Longmont seniors citizens inspire Skyline High art project
By John Spina, Times-Call
The room was abuzz with excitement as a group of art students from Skyline High School entered the lobby of the Atria Longmont senior living facility on Wednesday afternoon.
A month earlier, each of the 27 students in the advanced placement studio art and drawing class was paired with an Atria residents whose stories inspired the students’ final projects.
“It was a lot of fun to hear about all their adventures,” said Cerra Shattuck, a junior at Skyline. “I don’t get to interact with people like this a lot and it pushed me as an artist to make something for someone else. It was like getting my first commission.”
After meeting with the residents for more than three hours the students had a month to transform that conversation into a piece of art. Their creative representations ranged from portraits and scenes of cherished memories, to landscapes of their subject’s favorite place and memorials of their military service.
When presented with the finished products each resident beamed with pride.
“I can’t believe he got everything in there,” Betty Baumgardt, 95, said of Emiliano Rea’s painting of her old family farm in Wisconsin. “He’s got the old well in there, my 1973 caprice, he’s even got a bottle of beer in there from when my dad would brew beer in our basement during Prohibition.”
Tony Scarangello, 91, said Carlos Moreno’s painting of him and his recently deceased wife is “something I’ll pass on to my daughter. This was just a great idea. It was great to share our stories and very energizing to be around some young people. I think they got something out of it, too.”
Though the residents said it was difficult to get the students to talk about their own lives, they eventually began talking about what professions the students were pursuing and offered what advice they could.
Seeing the other paintings, the residents also said that they got to know more about one another.“We all have a story,” said Bud Devere, 95. “It was interesting to hear why everyone else is living at Atria. Many of them are so similar.”
While the project was originally conceived by Carolyn Root, the advanced placement studio art professor, and Heather Jones, who works as a campus supervisor at Skyline as well as a medical technician at Atria, as a way to keep the students engaged for the final weeks of class, it provided such a lift to the residents and students they are considering expanding the project next year.
“It was awesome,” Jones said. “It was such a good learning experience for the kids and once everyone left, the residents were so energetic, even those that didn’t participate were walking the halls admiring everyone’s pictures as they hung them up on the walls. It went so well that I think we’ll do it twice next year and bring a lot more kids.”
Even some of the graduating students said that they would be back.
“I loved it,” said Alec Hopp, senior at Skyline who sketched a picture of a battle scene in from World War II after talking with DeVere. “I grew up hearing about WWII in Europe, so hearing about what was going on the Pacific was really cool. I’ll definitely come back to see Bud.”