When the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts learned that Andres Gonzales, a certified activity director with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Angelo State University, was interested in leading volunteer art classes at local retirement communities, they knew they wanted to be a part.
Through grants the museum receives, they were able to sponsor an art program at Baptist Retirement Community’s newest addition, The Crest, which opened last year and serves senior adults in need of assisted living or memory care.
“I find joy in providing gratification to seniors who are willing to try new things in their retirement,” Gonzalez said. “Many of these participants were so engrossed in raising kids and building and supporting their families, they did not have time to dabble in new hobbies. For many, this is the first time in their life that they can try unexplored interests and try their hand at creating art.”
Gonzalez is working to change the stigma that coloring, drawing and painting are simply child’s play. He encourages senior adults to open up and purposely chooses mature designs to overcome any perceived childishness.
Recently, Gonzalez teamed up with Michelle Villarreal, life enrichment coordinator for The Crest, to create a lesson plan that was fun for residents in more ways than one: making paintings of cupcakes. Before the class, Villarreal hosted a baking class where residents baked and decorated cupcakes to inspire those in the painting class. Participants used the cupcakes as visuals, then ate them with a cup of coffee as a refreshment.
“These classes are really made possible with the help of the activity directors,” Gonzalez said. “They stay late to clean up, and they encourage residents who feel they are not equipped to create art or who are hesitant to try new things.”
During one of the first art classes at The Crest, a resident left halfway because she feared she wasn’t artistic enough to finish the painting. Villarreal convinced the resident to come back to the class where she finished her piece and beamed with pride. Another resident at The Crest participates in the painting classes to pay tribute to her daughter, who was an artist.
“The classes build self-confidence for those who attend,” Gonzalez said. “I have found that it is inspiring to create art, no matter how it turns out.”