical and emotional reaction.

Lesson learned: the public display of art adds another positive dimension to their creative accomplishment.

Creative Process/Enhanced Positive Outlook
When artists were asked how making their art changes the way they feel, three artists said they get lost in their art and that was freeing , two said it was calming, one said it gave them a sense of achievement, more aware of the world around them. The last artist mentioned that when she’s making her art, “it feels wonderful, free, opens me up, I just felt so closed in when I was sick.” To support this, the coordinators also said that “It lessens … their tendency to self-limit.” Another coordinator said “through the art, they found an extension of expression that they didn’t know they had.”

Lesson learned: making art seems to have positive emotional benefits.

Social Connectedness
While observing the artists viewing their art, we saw that a few (4) of the artists received some form of physical encouragement by either a hug or pat on the shoulder from their coordinator. All of the artists were engaged with their peers or the coordinators, as seen by their engaged and active body language. The activity coordinators said it was a “great way to socialize… they teach each other… and they are inspired by each other.”

Lesson learned: “the ladies like to be hanging” . (John Z quote) The social connection is a vital component and reason behind the artmaking.

• A quick and dirty research project and it can give you some valuable information
• It was helpful to get background context while structuring the project
• Visiting the site was helpful as preparation
• We prepared as much as we thought we could be- but there were still surprises
• There was a gap in understanding of how the programs were structured (all the people who were supposed to come didn’t so we interviewed as many as we could)
• Always have an audio recorder!
• From the responses we received, it was difficult for the artists to express some of their emotions – maybe we should have had some prompts for the broader questions?
• We didn’t need to use incentives
• If we were to do the project again, we would have tried to broaden who we interviewed (other friends who might have seen changes in the artist)

Any surprises?

Oh yes-- here are the most interesting ones: •There was a warm reception when we arrived at the exhibition and from the artists themselves. • The process of recording the interviews was harder than we thought it’d be • Via the process of us interviewing, we played a role in the exhibition • Observers were not obtrusive • We thought we would have a longer time, and more artists with whom to speak • There were discrepancies in the stories we received from artists versus a family/staff member (issues of memory/aging) • The information we got may not have all been factually correct but we don’t think it skewed our findings • None of the community volunteer artists showed up – only 1 of the 10 facilities invited attended. • How strong the emotional/physical reaction affected us. Ex: saw a woman who saw her painting out on display and literally gasped with excitement. Another woman was excited and pointed to her painting saying “this is mine!” • The sense of pride in their friend’s or peer’s work