by NATHANIEL NELSON
Art is one of those few things that can easily cross through generations, and with a recent program hosted by the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (MCA) and the Winona Friendship Center, that’s exactly what it did. An intergenerational art gallery is on display at the Valéncia Arts Center for the rest of August and into September, with works created by artists from the age of seven to 91.
Local artist Brianna Haupt was the selected teaching artist for the eight-week program, and taught participants about the art of collage. The class was for two age groups — kids ages seven to 12, and adults older than 55. Haupt said she was chosen to assist with helping the participants along in their studies because of her background in art.
“The organization that had the grant was looking for someone who was an active artist in the community to guide the people who want to come to this workshop,” Haupt explained. “The teaching artist’s job is to teach someone a skill that they could use in the future. So when they leave the class in eight weeks, are they comfortable to make their own collage?”
Collage is a slightly different form of art, in that it doesn’t require as much technical know-how. There are no paints, or brushes, or clay — only objects. According to Haupt, the art of college is quite literally the cutting and gluing of objects.
“That’s where the artistic decision-making comes into play. ‘Why does an artist choose to glue the paper in this direction? Why did they choose this object or this image?” Haupt said.
At each of the sessions, Haupt introduced a new material for the artists to use and then left the rest to them. Haupt said as the weeks went on, people began to expand what they wanted to make, which eventually led to intergenerational collaborations.
“One of the cool things that ended up happening is that people were really interested in doing group collages, so there was lots of collaboration as far as that went,” Haupt said, adding that the pieces varied highly in complexity. “Some pieces were made in 20 minutes and others were multi-week collages.”
Seeing older adults and kids working together was beneficial on a number of levels, according to Jamie Schwaba, the managing director of the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts. While there were challenges making sure everyone was engaged, with the huge difference in attention span of some of the attendees, Schwaba said the program was successful and brought out some unique collaborations.
“Kids came with projects that have a lot of creativity and inspiration, while adults brought their wisdom,” Schwaba explained. “When kids work with older adults, research has shown they’ll do better in school, and it keeps adults more active.”
Like other local education oriented for lifelong learners, Schwaba said art education for older adults is important to keep people on their toes and thriving. “You can learn things even as you age. You’re never too old to learn,” she said. According to Schwaba, there is another set of classes based around watercolor coming up, but it already has a lengthy waitlist.
The collage class concluded with a gallery opening where both the artists and the public could attend. Both the kids and adults discussed and enjoyed the event, Schwaba said, and at that moment, you could really notice a change in how the group interacted.
“It was really exciting to watch old and young artists that worked together talk about their work together. There can be a really unique bond that’s formed,” Shwaba explained.
While the class was deemed educational, Haupt admitted that some of the elderly artists were already experienced artists who probably know quite a bit about collage. But to them, it wasn’t just about learning how to make art, but about learning a new way to approach it.
“The people that talked to me would say that they learned not to take their practice so seriously. When they didn’t overthink it or try to control their collage in some way, they were more successful,” Haupt said. “The kids taught them that.”
The program was made possible by a grant from Aroha Philanthropies though its new initiative “Seeding Vitality Arts Minnesota,” a program focused on providing art education and experience for aging adults. The grant was given to only 15 different organizations in 2018.
The completed projects from the workshop will will be on display throughout August and into early September at the Valéncia Arts Center at 1164 West 10th Street. The center is open Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.