WA News Feature Articles Art of the Seventh Age
Art of the Seventh Age
Written by Peter McClelland
Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A creative collaboration between Amana Living and Black Swan Portraiture Prize is a win-win for everyone. Amana residents have enjoyed workshops and screen printing sessions to create Andy Warhol inspired self-portraits, some of which will be exhibited in the Perth Cultural Centre.

201611-Scarff-Emily-Ms-Amana-Nov16Ms Emily ScarffAmana Living Enrichment Manager Ms Emily Scarff is doubly pleased with a project that forms part of the Amana Spring Arts Festival.

“It’s been a wonderful partnership, the first time for both organisations to team-up in this way. Black Swan has never been involved with an aged care group before and this is the first time for us to be involved in an artistic endeavour.”

“We expected a few hiccups but we’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

“There’s nothing particularly new about offering arts and crafts to older people but what’s different here is that we’ve got professional artists sharing their skills. They mentor our residents but they also speak passionately about their work and that’s taken this project to a new level.”

Enrichment rocks!

201611-Screen-Printing-at-James-Brown-montage“Our residents quickly realised that this was a lot more than their usual Thursday morning craft activity!”

The importance of enrichment programs can’t be overstated, says Emily. But the storm clouds of economic rationalism loom large.

“I see my role as an important one, enabling older people to live the second half of their lives in the best possible way. It’s all well and good providing nursing and basic needs care but that needs to be complemented with meaningful activities that enrich lives.”

“That’s why this partnership with Black Swan and the artwork that’s coming out of it is so important.”

“This is a sector that has the potential to be severely affected by funding cutbacks and enrichment programs may well end up being first in the firing line. The market economy is becoming increasingly deregulated and while it hasn’t hit residential aged care quite yet, it will do.”

Everyone is welcome

Emily tells the story of one woman who benefited from the inclusiveness of the Black Swan/Amana art program.

“This person heard the group laughing and joined us at the table. She’s severely vision impaired and would often miss out on some of the activities but we were able to tailor the screen printing by talking about images and colours. She was actually able to ‘feel’ the ink sliding over the screen.”

“My background is in occupational therapy so I try to look at ageing in a holistic way. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about that and it’s certainly given me a greater appreciation of my own grandparents.”

201611-Wilson-Tina-Ms-Black-Swan Oct16Ms Tina WilsonMs Tina Wilson is the Executive Director of ARTrinsic, the not-for-profit organisation behind the Black Swan Portraiture Prize, and is a passionate advocate for the visual arts in WA.

“We approached Amana with the idea of doing these workshops and it’s turned out to be something exceptional! Amana also sponsors the People’s Choice Award, which encourages people to visit the exhibition and that, in turn, creates healthy debate and community engagement.”

“Anything that raises public awareness of older people is good because they’re often not given much prominence in current society.”

Life in a face

“I haven’t got parents in aged care so I’m not too familiar with this area. It was wonderful to walk in and see the residents engaging with something that was obviously bringing interest and joy to everyone in the room. One lady was proudly holding up a pillowcase with her face on it and showing it to everyone!”

“The faces of older people have so much character and that intensifies with age.”

Tina, an artist herself, sees the spin-offs from creative expression in highly social terms.

“I see portraiture as a real opportunity to build a sense of community. In so many ways, it’s really all about people. When visitors come into a portrait gallery it generates so much conversation, the paintings tell human stories.”

“So much of today’s world is obsessed with 10 second sound-bites and a collaboration such as this is all about making long-term connections between people.”

“I hope this project raises awareness and appreciation of older people. It’s so important to get their stories out there and give them the respect they deserve. We’re all going to be old one day!”