Masonicare at Newtown's New Creative Arts Room
airy and bright and makes me want to put a brush in my hand.”
By Adam Raider
Art is one of the most popular activities – and effective therapies – at nursing homes and assisted living communities. It helps relieve stress and anxiety, improves motor and cognitive skills, and facilitates communication. It can also be a lot of fun.
Although art therapy isn't new to Masonicare at Newtown, donations to the Masonicare Annual Appeal have made it possible for residents to paint, draw, and do other activities in a new, dedicated space for creative arts.
"Before this," Masonicare at Newtown Administrator Elyse Dent explained, "our dining room doubled as an art room … and a bingo room and a library. After an hour of working on art projects, we'd have to pack everything up and store it in a closet until next time. Now, thanks to the Masonicare Annual Appeal, we have this wonderful space where residents can work on various projects and return to them whenever they please. The therapeutic value is amazing."
Art Therapist Katie Claywell was interviewing for her position at Masonicare at Newtown last summer when she learned of the plan to build a new creative arts room and stock it with paints, easels, brushes, pencils and other supplies. Imagining all the activities she'd get to do with residents made her even more excited about working for Masonicare.
"It was like my dream," she said.
Creating a supportive, uncritical environment, Katie encourages residents to incorporate their emotions and personal experiences into their artwork. She might suggest they draw something from their childhood, like a favorite place or prized possession. She talks to them during the activity, discussing the actual project or asking questions that might trigger old memories.
"If I say, 'Draw how you feel today,' I'll get some really interesting results," she said. "It's a great way for our residents to express themselves, especially if they're having difficulty finding the right words. We connect with them through their art."
Residents had input in furnishing and decorating the room, which is painted in bright colors and features a huge mural of a field of sunflowers. There's ample storage for arts and crafts supplies, a small gallery space where artwork can be displayed, and an area for reading and doing puzzles. A wall-mounted electronic fireplace adds to the cozy, home-like atmosphere.
"It's delightful," resident Mary Ferruccio said. "It's airy and bright and makes me want to put a brush in my hand and start painting. Even if you're not that talented, you might learn something from someone else – maybe even learn to appreciate art more. I never painted before I came to live here."
"Families come to visit and when they see the work produced, some of them are really taken aback," said Lynn D'Angelo, Recreation Coordinator at Masonicare at Newtown. "They'll say, 'I never knew my mom had any artistic ability!'"
Lynn called the new creative arts room "a blessing."
"When residents come down here," she said, "it's a different atmosphere than up on the nursing units and other areas. The energy here is warm and uplifting and welcoming. I know that this room wouldn't have been possible without all the donations to the Annual Appeal. What donors' gifts are providing to our residents means so much to all of us."
Your gifts to The Masonic Charity Foundation of Connecticut will help create "Masonicare Experiences" for others. To find out how you can support The Foundation or to make a gift, please call 203-679-5555 or 800-562-3952. You can also donate online at masonicare.org/mcf.