Partner Spotlight: Ebenezer Care Center

On Tuesdays, Northern Clay Center teaching artists, Claire O’Connor and Susan Obermeyer, make the trek to their off-site clay classes at the Sholom Ackerberg Campus Roitenberg Plaza in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Sholom is a non-profit Senior Housing and Assisted Living organization with locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis Park. In the past year alone, NCC has provided ongoing clay classes for eleven separate constituencies under the Sholom umbrella. Residents of Adult Day, Long Term Care, Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, and Memory Care programs at a variety of sites have had the opportunity to have their hands in clay—many through multi-week classes.

Susan and Claire have recently teamed-up to lead classes for Memory Care and Enhanced Assisted Living residents at the Roitenberg Family site to meet the hand-over-hand instruction needs of many of these residents. Together they design their weekly curriculum and build on previous instruction, with special attention paid to the memory retention needs of the participants.

Heidi Clark, one of Sholom’s Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, assists each week. She says, “Susan and Claire bring a project to complete each week, but if the tenant veers from their instructions—they love it! They promote and encourage creativity.”

NCC teaching artists and Sholom staff report that the residents have remarkably improved their small motor skills. Even those who have had trouble creating forms during their initial classes have been able to make increasingly more detailed and intricate works of clay art as they build skills with clay. This development is especially heartening with the memory care residents, who have been able to retain these new skills, even as some of their other, non-clay memories fade.

As Claire puts it, “It is easy to look at these individuals and see what they have lost, but what endures is remarkable. As we work with them with clay, they are able to harness memories and experiences from their past.”

One resident, triggered by an image on the newspaper lining his workspace, began to tell a story. Jill Foote-Hutton, NCC’s Director of Learning and Engagement was visiting the class that day and recalls, “The comic strip opened a door to vivid memories. The individual proceeded to craft the head of Linus, while he related past stories to us. He shared his life as a printer in busy newsrooms; speaking of the complicated four-color printing process he used to oversee. It was clear he spent his life taking pride in his work. Then he told us about his wife who had been an artist. She had worked closely with Charles Schulz. Somewhere there is a large, colorful book of her artwork. He didn’t need anyone to interject or contribute to the story. He just needed someone to listen. He molded and painted the face of Linus, a tangible object, a placeholder for the memories that molded his life.”

If you would like to ensure these magical moments keep happening through your contribution, or if you have interest in setting up a class or demonstration for your group of 55+ers, please contact Alison Beech, NCC’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, at 612.339.8007 x313.

Winter 2015: ART@HAND and Catholic Elder Care

Northern Clay Center’s ART@HAND program recently received a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Learning Grant, which will enable clay collaborations with seven community organizations that serve individuals 55 years of age and older in a variety of settings. Catholic Elder Care in Northeast Minneapolis is one of NCC’s new partners, made possible through this generous funding. Through their independent living facilities, assisted living, memory care, senior day care programs and rehabilitations services, Catholic Elder Care provides a community atmosphere for elders of all faiths, where they receive the support and respect they need. NCC is excited to work closely with Catholic Elder Care staff and long-time outreach teaching artist Angie Renee to provide specialized programing through multi-week clay classes and workshops that will enhance the creative atmosphere, as well as bring new activities to residents.

Photo: Instructor Angie Renee assists participants at Ebenezer during an ART@HAND event.

Summer 2015: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Ravoux and Hamline Programs

Northern Clay Center’s ART@HAND program recently concluded a successful partnership with two Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Assisted Living sites, Ravoux and Hamline Public Housing in St. Paul.  

Teaching artist Elizabeth Coleman spent 12 weeks teaching participants how to handbuild pottery and sculpture with such projects such as “face mugs” and “leaf-relief plates.” Coleman states that what stands out most about the participants is how eager and willing they are to learn and to try something new. “Their skill level increases so much every time we have class,” she says, “and they are always so excited to see their pieces when they get the finished projects back.” 

Artist and Creative Aging Consultant, Michelle Weiner (from London), recently visited the program as part of an investigation into arts and aging programs around the country. She wrote on her blog “after 15 minutes of meeting teaching artist for the Northern Clay Center, Elizabeth Coleman, and the group filing in, introductions and demos were over and we were in full flow, reminiscent of a Good Times group at home. Swiftly, clay transitioned from balls, into pinch pots, into full sized bowls and the chat started to flow.” 

NCC collaborations with facilities like Hamline and Ravoux focus on providing a great social experience for participants and improving a sense of community. “The students really look forward to coming to class every week and are disappointed if they ever need to miss a session,” Coleman says. During their last class together, Hamline participants organized a surprise party complete with homemade treats, a big, hand-lettered sign, and thank-you cards to show their gratitude to Coleman and to celebrate the learning and fun they had together during the summer session.

If you would like to set up a class or demonstration for your group of 55+ers or you want to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programing, please contact Chris Singewald, Outreach Manager, at 612.339.8007 x 313.

Winter 2016: Meadow Woods Assisted Living at Martin Luther Campus

This winter, as part of an ongoing partnership with Martin Luther Campus in Bloomington, MN, Northern Clay Center’s ART@HAND teachers developed a project uniquely tailored to the residents of three levels of memory care at Meadow Woods Assisted Living. In collaboration with poets, Rachael Moritz and Zoe Bird, from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, MN Chapter, NCC teaching artists Angie Renee and Susan Obermeyer led residents through the creation of a series of bird-themed poetry tiles. First, the poets guided the residents in writing a group poem. Next, NCC teaching artists divided the poems into stanzas, and stamped each verse onto a clay tile. Lastly, they worked side by side with the residents to add clay elements to each tile reflecting imagery from the poem—talking about the birds in each stanza, making choices about the details, and choosing colored slips to decorate.

“I love birds,” Renee says “their freedom of flight, watching them eat and fly around. They can be little and cute or big and strong, and people relate to them.” Renee shared bird stories with the residents at the beginning of each session and in turn residents shared their own stories and memories about cardinals and eagles. Participants spoke about places they’ve watched birds, like on the beach or in their own back yards. Renee commented on how the ubiquity of birds makes them the perfect subject for through which residents can convey emotions. “Everyone has some kind of memory of a bird” she says, “and it’s something that everyone knows something about.”

Director of Community Programs for Martin Luther, Sally Peterson, describes the clay experiences as an important part of the life-long learning programs at Martin Luther. Programs provide avenues for seniors to actively pursue knowledge and experience, a dedication that is shared whole-heartedly by NCC’s ART@HAND programming team. “The project is really wonderful,” she says, “together as a group they’ve accomplished something and it’s really nice to see the end result. The poetry brings them together and the clay gives a sense of individual pride.” In the spring, the tile projects will be permanently installed in Meadow Woods’ outdoor patio and deck spaces, allowing residents to appreciate and take pride in the work for years to come.

NCC’s ART@HAND program is a series of accessible programs for enjoyment of the ceramic arts for persons 55 and better. If you would like to set up an ART@HAND class or partnership for your group of 55+ers, or you want to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programming, please contact Chris Singewald, Outreach Manager, at 612.339.8007 x313

Summer 2016: Ebenezer Park Apartments

Northern Clay Center is pleased to announce financial support from the Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Learning Program for a full year of ART@HAND programming with nine partner organizations throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area. With this support, ART@HAND will provide clay programming to 700 adults, ages 55 and better, through activities that include tours of NCC paired with potter’s wheel demonstrations, hands-on workshops, weeklong clay camps, and multi-session classes with participants and, when possible, their families.

One partnering organization, Ebenezer Park Apartments in Minneapolis, is an independent living community serving low-income seniors and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Programming includes training sessions for Ebenezer staff and volunteers, as well as multi-week classes with the residents. Unique programming at Ebenezer Park Apartments includes coordination, between NCC teaching artist Elizabeth Coleman and Deaf Services Specialist Kathy Moran, to provide high-quality instruction to a diverse group of residents, many who rely on Moran’s ASL interpretation.

During each session, participants receive an in-depth demonstration focused on a specific construction technique. Individuals then create and decorate their own project inspired by their learning. Projects are fired at Northern Clay Center and returned to participants shortly thereafter.

NCC has partnered with various Ebenezer sites since 2008 and interest continues to build with their constituents. If you would like to set up a class or demonstration for your group of 55+ers, or learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programming, please contact Chris Singewald, Outreach Manager, at 612.339.8007 x313.

Fall 2016: Partnership Resources, Inc.

<h3>Partnership Resources, Inc.&nbsp;<img alt="" src="/sites/northernclaycenter.org/files/pri_aah_web.jpg" style="float:right; height:400px; width:400px" /></h3>

<p>Every Friday, Northern Clay Center teaching artist Lucy Yogerst leads an off-site clay class for participants 55 and older at Partnership Resources, Inc. (PRI) in St. Louis Park, MN. PRI is an organization that provides services and opportunities to adults with cognitive disabilities. This particular activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.&nbsp;</p>

<p>Lucy, who has been teaching clay for nearly 40 years (25 of those at NCC), says she feels lucky that she gets to go to PRI every Friday. According to senior site team lead, Tammy Meyer, "Lucy has a special place in our hearts. The clients cannot wait to see her on Fridays and they always cheer as she walks in the door. They love having clay class at the site and they really like the 'BIG REVEAL' of what project they are going to make that week in class." In addition to the positive bond with clients, Lucy reports big improvements in their clay knowledge over the years. "Everyone knows their handbuilding methods very well," she says. "Plus," she adds, "it's great for their small motor skills; the class improves their mood and it can help calm their frustrations."&nbsp;</p>

<p>NCC runs this particular class off-site at PRI's senior location because it opens up the opportunity to clients that may have mobility issues or a more difficult time with travel. "[ART@HAND programming] is a great way to keep people active in mind and body," says Tammy. "Clients come away with not just a finished project, but also an understanding of what it takes to be imaginative and a new, interesting way to express themselves." When it comes to clay Lucy says it best: "With clay, there isn't just one answer, there are a million ways to get it right."</p>

<p>NCC has been partnering with various PRI sites since 2003 and interest continues to build with their constituents. If you would like to set up a class or demonstration for your group of 55+ers, or if you have interest in sponsoring an activity such as this, please contact Chris Singewald, Outreach Manager, at 612.339.8007 x313 or chrissingewald@northernclaycenter.org.</p>

Winter 2017: Shaller Sholom East Campus

In January 2016, ART@HAND clay programming began at Shaller Sholom East Campus, in St. Paul, with three unique programs for constituents from Assisted Living, Long-Term Care, and Memory Care. Each program committed to one eight-session partnership with 55+ participants and, when possible, their family members. Activities have continued at the original three sites throughout 2016, and as word spread about the successful and high-quality clay programming, Ackerberg Sholom West Campus and Menorah Plaza, both in St. Louis Park, asked to begin their own clay classes. By the beginning of September 2016, clay classes were underway at eight additional sites in St. Louis Park.

During each class, participants receive an in-depth demonstration focused on a particular construction technique. Then, individuals create their own version of the project while the teaching artist assists them. After works are constructed, they are decorated with colorful clay slips. Projects are taken back to NCC to be fired in our kilns, glazed, and later returned to participants.

In addition to providing clay instruction, NCC’s ART@HAND programs are bringing new energy to each site, with participants and staff reporting increased socialization, positive energy all around, and enthusiasm for the arts—all of which are outcomes of each of NCC’s uniquely designed ART@HAND activities.

Spring 2017: Partner Spotlight: Ebenezer Care Center

In January 2017, ART@HAND clay programming began at Ebenezer Care Center, which is located in a building adjoining Tower Apartments in Minneapolis. ART@HAND will enhance the existing art offerings for older adults in Ebenezer’s Memory Care program, while providing an engaging environment for creativity and expression.

Tower Apartment’s Horticultural Therapist, Paula C. Vollmar-Heywood, contacted NCC’s outreach department after hearing about NCC’s past successful programming with the Ebenezer network of service providers. After an initial planning session to discuss site dynamics and program offerings, an application was submitted to the Pillars Fund grant program for a 16-session partnership with Memory Care participants. Ebenezer’s proposal was approved, and we are thrilled to begin programming early in the new year.

NCC’s presence at Tower Apartments will continue through April 2017. Within each one-hour contact session, participants will receive an in-depth demonstration focused on a specific construction technique. Then, individuals will create their own version of the project while the teaching artist assists. After works are constructed and signed on the bottoms, wares will be decorated. Projects will be transported back to NCC, via our new ClayToGo Van, to be fired, and will be returned to participants two weeks later.

Our repertoire of projects taught will include those that can be constructed both individually and in a group setting. Themes will include nature, seasonal change, and self-expression, all of which will enable participants to further develop skills to successfully create with clay. NCC is excited to provide programming that will contribute to and expand the established community.

If you would like to set up a class or demonstration for your group of 55+ers or you want to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programing, please contact Alison Beech, NCC’s education and outreach coordinator, at 612.339.8007 x313.