Case Study

Battling Isolation Through Online Arts Education

Art With Elders (AWE) continues to teach, engage, and empower older adults through the creative arts, providing vital links to community and creativity. While many older adults have experienced increased isolation during the pandemic, AWE reaches people of all artistic skill levels from about 40 different communities across the San Francisco Bay Area through a fine arts curriculum and exhibits in public spaces-- all of which have transitioned online.

Under normal circumstances, elders across these diverse Bay Area communities would come together regularly for art classes. Documenting, storing, and organizing the high volume of artwork created in these classes with CatalogIt helps the program run smoothly.

For many elder communities, the pandemic has meant strict lockdowns and extreme isolation, even from caretakers and close relatives. Despite the logistical limitations they’ve faced, these seniors’ passion for art has only increased, becoming an even more important part of staying active and healthy…

“The effect of the quarantine has been to intensify isolation and loneliness which plagued many seniors already. Many now also express increased feelings of anxiety and depression in these uncertain times” said  Darcie O’Brien, AWE Exhibits Manager.  

AWE empowers participants to create and share their art, lessening the effects of loneliness and isolation, which can be serious health threats for seniors. CatalogIt enables AWE to curate participant portfolios, biographies, and additional images like “selfies” that represent the  artists’ process. After developing strong personal relationships with their instructors through the regular arts classes, the students were eager to continue their classes after shelter-in-place began…

When the  orders went into effect, AWE moved swiftly to arrange Zoom classes reflecting a normal class format, where participants receive a one-hour lesson and art review followed by time for work and conversation. The nonprofit has conducted outreach to seniors who struggle to access technology, and even recruited new students from across the nation to participate in the virtual classes and later enjoy viewing and sharing their standout pieces in the CatalogIt HUB. Their reach has actually increased during this time and cataloging has become ever more important.

AWE encourages the students to express their feelings toward the current moment through their art.

“Participants appreciate the sense of camaraderie and opportunity for creative expression. Program artists are offered technical advice and themes to work with, but are encouraged to portray whatever is meaningful and interesting to them” said Darcie.

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A Zoom art class featuring instructor Darcie O’Brien and participants

AWE offers tools and guidance allowing the participants to express their artistic visions.

The organization publishes to the CatalogIt HUB, featuring the participants’ artistic portfolios and allowing friends and family to appreciate their art anywhere, anytime. During the pandemic, AWE has premiered an online collection titled “Pandemic Response Art” in which the  artists express their feelings towards the global crisis through their classwork.

Program Participant Susan McCown’s Pandemic Response Piece titled “THEY HAVE NAMES”

AWE also aired an online exhibition titled “Resilient!” reflecting other works created during the lockdown. After virtually premiering exhibits, Darcie publishes them to the CatalogIt HUB, where seniors’ families and friends can appreciate a full and lasting record of their artwork.

In lieu of its regular live events and exhibitions, AWE will launch its 28th annual exhibition and celebration online this fall, which the public will be able to access through the CatalogIt HUB.

“As for exhibitions, the artists are excited to see their work up online in a shareable format. Viewers, too, are heartened to see the artwork, artist photos, and artist statements featured through our exhibitions program, which aims to raise awareness around the great gifts these older adults have to share” Darcie said.

Art With Elders

California, USA
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"As for exhibitions, the artists are excited to see their work up online in a shareable format. Viewers, too, are heartened to see the artwork, artist photos, and artist statements featured through our exhibitions program, which aims to raise awareness around the great gifts these older adults have to share."

Darcie O'Brien

Exhibits Manager
Plan Type

Museum

Conservator

Personal

Organization

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