The group focus at one of my programs has been on using recycled materials for inspiration. Who knew that a stash of styrofoam cubes could evolve into such a beautiful creation! My seniors created this church. It’s been a project that has spanned several weeks and resulted in an overall increase in group participation! During our first session, we painted styrofoam shapes and glued them together to create the church building. When I asked the group what the church needed next, several ladies responded, “The church needs members!” So, we created members using clothespins and fabric scraps. The project continued to evolve and the participants decided at various points that the church also needed a piano, a ceiling fan, a steeple (made from favorite hymns), a pastor & pastor’s wife, pews, the church choir, and stained-glass windows.
During this creative time, I have worked with participants on reminiscing about church life and the role that church has played in each participant’s lifetime. We’ve talked about church attire, falling asleep during a sermon, and the overall level of meaning that a church may or may not have played in each individual’s life. During one session, we listened to gospel music and let me tell you that It gave me chills to hear several participants (who are often very quiet and minimally engaged) begin to sing along with deep southern gospel tunes. This group has some soul y’all!
I think one of my favorite components to this project is how many of my ladies attempt to stick the church members and choir group into their purses! Each session, before group is over I have to count the number of clothespin dolls and check pursues to make sure no one is running away with our group art! And the typical response when I do find a choir member or two in someone’s bag: “Well, how did that get in there?” and then everyone starts to laugh.
Take time to notice the detail and care that my seniors put into this project. I often find that with this population, dimensional activities have a greater impact than other activities. The act of holding the clay/ clothespin/ etc. is very engaging. While art therapy does not focus on the product as much as the process of creating, I can certainly state that this group has been truly proud of their end product (as they should be)!