Understanding Life’s Impermanence Through Art

DSC_0564By Amanda Moses

Members of JASA Starrett Senior Center are enraptured by art— whether it is sketching inanimate objects found around their apartment, painting portraits in JASA’s art-based programs or passing the time by using adult coloring books. These relaxing and fun-filled exercises are something the seniors look forward to during their visits. “We have these art programs because we want to broaden our seniors’ horizons,” said Angela Blyakher, JASA’s Director.

Blyakher proudly displays the seniors’ artwork (from sketches to portraits) along the walls of the Brooklyn Sports Club’s (BSC) lower level. There are three art-based programs at JASA: Landscape Painting, Portrait Painting, and Adult Coloring.

Since 2000, Tom Koegh has taught JASA members how to paint landscapes and other images of interest. “I’ve taught different art subjects, but I’ve always worked with adults. My class is a relaxing social atmosphere, and there is a nice sense of community here,” explained Koegh.

Lee Osborne, one of Koegh’s students, agrees that his art class is a peaceful part of her day. “A lot of the images I paint are landscapes, and I hang them up around my apartment. I even paint pieces for my nieces and nephews,” Osborne said shyly. Although her work is lush and full of beautiful detail, Osborne finds herself to be extremely critical of her work. “I want to be able to paint more like Tom,” she said smiling at her teacher who gushed and said that he has had years of practice.

Maud Blake agrees with Osborne that Keogh is a wonderful teacher. “I feel calm while in this class. I get to talk to my friends while painting and it helps that when I think I’ve made a mistake Tom helps me fix it,” she said happily.

Every Friday, Ralfi Viera paints pictures of flowers, birds, and other landscapes with Koegh, and then on Mondays and Tuesdays she joins a group of seniors in Rusty Zimmerman’s portrait painting class. The class is a part of a Brooklyn Arts Council program called “SU-CASA,” which places artists in senior centers across New York City. Zimmerman began teaching JASA seniors in February, and since then the class has evolved from painting each other’s portraits to decorative finger painting. Viera was wary of this form of art, but once she started she created dozens of life-like flower paintings. “I love to paint, I find it so relaxing. It’s as though everything clears away and you’re just into your art,” Viera said.

“At first we started to paint each other’s portrait and I would bring in an audio recorder to find out a little bit about that person. Seniors are oracles of living history, and in discovering more about the person next to us we learn more about history,” Zimmerman said while showing Viera what colors make green (blue and yellow). “I like working with seniors because they tend to have more patience, and a greater understanding of life’s impermanence, so they have fun and don’t worry about making a mess,” he said.

For those that do not want to paint images from scratch, like in Koegh and Zimmerman’s classes, seniors can join JASA President, Ruth Horowitz in “Coloring Your Stress Away.” This adult coloring program invites artists of every skill to use their imagination and color coordination to fill in beautiful pictures of flowers, intricate caricatures, and so much more.

“I love coloring in the different shapes and imagining what shades go well together. I think my favorite subjects to color are flowers and landscapes. As a child, coloring was one of my hobbies because I can really put myself into what I’m doing,” Linda M. Wright said while showcasing a folder of finished pictures.

If you are interested in participating in any of JASA’s art-based programs call 718-642-1010

Photos by: Amanda Moses