Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is by Natalie, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts:

This MAEA experience aligned at the same time with a lot of personal changes in my life that I never expected (with the passing of my grandfather, the separation of my parents, and the realization that I might not know what I want to do after I graduate this spring). But this semester has also been one of my favorites (with my family closer than ever, having met some of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and the feeling of satisfaction with all of my interactions). And some credit does go to this class for keeping me sane these last few months. Like how everything in my life is so complicated, this class has been a very rewarding and challenging force in my life. An experience that has left a strong impression on me thanks to Anne, Elaine, and the MAEA community members. 

The first session with the club members we sang songs. And boy were they sassy. They thought the songs the singing instructor choose were too old. “They were oldies when I was a kid” was even exclaimed. Sometimes they were more energetic than the young adults. And immediately after the first day they made all of us feel at ease and refreshed. On the short bus ride back to school we were talking about how our moods were completely different than that morning. The MAEA members are so welcoming and loving. How often are you given a hug and told you are loved after every interaction? With the MAEA members, it’s all the time. They even call us their kids. I look forward to going to the site every week because I knew all of the members would lift my mood and make me laugh. Even before working one-on-one with a MAEA partner, I felt comfortable with all of the members (especially after our second session when we danced together to Motown). This was very refreshing because I had been surrounded by uncordial people my age for too long. I’m very thankful that I found smiles and consideration every time I went to the site. Even though they had their own worries and obstacles, they never failed to enjoy themselves while we were there. 

At the same time with all of these emotions, I was confronted with challenges that made me reconsider my approach to making (art and relationships). Before taking this class, I considered myself a go with the flow kind of person. But what I didn’t see was the excessive planning behind all that composure. With every session I always prepared for at least 5 different projects and ideas but when I started working with any of the MAEA members nothing I had anticipated happened. One time I brought in a sketchbook, canvas, watercolor crayons, printmaking materials and more. Can you guess what me and my MAEA partner did? None of that. But because I threw away all of my plans we had fun learning a material that neither of us had used. I don’t need to make my MAEA partner feel my stress, or anyone for that matter. Every session with my MAEA partner or any of the members were unique interactions and experiences that I could never have anticipated but value greatly. In some cases, people need more structure. In my case, I needed a dose of calmness. I needed to feel like not everything depended on me. You might be wondering why I say this was a calming experience when I just said my challenge was being calm? It’s complicated. Nothing was consistent about my sessions, so I had to be very flexible, so that we could have fun. But letting go of the structure I made for myself was calming.

 I know this wasn’t exactly a humorous anecdote. Perhaps this was a bit too serious at times. It’s just that when my life has been at its most chaotic, I learned a lot about myself and felt loved by very kind strangers. And that was the only thing I could imagine reflecting genuinely on for this blog post.

Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is by Beth, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts:

I’ve always been more of a solitary maker. I like to sit in a room by myself, plug in a podcast, and draw/collage/sketch/whatever. But other times I sit down, and I just don’t know what to do. No guiding direction jumps out at me. Or I get bored, only working off the same ideas that have been circulating endlessly in my own head.

The MAEA collaboration cracks open the door and lets some fresh air in. We started with painting, then cut the paintings into shapes, then collaged the shapes together. All of which developed into an abstract, dimensional, colorful composition. This whole process isn’t something I would have arrived at on my own. It was through sharing materials and ideas along the way that the project evolved the way it did. We all worked individually on a small painting in acrylic, watercolor, or alcohol ink. Then later, we pooled our pieces together to cut and collage, pulling from everyone’s painted pieces.

There are some artists out there who like the glory of bringing a unique, singular, genius idea into the world through their work. But that’s not really my style. Rather, I’ve discovered that I prefer the surprise of working with others to create something unique and singular that couldn’t have existed if I had just been working alone.

This class has been a reminder to play, and not take myself or my work so seriously all the time. It can be satisfying to plan a project out and see it through start to finish. But it’s important to let things happen naturally sometimes. A lot of times, the unexpected stuff can lead to the greatest discoveries. In addition, don’t be afraid to take scissors to something – by breaking apart a painting that’s beautiful in and of itself, you can build it into something even greater. And look to the world, the people around you. There is talent and knowledge in your surroundings if you just reach out to tap into it.

The images below are some in-process paintings, cut into strips and layered. The material used is alcohol ink – colored inks that blend, flow, and bleed into one another. Even with all my years in art school, these were new materials for me, and the experimenting gave me a chance to try new things.


Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is by Gus, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts: 

General Enthusiasm

I’ve always labeled myself as generally enthusiastic about life – I love mornings, I love evenings, I love people, and I love my alone time. I’ve thought about myself this way for years now, and have always been astounded by how few people share my enthusiasm.

Even on my most ecstatic day, I pale in comparison to my MAEA community partner. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who is as optimistic, charismatic, and easy-going as she is. My community partner is in her early sixties – one of the youngest people in the group to have dementia – but she doesn’t let that bring her down. “I’ve had a good life so far,” she’s said, “and I’m not gunna stop now!” She loves coffee (though neither of us should be allowed to drink more than a cup), and going fast in her car.

Seriously. I remember feeling shy when she asked me what the fastest I’d ever gone was. I replied, skittishly, “Once I got up to ninety-five.” She laughed at that, and proudly confided that, when she still had her license, she’d been past 120 on more than one occasion.

One. Hundred. Twenty.

Sweet Lord.

Honestly, I’m not sure who is benefiting more from the time we get to spend together. The thing I do know, however, is that my life is happier, funnier, and more peaceful with her in it. In fact, much to the woe of my housemates and family members, I think she’s taught me to be even more optimistic about life.


Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is by Robert, a current student in our MAEA class:


The two photos are photos taken by myself and my MAEA partner respectively on one of our photoshoots relating to our theme of machinery and parts in a whole.

In anything repetition can lead to lack of enthusiasm, and as a photographer my initial enthusiasm had been suppressed by taking tens of thousands of photos. In working with my MAEA partner that enthusiasm has seeped back into my work. In sharing my experience and knowledge and in seeing it applied to creative work in the next instant uncovers the initial inspiration I felt when I first picked up a camera. The typical issues found in collaboration are not present here. It is impossible to be unenthusiastic or noncommittal when your community partner not only is never of such an attitude but reminds you of the enthusiasm you once felt for photography before years of taking pictures made you forget it. The joy of creation never leaves your work but the joy in creation can. To work with someone who is not of the same mindset as your typical collaborators, who tend to be your peers, is motivating and inspirational. It is valuable to see a creative process influenced by years beyond what I have lived, yet still new as it is built in part by my teaching. In this sense, it is a collaboration in more than just art but also in learning. The dual images capture how we look at the world differently and when working together can play off of each other’s experience to create mutually beneficial work that conveys more than each could individually.


Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is written by Shelby, a current student in MAEA:

To be honest, I didn’t really expect MAEA to lead to a philosophical analysis of my own thinking. I’m learning so much about my creative process and why I form attachments to the things I do.

My MAEA community partner and I hit it off very quickly; despite our 60 year age difference we had a lot of things in common and talked very easily. We’re both only children, had multiple golden retrievers, and hailed from middle America. She was involved in the feminist movement, and I was reading about the feminist movement. My dad works as a carpenter, and her son works as a carpenter. We both liked to bend the rules, discussing controversial topics and going for walks instead of exclusively working on the project. But above all, we discovered a mutual enjoyment of analyzing root causes and understanding why people act the way they do.

When it came time to come up with a project, we weren’t really interested in producing anything; we just wanted to keep talking. We agreed that the days where we weren’t forced to complete something were the best days. So we started to look introspectively.

Why do we get along so well?

 It seemed easy, we have a lot in common, but that led to a second question: What about those commonalities did we attach to? What do these outside influences do to shape us as a person?

We began delving into deep philosophical discussion, and decided that our project would be proctoring a discussion on attachments with the other members of this program. Keeping a casual, and not-forced tone of course.

We’re still in the planning project, but I feel like I’m learning so much from her along the way. It’s like she’s giving me the tools to think about how I behave, and what influences me to do the things I do. Our conversations are applicable to my intellectual history class, and I’m excited to tell her about the new things I read.

I’m glad our project is fostering similar introspection with the rest of the participants. Although we are still in the planning process, I’ve gained a better understanding of myself in this short time- I can only hope we do the same for the group.

Unexpected Intellectualism

Shelby Meyer