Betty Flear, a resident of Pleasant Manor in Ontario, holds up one of her finished art projects.Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 27, 2022 at 08:17

By Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two Niagara-on-the-Lake residents love the innovative arts program

Seniors are tuning into their artistic sides at Pleasant Manor and Upper Canada Lodge with pre-made art kits.

The kits are put together by the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre and delivered monthly to both facilities. The program is part of the Pumphouse’s Continuing Arts Recollective Experience – or CARE – program.

It began in late 2019 with Upper Canada Lodge.

“It started as an in-person program where we invited residents from Upper Canada Lodge to come join us at the Pumphouse for an in-person art workshop designed for older adults,” said Rima Boles, the director of the arts centre.

And Kristin Mechelse from Upper Canada Lodge says it helps residents become engaged in a creative past time.

Through a grant from Niagara Recycling, the Pumphouse initially was able to pay for the residents to visit the arts centre monthly and participate in art classes.

When COVID hit, many people were forced to stay indoors.

To continue the art program with Upper Canada Lodge, the Pumphouse came up with the idea of delivering monthly kits so residents could continue the activity from the safety of their homes.

Deliveries began in February 2021 and to date, Boles said they’ve distributed about 150 kits.

“A lot of the feedback was how great having this opportunity (is) for the residents, especially during COVID. It was something they would look forward to and being able to access them at any time,” said Boles.

The kits include a video tutorial and all of the supplies needed to complete the art projects.

Pumphouse staff work on developing each art project, she said, and they also record the videos and upload them to YouTube.

Then the kits are packaged by either staff or volunteers. The video tutorials allow residents to follow along step-by-step with the help of recreation staff.

“This partnership has allowed our residents to continue to participate in something enjoyable and experience a little bit of ‘normal’ during an abnormal time,” Mechelse, the  program manager at Upper Canada Lodge, said in an email.

Originally the home was getting eight art kits a month, but since the program is so successful, it now receives 12.

This is the second year the Pumphouse has delivered the monthly art kits. It expanded their program by partnering with Pleasant Manor in Virgil earlier this year.

Chelsea Bilton, a therapeutic recreation supervisor at Pleasant Manor, said the home usually gets eight to 10 kits a month and residents who have severe dementia have been using them.

“They like (them). It’s easy to follow,” said Bilton.

“They have them all hanging in their room,” she said.

It’s convenient how the Pumphouse just drops off the pre-made kits with everything the residents need.

“I think it’s great that they’re bringing these kits with these crafts to do with the residents,” said Bilton.

She recently used one of the kits with a resident who used to paint. The resident told her she liked how easy the paintings were and that they were made for adults.

The home receives different art projects each month. One month, residents got to create an abstract seashell project with a watercolour resist technique. That’s when artists draw with crayons or pastels and paint over it with watercolours.

Boles noted, “Another project was like a keepsake bowl made of air-dry clay using the pinch pot, sculptural method” – using a ball of clay and pinching it into the desired shape.

Mechelse hopes to have an instructor from the Pumphouse come to Upper Canada Lodge and run the program in-person with their recreation staff one day.

For now, members of the recreation staff lead the program with a small group of residents, or one-to-one.

“We truly appreciate the flexibility and dedication demonstrated by the Niagara Pumphouse Art Centre as well as the opportunity to provide meaningful activities for our residents,” said Mechelse.

This item reprinted with permission from The Lake Report, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario