Art with the Mamas
Art with the Mama’s has evolved through the years. Not every project was a success, but the residents seem to take away positive memories, canvases they created, art for their baby, paintings as gifts they give to their family.
Art allows any of us to express something within: be it a color that comforts us, a feeling we want to share, it is connecting with something within.
So what do I do?
I only have 1.5 hours of the residents’ week, and spend about 4 hours of prep time, designing the project & 2 hours on supplies and materials needed for the class.
Art at Mama’s house is designed to help the residents create art that will remind them of their achievements and encourages them in tough times. While some projects are meant for their baby, most are for their future home, or those special to them. My goal is to make the time fun and make it meaningful.
An example of “fun” would be drawing fruit -- one of their favorites, especially for new residents. It is learning a skill they are pleased with; a skill they’ll keep and use. We start with shapes, beginning with a circle, then they give it form with color and shading (lights and Darks, Warms and Cools.) The task will be a still life using a Granny Smith apple and strawberries… In the past, I’d have the students draw it -- then eat it. But these ladies are hungry at 2:30, so I involve them in arranging the fruit, do a quick demo of their opening shapes or composition, and provide them a plate of strawberries which they eat while they draw the “still Life,” using pastels or charcoal. Let’s call that multi-sensory-- even full sensory art: Touch Smell Taste and they recreate it by letting their hands draw what their eyes see… Touching, tasting, and smelling just add pleasure to the painting process.
The best projects let them create art for their baby’s room. A sweet project we did was footprints or handprints on paper. The art style was Pop Art (Andy Warhohl- remember the multiple Campbell soup cans?) Often, they want to add to their creation -- I’ll take it home and add the text using my home printer
Frustration comes easy to them and laughter isn’t something they feel bubbling up. How to deal with it – Artists need perspective, so just taking the art 4 feet from their position gives them a new appreciation for their work, I point out the strengths of it (what is “working”) and their faces light up. The comments by the others at the table is so encouraging and it tends to fan the stress out of our “Stress-free Zone.” These steps have made the solid time, one they look forward to. I do have to say that my heart just skips a beat when their eyebrows go up and the smile appears on their face when they see their work anew, and their judging it as “unexpectedly good.”
Why you do what you do Besides cherishing their blossoming, I do what I do because it gives them a healthy way of expressing what’s inside. Sometimes they want to use dark colors because they are upset or troubled, or, they want to use green because they feel “green” or wanting to paint their apple “purple.” Art lets them express it and get it out. Just the process of choosing colors is both an adventure for them and a release, almost “healing.”
I want to give them a way to create art for their baby’s room… treasures for the baby when he or she is grown -- expressed love.
Lastly the art I have them create becomes an inspiration for future times, inspiring them to “hang in there” when things are difficult, and they have been brought low.
The residents have painted rocks, (for labeling the herbs in the garden), Rocks for the Volunteer’s Luncheon last year, made flower pens for this year’s luncheon. Their big hearts just love giving away what they create.
My next task is to catalog the projects and materials needed, so that should something happen to me, the most successful projects will be there for someone who fills in for me or takes my place. Obviously, the art goes with the Residents when they leave, or they give them as gifts for family members before I can make a copy (for them or the work itself). I now have them scanned when possible, so we have a catalog of works.
In closing, even though we focus on the “end product,” it is the journey, the process of creating and expressing that is the real benefit for the residents. The “end product” is the “Memento” of the journey. Some people get a tee shirt; They get a painting. Each time they see their work, they know they did it, they just don’t know how… It surprises them that they could pull those results from within.