Last week I was honored to be a workshop leader again at the CREATIVE AGING TRAINING conference under the auspices of The Creative Center http://www.thecreativecenter.org/tcc/training_institute/training_institute/, and with help from NEA funding and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. The training was held at the historic University Settlement on Eldridge Street in Manhattan.
Studies show that when elder adults are engaged in creative activities, learning and mastering new skills to express themselves, they are healthier physically, and psychologically (“The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” 2006, Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D) At the 2014 NCAA conference, Marc Agronin, M.D., geriatric psychiatrist, upset the myth of our American culture that marginalizes older adults, saying said that there are strengths in aging: neuroplasticity, maturity, and creativity, saying, “Not in spite of age, but because of aging we become more creative.” The Creative Center’s Creative Aging Training gathers artists and administrators in creative aging fields together to discuss art programming best practices in hospitals, senior centers and nursing homes.
I taught a hands on inkblot class to the 40-plus participants. Inkblots are the perfect intro to art-making and art materials for experts and amateur artists alike, as they provide a satisfying one-time art-making experience, but can also provide enough fodder for months of creativity. Inkblots are beautiful and evocative artworks alone, but can also be made into a variety of other things: masks, cabinets of curiosity, puppets, paper dolls, paper theater, monsters, totems, maps, starships, planets, insects. They can be jumping off points for additional drawing, writing and conversation.
After a powerpoint full of ideas on all the things you can do and make with inkblots, we made some–lots of them:
While they were drying, we played the Inkblot Game, where participants divide into groups with a stack of already dry inkblots that I brought in, and question cards, and take turns answering silly or thought provoking questions about the inkblots: “The inkblots are pets in a pet store. You have to pick a pet who will get along with your difficult persian cat Elvira. What pet do you choose? What is it?” Or, “You are having tea with the queen. The inkblots are the dishes served to you. What are you having? Is the queen trying to court you or kill you?!”
Then when are inkblots are dry, we draw what we see. This step easily bypasses anyone’s fear of making art–“I can’t draw a straight line!” as you are telling them to draw around what they see in their inkblot already, and then color it in: