WCCC Senior Arts Program Expands After First Week

By Lura Jackson

Heather Perry (standing at right) walks around the class assisting students during the Seniors Arts Program at the Calais Methodist Homes. The program is offered at no cost to seniors age 62 and older through WCCC. (Photo by Lura Jackson).

The Senior Arts Program being offered by WCCC has just completed its second successful week at the Calais Methodist Homes, and the rate of enthusiastic participation has been so high as to warrant expanding into a second class each week. The class (titled “Awakening Your Inner Artist”) is taught by skilled interdisciplinary artist Heather Perry, and it is offered at no cost to adults who are age 62 and older. 

Art has long been recognized as one of the individual most important methods of self-expression and communication, and for senior citizens, it can be especially therapeutic. Recent studies have shown that art has the ability to counteract the effects of dementia through its ability to stimulate memories and act as a cognitive coping mechanism for the changes that adults face as they age. 

For Perry, who has trained as an artist for as long as she can remember, sharing the benefits of the creation of art is one of her primary focuses. “What I hope to help people do is find that inner creativity inside themselves so that they can have an artistic practice outside of the classroom.” Perry explains that when we engage the hand and mind in meaningful activity, it can enhance the way we see the world around us. 

No experience is necessary for the course, though an open mind, curious nature and a spirit of exploration are certainly helpful for its successful completion. Running until December 18th, each of the three hour long sessions is designed to hone the artistic eye of participants while teaching various techniques for creatively interpreting and capturing the world around us. Upon completing the course, participants are eligible to receive three college credits from WCCC. All of the materials (including drawing boards, pencils, and charcoal) are provided at no cost. Funding for the program largely comes from casino revenue in the Bangor area, part of which has been earmarked for investment into statewide education.

As the first class offered in WCCC’s SeniorArts Program, organizers were unsure of what to expect for participation. “Initially we bought enough supplies for twelve students,” assistant Ruth Sousa commented. When over thirty students signed up, the level of desire for artistic creation in the senior community was suddenly made clearer. An additional date has been added each week to break up the class and enable more individual assistance. The college hopes to offer additional classes in the future as part of the program.

After class on Thursday, participants were upbeat and positive about the experience, praising Perry’s hands-on, active approach to teaching and looking forward to getting started on their weekly homework assignment. For some seniors, it was the first time they’d taken a college course, and the discussions of theories and techniques took some getting used to. Perry continued to offer encouragement throughout the class, explaining, “It’s part of the learning process—learning to know yourself.” Combined with Perry’s nurturing philosophy, the program presents a rare opportunity for nearly thirty seniors in the Calais area to get to know themselves and their creative abilities at a time when self-awareness and realization are critical for ongoing mental health.

The class runs on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Methodist Homes Recreation Hall, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon at WCCC. For more information regarding the course, contact Tina Erskine at terskine@wccc.me.edu or 454-1002.