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by Rachel Stayer, Outreach Coordinator at Telfair Museums

Telfair Museums’ Golden Age Outreach is a marvelous program offered to local senior citizens within the city of Savannah. Each visit is rich with joy, love, and uplifting spirits. The participants are always so happy and eager to dive right into the projects. Despite minor personal challenges and lack of professional artistic training, everyone is always encouraging of one another, and the final products are truly appreciated. Seeing the pride and sense of accomplishment shine through their smiling faces is a great treasure. The art instructor, Autumn Gary, reflects on her experience with the senior citizens:

“I love learning from them and being in their presence. I feel honored to share that space. Their confidence and openness to experience new things and to continue creating with their hands and positive energy, even on rough days, helps me become more aware of my place in the world. It stirs in me the desire to be more considerate of the effect I have on others through my attitude and to be more courageous in facing new opportunities. And… they are FUN!!!”

The 2019 Golden Age Outreach takes place at 12 different community centers throughout Savannah and reaches approximately 200 total individuals. Each participating group is visited three consecutive times in order to work progressively and complete a project with a high-quality product. This year’s program is inspired by the featured local artist Katherine Sandoz and her installations at the Jepson Center, katniss and sagittaria.  Participants are encouraged to be influenced by Sandoz’s painting style and her botanical subject matter. The participants already enjoy painting, but are challenged in this program to use an untraditional canvas: a terracotta planter. Participants are also encouraged to explore new techniques practiced by Sandoz such as glazing and washing.

The highlight of this project is the final stage of the process. The sessions end with a gardening activity, and each participant is able to get their hands a little dirty and plant a beautifully colored Coleus in their pot. These plants require partial sunlight and have hearty leaves, making them ideal for those who may not have the best green thumb. This is the first time Telfair has done outreach programming with the senior citizens that has involved live products, and the participants absolutely love it. It reconnects them to nature by having a beautiful plant to look at, gives them something to care for, and it enhances the space around them by making it vibrant and lively. Most importantly, it is something they made themselves and serves as a visual reminder that they are capable of great achievements.

A few reflections from the participants after completing the project:

“The project is the right one for the time in which we live. As a senior citizen, I can remember a less demanding era when we took the time with ourselves and our surroundings. It has been an admiration of mine for those that are able to an object and transfer what the eye digested by hand to canvas. Learning to use the paint to achieve the colors I wanted proved to be easier than I thought. I was able to convey the crude landscape I intended to show. SURPRISE!”
“It was a wonderful experience and fun. The challenging part was thinking about what design you wanted to do and painting it. It is important to appreciate the plants around us because of the beauty of the plants and the oxygen we need.”
“I think this is a wonderful project. It was a nice change for us. I have plants, so I was thankful for this project. The ladies were so patient with us.”
“Working with this project was very great. The painting was great; I never thought I could do it. The very best part about it was planting the plant.”
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Savannah, GA 31412
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