Ithaca College Receives Grant to Hire Local Artist

A generous gift from the Tompkins Trust Company has allowed the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute to hire local muralist and decorative painter Mary Beth Ihnken to offer arts workshops for area residents. The Gerontology Institute supports academic coursework and research as well as campus and community programs that highlight the links between creativity and aging through its Linden Center for Creativity and Aging. The workshops were conducted at Brookdale Senior Living Center and the Titus Towers housing complex in downtown Ithaca. The purpose of the project is to provide opportunities for older adults living in congregate settings to “do art.” Participation in the arts has been found to improve the quality of life of both well and less well elders. Many artists continue to flourish in old age with some producing their most creative work in their later years.

At Brookdale’s memory unit (Clare Bridge Cottage), Ihnken conducted a series of six sessions with residents who worked in a variety of different materials including watercolor, color pencil, acrylic paint, and clay. Val VanAmburg, Program Coordinator at Clare Bridge said, “Ihnken’s special program with our residents was a perfect example of how the arts have a positive effect on older adults. Watching their faces light up with excitement while engaged in the program and appreciating the results of the efforts was truly inspiring for all of us.” Up to 10 seniors at Titus Towers worked on an involved watercolor project. Billie Nordby, Director of Resident Services at Titus says the class has been wonderful for the tenants. “Some folks are very talented and really enjoyed using their gift again. Others were real beginners, and had so much fun trying. They were all made to feel what they did was an expression of who they are, and felt valued for their work.” Ihnken is “happy to see how much enjoyment participants are getting from creating the art,” and also says the older adults seemed eager to “interact with someone younger.”

Ithaca College students participated in many of the sessions as volunteers or as part of the Fieldwork in Gerontology course. Both locations are planning on having art shows at the end of the project to celebrate the work of the residents.

The grant also allows Ihnken to work on a mural at Cayuga Ridge Health and Residential Community on Trumansburg Road in Ithaca.

Learn more about the work of Mary Beth Ihnken by visiting her website here and the Linden Center for Creativity and Aging.



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