Seniors create

Julie Mader, at right, and staff members work with a group of senior artists on acrylic paintings Monday at Bradford Ecumenical Home. Mader, a PA Wilds Artist, teaches the classes through a long-term Artist in Education Residency Grant, the first awarded in the state. The seniors’ artwork will be displayed during the upcoming 30th open house anniversary at the Ecumenical Home.

After Jean Salter had painted a picture of lilacs last year, her granddaughter admired it so much that she had an image of her grandmother’s painting tattooed on her back.

Salter, who is a resident of Bradford Ecumenical Home, is also one of Julie Mader’s art students this year at the St. Francis Drive facility. Her work, as well as the work of several other seniors at the home and Chapel Ridge assisted living, will be displayed at the Ecumenical Home during its 30th anniversary open house celebration on Aug. 15. Each senior artist will be asked to pick four of their favorite art pieces to display in the show. In addition, Mader will make and display a photo mosaic of the residents’ art pieces in the show.

Unique about Mader’s art program is that it is first to be funded for a nursing facility or school in the state through a long-term Artists in Education Residency grant provided by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Mader is funded to provide 60 lesson days at the facilities spread throughout the year. Mader had been funded to provide 20-day residencies at the facility in the past. She currently provides 20-day programs at Sweden Valley Manor in Coudersport and at the Guy & Mary Felt Manor in Emporium.

“This started last September,” Mader said of the long-term art program. “It’s been broken into three segments of 20 lessons. Right now we’re in the third segment of this journey.”

Mader, who is a PA Wilds Artist from Smethport, said she, the Ecumenical Home and Elk County Council on the Arts reapplied for the long-term grant to be funded again next year. They recently learned the grant was awarded for the second year in a row.

The class typically has up to eight students at the Ecumenical Home and as many as 12 at Chapel Ridge.

On Monday, Mader showed students how to create beautiful flowers in vases from images they selected from the work of Van Gogh and other famous artists.

“What I want you to do is to brace down and make a sketch on scratch paper and kind of loosen up,” Mader said in providing easy-to-follow instructions. “Then I’ll give you acrylic (paint) and paper, and we can start on the background today” with flowers painted during the next class.

While sketching and painting, the students all noted they had never taken art classes in the past and then explained why they took classes from Mader.

Salter replied, Because “it makes me smile when I look at my pictures.”

Salter then shared more about her lilac painting that intrigued her granddaughter.

“When I was at Chapel Ridge, I painted lilacs and we did them with Q-tips,” Salter recalled. “I did the painting and I hung it in my apartment at Chapel Ridge. My granddaughter came to see me one time, she lives in Maryland, and she said, ‘Can I have that?’” referring to the painting. After giving her artwork to the young woman, Salter was touched when she found out her granddaughter, a dental hygienist, had the image tattooed on her back.

Resident Judy Raught said the art class “is calming,” while resident Dorothy Hunt said she found the class “relaxing, it settles my nerves and I really like what I’m doing.”

Lynn Higley, an activities aide, said the staff also enjoy “helping residents bring out their talent.”

Tia DeShong, public art program manager with Elk County Council on the Arts, said the Council of the Arts long-term grant awards up to $15,000 to pay the artist and purchase supplies.

“It’s very competitive,” DeShong said of the grant. “But this is an exceptionally successful program at Bradford Ecumenical, and we’re all really happy with how well it’s gone.

“This is the first (grant in the state) going toward creative aging (such as) art programs focusing on seniors living in residential facilities and their unique needs in relation to art,” DeShong explained. “As a teaching artist, (Mader) is really focused on creative aging. She’s wonderful.”

DeShong said her agency, with the Council on the Arts, serve Elk, Cameron, Potter, McKean and Forest counties. She said nursing facilities, schools or community groups may call her for more information on obtaining an Artists in Education Residency grant by email at tia@eccota or by phone at 772-7051.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)