Seniors showcase their creativity
On Friday, April 27, the National Council for Senior Citizens at 11 West King's House Road in St Andrew, was the venue for the opening ceremony and private viewing of 'Golden Designs: A Seniors' Art Exhibition'.
It was the first of two events planned and executed by Shelly-Ann Thompson, a fourth-year arts management student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
The event was a requirement for the bachelor of arts programme, in which Thompson is enrolled, and for which final-year students must undertake an independent study project in partial completion of the programme. The artwork, photography, and jewellery displayed were done by seniors aged 66-88 in classes offered by Thompson.
The project must be an original one that "incorporates the creative industries", "conceptualised and implemented by the student", Thompson told Arts and Education.
"I chose to implement a project that caters to the elderly community, with a focus on visual arts. I wanted to explore how the retirement community, those 60 years and older, may be engaged through the arts as a possible means of self-expression and an avenue for income generation," she added.
In addressing the gathering on April 27, Thompson said that she wanted to tell and showcase the stories of seniors in a pleasant way. She spoke of her journey from selling her idea to her lecturer to getting the seniors involved. The art skills training programme involved 50 people from Kingston, St Andrew, and St Thomas, and included people from her own community of Albion Estates in St Thomas.
"This project, Golden Designs, signals everything that says we are righteous, we are resilient, we are strong, we are wonderful, we are talented, no matter the challenges ... . I wanted senior citizens to tell their stories through the arts. From an arts background, I know, so many stories, your experiences, your challenges, your love, your journey into being a senior citizen, can be exhibited through the work of art," Thompson said.
And to the two officials representing the Government, Thompson also said, "While you celebrate with us, I would like you to take back to your ministries that our senior citizens are not only dear to us, but we want to involve them in our productive sector ... not only as persons who take care of their grandchildren, but as persons who [participate in the] income generation of our country."
Speaking on behalf of her fellow participants, who received certificates, Esther Perry thanked everyone involved in the project and spoke of how it has affected the lives of the participants.
"It enhanced me. It brings me back to my childhood, where I used to do some of these things ... . It just brings back life to me, and I am very glad and very proud of this class," Perry said.
In her speech, read by her representative, Denzil Thorpe, permanent secretary in the Ministry of culture gender entertainment and sport, Minister Olivia Grange mentioned the revised National Policy on Culture and Creative Economy 2017-2027: towards the Enhancement of Brand Jamaica.
"The policy's principles and values speak clearly to the respect for fundamental human rights, especially in relation to women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. It is also imperative that the creativity of our elderly be harnessed. The policy also elaborates on the Government's commitment to 'promoting, in view of the ageing of the population, activities for the engagement of the creativity of the elderly in order to foster a more caring and dynamic society, including activities that promote their interactions with youths'," Thrope said, reading Grange's message.
"As minister, I am pleased with the creativity emanating from the Edna Manley College as the only institution of its kind in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean, which has, for over 60 years, engaged the minds and hearts of Jamaica and regional youths through the tenets of diversity, innovation leadership, and service ... ."
Entertainment was provided by The Recycled Teenagers, a dance group comprising only senior citizens.