Creating art and, with it, a sense of success

There’s no shortage of colour when you walk into Queens Manor on a Wednesday morning.

Around a dozen women and men line two tables. One group colours in adult colouring books while the other is focused on painting.

But it’s not your every day painting. The seniors are using a spoon to make colourful splats of paint on small pieces of paper. Each splat contains two or three colours. Volunteers encourage the intrepid painters not to blend the colours too much so they don’t turn into a brown blob.

The art program the residents are taking part in started three years ago through a provincial funding grant. but since its inception Queens Manor has come up with ways to fund the program and keep it self-sustaining, like through their greeting cards. But their biggest fundraiser is an art show they hold every September.

“Last year I think they raised almost $700 for the program, which helped fund the program for our equipment and our supplies for the year,” said Tara Smith director of recreation and volunteer services at the manor.

Smith says having an art show not only keeps the program sustainable but it also helps bring a sense of success to the participants.

“They actually see a project finished and that they create something beautiful and that people want to put up on their walls,” said Smith, adding that she has some of the residents’ work on her own wall.

Smith says the program is definitely one of the more popular ones at the manor and that residents come back every Wednesday.

On August 16, Chris Greatrex is leading the class with a group of volunteers. He and the volunteers know the seniors by name and encourage them as they go, giving helpful hints on the abstract art they are creating.

Greatrex is an artist himself. He ran a stained glass studio for years and taught stained glass for 20 years. Throughout his career, Greatrex was a tinter – a colour specialist for the automotive industry. He says he’s always “been in to colour.”

He thinks up all the activities for the seniors. Greatrex says he tries to keep things fresh and interesting, even having them paint using unconventional items like credit cards, dowels or even tree branches.

“I have to use my imagination all the time just to keep the interest going,” he laughed. “A lot of people here are artists already, a lot of the residents are artists but what I try to do is … try to create an enthusiasm and an interest.”

Greatrex adds that although some have no background in art, they turn out great work.

All of the pieces will be varnished so that they can be framed, matted and hung on the wall. Besides paintings, the group also creates cards, bookmarks and gift tags which they sell to the general public. The cards look like tiny abstract paintings. Some of them are original pieces of art while others are prints.

The art and the cards and bookmarks will all be a part of the art show that takes place on September 8 from 2 – 3:30 p.m. Attendees are invited not only to purchase art but to have a bit of wine and cheese and try their hands at some of the activities the residents have been taking part in themselves.

“It’s more than just coming to purchase, it’s coming to see what we do,” said Greatrex.