I took a class at our local arts center when I was 10. We made masks. My mask was amazing; it was long and had a wonderfully large nose and distinct eyebrows. I painted the nose blue and the eyebrows purple. I loved it, but my teacher told me that I hadn’t done the project “right,” and that I needed to repaint the nose and the eyebrows. That was the last visual arts class I took.
Many adults have had similar experiences in their lives, making them believe they are not “good” artists or “can’t” do art. Because of this, many stop participating in the arts out of fear of not being good enough. In recent months, a study by Girija Kaimal of Drexel University shows that participating in the arts, even if you don’t think you are good, is good for you and found that 45 minutes of creative activity can decrease stress.
The Seattle-based arts company, Silver Kite Community Arts, creates opportunities for safe spaces for older adults to reconnect to the arts by inviting them back into the realm of creative play. The program also develops opportunities for intergenerational arts experiences and includes all arts media: storytelling, memoir writing, dance, music, visual arts and theatre.
The arts programs start with reminiscence and sharing life stories. We find that telling our stories connects us to others and helps us to understand our own journey, remembering the valuable lessons we have learned. These life stories inspire art making.
Over the summer Silver Kite has been offering Memory Box workshops through the King County Library System, inviting adults to explore “beginnings” in their lives and create a wooden collage box reflecting these memories.
In addition to arts workshops and classes, Silver Kite Community Arts also designs and facilitates intergenerational experiences in partnership with retirement communities, schools, community organizations and through our Intergenerational Theatre Company which develops original theatrical performances based on the life stories of its cast members. The cast and crew of our production represent six to seven different decades of life, bringing a unique mix of stories, experiences and performance styles on stage.
To develop our productions we start with a common object, like a chair, and collect reminiscences, memories and stories which are related to this object, and then craft a theatre production which then travels to communities throughout King County. Our recent production of “Chairs” toured to 18 venues in King County.
The cast and crew of “Chairs” found the experience working on the production changed how they related to people of different ages.
For Assistant Director Zoe Wilson, age 24, working on the production helped her to reconnect with the older adults in her life. She said, “[It] has inspired me to become closer with the elders in my life, specifically my grandparents. When I visit them the conversation is normally about my life, but now I’m asking them more questions about theirs. I’ve learned everyone has many stories to tell. It doesn’t matter how older or young, everyone has lived fascinating lives.”
Ed Gangner, the oldest cast member in “Chairs,” remarked on his experience performing with the troupe this way: “When I first came to Silver Kite’s intergenerational theatre troupe I was new to Seattle and recently retired. I spent my days visiting with baristas and folks I met on the street. Then I heard about an audition for a theatre troupe, I tried out and was cast. This turned out to be a total blessing. The troupe had someone from every decade of life from a teenager to me at age 71…a warm and jovial friendship developed in the troupe. Personally I felt a sense of rejuvenation and the return of a skip in my step.”
Silver Kite’s Intergenerational Theatre Company will hold auditions for its next production, “Umbrella,” on September 6 and 8. Auditions for future productions will be held in November and early next year. To schedule an audition, please contact us at 206-291-0886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Silver Kite Community Arts, call 206-291-0886 or visit www.silverkite.us
Jennifer Kulik is the founder and CEO of Silver Kite Community Arts