by Lisa G Neilsen
Imagine creating art, for the first time, in your elder years: working a blank canvas into an image of your face;
experimenting with words until your thoughts form a poem; making work that is provocative, sad, sexy, hilarious…
Art becomes a way to explore, take risks, to be bold, to remember and to envision.
Now imagine two, five or even eight years later: you continue making art with a community of creative
colleagues around you and a renewed sense of purpose.
In 2005, a partnership between the Vancouver Board of Parks Recreation and Vancouver Coastal Health was born with an idea to create a new generation of creative programs for seniors that would contribute to health and well-being, engage in serious artistic practice and connect seniors with their communities.
In 2006, professional artists began working together with seniors at four community centres in Vancouver and North Vancouver. By 2009 The Arts and Health Project was expanded to 6 centres and in 2014 the project has grown to 10 sites. Each site sees professional artists working in collaboration with older adults to create original artwork in visual arts, creative writing, mixed media, digital video, improvisational music, dance, cultural regalia and puppetry.
Now, under the umbrella of the BC Parks and Recreation Association, The Arts and Health Project continues to expand in exciting ways. Four new projects at Britannia Community Centre, Carnegie Centre, Moberly Arts and Culture Centre and Tsleil-Waututh Nation are bridging communities and sharing cultural traditions. A new ten-week arts curriculum, based on the positive outcomes from Arts and Health, is currently running at Strathcona Community Centre and Trout Lake Community Centre and will be available to all Vancouver Park Board Community Centres in the coming year.
This innovative initiative highlights new ways to think about, honour and serve our aging population through creative practice.