I have been running art sessions with care home residents since 2016.
I found that many older people lack confidence when it comes to painting, saying they were never any good at it. To overcome this reluctance, I started making collages, to which each person could contribute a single element like a flower or butterfly. I provided drawings in pen and ink on watercolour paper, to which residents could add the colours they chose. For people who do not see easily, I make the drawings extra large and simple. Concentration may last for only a short time, in which case I have pictures to look at and poems to read aloud, which often stimulate more memories and ideas. In 2019 I worked with the residents to create a collage based on their garden, with a Christmas tree, which they used as a Christmas card. Last year, unable to visit the care home, I made a collage with six artists in the community, and this was combined with artwork from the residents, a local preschool and a primary school, to be an electronic Christmas card.
In 2017 I organised two workshops with preschool children working alongside the elderly. Seeing the pleasure the different age groups get from being together is always hugely rewarding. We made a large collage for display in the local community centre. Other people were involved as well, including a nursery, a church group and a primary school, and the project won the National Activity Providers Association award for the best project promoting the arts in care. Since then the collage has become an annual event, and has involved residents at a Salvation Army hostel and a school catering for children with complex needs. I encourage a range of media, including knitting and embroidery as well as paint and crayons, to make it something anyone can join in.
This year has called for a different approach. With workshops not being possible, most of the contributions will come from people working at home alone. I decided on a theme of nature, as so many of us have found comfort in the beauty of the natural world during the pandemic. The local Photographic Society has shared some fantastic photographs of birds and wild animals, taken locally over the last two years, to provide inspiration for the housebound. Much of the artwork will be provided by a craft group based at the library who have kept in touch through emails, and I have had a promising response from some of our local schools.
Having community projects like this one, and others which have taken place in Warrington, has been an enormous help in combatting anxiety and isolation. I have missed the workshops, but it is always a delight when someone delivers to my house something which they have created at home.
To get involved in this year’s project and submit your own artwork, for which the deadline is the first weekend in June, see ]www.lymmfestival.org.uk/event/branching-out-lymm-wildlife/
I would like to acknowledge the great work done in difficult circumstances by all staff working in care homes at this time, and especially the activities team at Keate House in Lymm.