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Holladay Journal

Creative Aging Workshop celebrates life stories through artistic expression

Apr 28, 2023 09:58AM ● By Collette Hayes

Personal aging story self-portraits will be on display at Holladay City Hall during May to honor the eight participants of the Creative Aging Workshop. This is a self-portrait done by instructor Jim McGee. (Photo credit Holladay Arts Council)

Creative expression experiences for those growing older provide opportunities to improve overall health and enhance quality of life. “Liberating our Stories,” an intensive, eight-session Creative Aging Workshop, welcomed eight women aged 55-plus to reflect on and to share components of their identities and translate them into powerful symbolic works of art about life’s journey.

 The workshop is funded by a grant from the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Holladay Arts Council Executive Director Sheryl Gillilan and trained artist Kandace Steadman brainstormed ideas for a workshop with the emphasis on creative aging. Receiving one of the Division’s grants, the Arts Council launched its first Creative Aging Workshop in April 2022 titled “Life Mandalas.” Through a series of writing activities and art experiences, participants created mandala symbols to cultivate inner awareness and to explore one’s place and purpose in the world. 

The Council received a second Division grant in 2023 funding the Creative Aging Workshop titled “Growing Older: Liberating our Stories.” Writing and artistic skills were presented during an eight-session workshop by local artist Jim McGee and River Writing creator Nan Seymour.  Skills learned and practiced during the classes were employed by students to create a collection of finished writings to honor students’ lives in written form and a loosely-constructed self-portrait on a wooden art panel was created to illustrate personal aging stories. The Arts Council will honor the class participants at an opening reception at Holladay City Hall in May. During the reception, class participants will have an optional opportunity to read written works aloud. 

Holladay resident Cecilie Mattison has enjoyed participating in the workshop for the last two years. Mattison explained she was drawn to the class due to the art and written components being taught and for the nurturing atmosphere created by the instructors, McGee and Seymour. Using the Seven Community Agreements from the River Writing process, the instructors created an atmosphere where students could feel a sense of belonging, be creative, understood and accepted.

“To my surprise, the workshop surpassed my wildest dreams and expectations allowing a comfort zone of newfound expression,” Mattison said. “There are seven agreements included in River Writing that Nan presented during class to encourage a person to put down her thoughts and speak from the heart. The seven community agreements are life skills and include nonjudgment, shared responsibility, self-care, confidentiality and consent, honesty, listening with the heart, and kindness.” 

Workshop participants’ self-portraits will be on display at City Hall during May to honor them and to celebrate their artistic symbolic expressions portraying a life well lived. The Holladay Arts Council will honor the Creative Aging Workshop participants at an opening reception at City Hall on May 1, from 5-7 p.m. The community is welcome to attend.