Bringing Art to Life in Your Community

Bringing Art to Life in Your Community

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Craft Hobby Clubs

Contrary to some beliefs, everyone is indeed an artist. Learn how to foster a love of all types of art in your senior care community, and how to create a showcase that will quickly become a favorite annual event.
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There is a creative desire in everyone, including your residents! Learn how to capture and encourage that desire  by cultivating a culture of art appreciation in your community. You’ll notice even the most reluctant residents can’t resist the urge to try at least one art class when you genuinely praise all efforts.

9 Ways to Introduce Residents to Art

When you think of art, what comes to mind? Everyone will have a unique perspective and answer to this question. Some people may think of the Mona Lisa or Picasso, while others will think of a sunset or their favorite song. That’s what is so great about art - it creates conversation and differing opinions, but no one is ever right or wrong.

When you begin to create a culture of art and creativity in your community, begin by simply introducing your staff, residents, and visitors to a wide variety of art.

  • Hang paintings and photographs by local artists throughout your activity room
  • Invite local artists, musicians, and photographers into your community to speak about their projects
  • Host a Library Review group, where a local librarian comes in to talk about classic literature and new releases
  • Go on an outing to a local museum, as well as a local craft fair
  • Host a lecture about creativity with local graphic designers and other creatives
  • Watch a variety of movies during your Movie Sunday afternoons, including classics and more modern takes
  • Learn more about graphic novels (comic books) and watch the latest Marvel or DC creation come to life on the big screen
  • Ask residents what they thought of the movie you just watched, book you just read, music you just heard, together. Encourage all opinions, but end the conversation by having everyone highlight at least one thing they liked about it.
  • Leave out coffee table books that highlight art pieces throughout your common areas, and swap them often

You are probably already doing most of these activities, which means you are already fostering a love of all types of creativity and art in your community. Take any opportunity you can to point out the creativity that goes into a favorite poem, book, movie, or song.

How to Encourage Participation

Now that you have created a community that recognizes and honors all types of creativity, it’s time to get your residents in on the action. While you may not have any problems convincing a handful of your residents to attend your next painting class, creating art can be intimidating for the majority of people. Here are a few ways to make it less scary for people who claim to not be artists:

  • Have classes taught by local instructors (or your staff members) on how to complete specific projects
  • Leave out art supplies in a designated area so that residents who prefer to create alone can do so
  • Have a “Journal Question of the Day” to encourage reflection by potential writers
  • Host a drum circle for residents - they can watch, participate, or even lead it
  • Host an intergenerational art project group
  • Plan activities that encompass a wide variety of projects - crafts, painting, pottery, writing, music, design, etc.
  • Invite family members to create a painting or art project with their loved one (this is a great idea for a family night!)
  • Have supplies available for residents to “check-out” from activity staff, like watercolors, sketch pads, colored pencils, blank journals, etc.
  • Start a Photo Club, where participants experiment with different types of photos, lighting, and subjects. You can easily start with a smartphone and a Polaroid type of camera - no need for expensive lenses here!

Bring In Professionals: How to Find Them

Now that your residents are dipping their toes into creativity, you can get some extra inspiration from the professionals. Invite local artists into your community to lead classes, showcase their personal work, and even give advice to your residents. You can even offer your space for a local art show or installation. You can find local artists in your community by:

  • Asking your staff members - there is at least one creative working beside you right now
  • Asking your resident family members
  • Asking your residents (look at those leisure histories and assessments to discover if one of your residents was an artist of some type in the past)
  • Calling local art galleries
  • Contacting the art, music, writing, photography, design departments of local high schools or colleges
  • Emailing a graphic designer near you

Tips for Hosting Your Own Art Show

Part of making art is having the chance to showcase it for others to enjoy. Honor the creativity in your residents by hosting an Art Show right in your own community. Invite residents, staff, family members, and the local community to enjoy the hard work from your residents.

  • Think of a catchy name for your show (We Heart Art, All Art Is Beautiful, Creatives Live Here, etc.)
  • Ask residents to submit pieces for the show a few months ahead of time
  • Host extra art classes in the months leading up to the show so interested residents can create a piece to showcase
  • Make invitations to send to residents, family members, and the community. Bonus points if a resident designs them!
  • Work with dining to coordinate a menu for the show. A buffet of small, easy to eat desserts works best. If you have the staff to do it, try skipping the buffet and passing trays to the crowd instead. Choose a signature drink (a ginger lemonade fizz feels extra special but isn’t difficult to make) as well.
  • Display art pieces with resident first name and title. You can hang pieces on walls or set them on tables throughout the showcase space.
  • For residents who submitted writing pieces, have them read excerpts of their work at designated times of the showcase
  • Honor all residents who took time to share their creativity by passing out a commemorative gift. Display artist names in your next newsletter as well.

Creativity looks different to everyone, but its effects are the same - being creative makes us feel good! It gives us a chance to express ourselves through difficult situations. It keeps our hands busy and our brains engaged. The byproduct, whether a story, a scarf, or a bowl, is beautiful, but the process is the important part.


How can you give every resident the chance to have a creative process? I’d love to learn what is working for you right now. Three cheers for art and creativity!

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Haley Burress

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Comments   Post a Comment

Bronwen 16th Jul 2020 Assistant Manager
I have found all your art and craft ideas inspiring, and have got a collection of activities prepared for when our service users return to our day centre after this lockdown has ended.
It has also provided me with an activity base, to facilitate sending activities home to service users to enable them to keep their minds and hands active and improve their well being.
Valerie 25th Sep 2019 Activities Aide
I began working in a nursing home as Activity Aide in June. I found that the best way to encourage residents to participate in our craft group is to offer choices of projects, but also to be crafting with a purpose. I began a relaxation program for one of my evening programs. We begin by doing our Serenity Gardens. Each participant gets a foil tray (I purchased lasagne size) and gets some play sand in it. They can create their garden from anything that is on the table. I have relaxing instrumental music playing in the background and once the gardens are finished we do relaxation exercises. We started out with small figurines from a thrift store and some small flowers and greenery from a Dollar Store. The crafting part came in when they began creating items to decorate their gardens... ones that could be shared with the group so each can create a different garden each time. We made inukshuks from stones, fences, benches, bird houses, butterflies and welcome signs from wood and decorated small dishes with blue fabric and either shells or small stones for water features. The residents have fallen in love with their gardens and have fun remembering who created what pieces.
Haley 6th Jun 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Carol and Jill, I love your ideas! Thank you for taking time to share what is working in your communities. Golden Carers gives us a great opportunity to take a sneak peek into other senior care facilities, and I love learning from readers like you.
Lorri 4th Jun 2019 Art Therapist
Thanks for the great ideas you have shared. I am still trying to engage my local aged care providers in art activities. As an art therapist I know how valuable art and creativity can be for residents. I love the idea of an art show ... I will try this idea and see how they respond. cheers Lorri :)
Carol 1st Jun 2019
I love art. I volunteer in a day facility and for the last year I have been using different types of art to encourage participants. I always stress there is no wrong way to do art. About 6 months ago we had an informal art show. A couple were 'from scratch' but most were from coloring book or individual prints. Some were prints from your website. All work was matted and displayed. We have 2 different area and so we displayed half in each area for a week and then switched. Everyone was delighted.
Last week we had a Car Show. I have 2 coloring books of vintage cars and trucks and participants chose from these pictures and put their names on the back. I then mounted them on trifold display boards and put a letter on each picture and we had Viewers Choice awards. I use Hot Wheel cars mounted on napkin rings for trophies. Very well received.
Jill 28th May 2019 Activities Coordinator
We made contact with a local wool and textile shop. They have ex-demonstration pictures that they donated for a small amount. I purchased glass beads to embellish the black work of flowers.
I noticed how fascinated the residents were with the textile pictures and how confidently they worked within a set pattern.
I plan to produce some simple tapestry designs that they will be able to work with, adding detail.
Haley 27th May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
A new article has been submitted: Bringing Art to Life in Your Community
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