Agency program aims to connect senior citizens, community through art

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A well-known local father and daughter shared their artwork with the community and helped launch a new gallery that aims to connect senior citizens and younger generations through art.

The Aroostook Agency on Aging kicked off its Artists for Aging program Oct. 1 with a First Friday Art Walk exhibit featuring John Holub and daughter Lisa Desjardins, both of Westfield. The two showcased more than 35 watercolor and oil paintings and shared their goals for helping the agency reach out to community members and artists.

“We’d like to expand [Artists for Aging] to include other artists for First Friday and classes,” Holub said. “It would be great to see the community get more involved with art.”

After relocating to Main Street in 2019, the agency began discussions with Holub and Desjardins about launching a gallery within the agency’s office building. But the pandemic delayed the gallery opening until this year.

Now, with people anxious to be out and about, the agency is opening its gallery to the public during regular business hours. Executive Director Joy Barresi Saucier said community members of all ages are invited to view each new exhibit, which will debut during the monthly First Friday Art Walks.

Most of all, Saucier said, the agency wants the gallery to serve as the beginning of new in-person art classes and events that could help isolated senior citizens forge stronger bonds with community members.

“Social isolation was a problem for seniors even before COVID,” Saucier said. “With art, they have the opportunity to connect with others and appreciate the beauty that someone else has created.”

Friday’s gallery opening brought out a small crowd of community members, many of whom praised the Artists for Aging launch and offered to help spread the word.

Castle Hill resident Dana Allison, an avid quilter, expressed interest in teaching others how to sew through the new program.

“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing this. It’s what the community has needed for a long time,” Allison said. “Art has so much importance in peoples’ lives and it’s nice to see this take root.”

As Artists for Aging begins to grow, Desjardins would like to see more younger generations experience the compassion and friendship that she has felt in her relationships with the older generations through the years.

“Our seniors have so much to offer to the younger generations. It’s important that we help them feel like they’re still part of the community,” Desjardins said.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — October 1, 2021 — John Holub’s Green Corner, Presque Isle, ca. 1952″ is one of many paintings on display this month at Aroostook Agency on Aging. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — October 1, 2021 — Lisa Desjardins’ painting “Proulx’s Filling Station” is part of Aroostook Agency on Aging’s first ever Artists for Aging exhibit. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)