Seniors a part of art

MARQUETTE – When thinking about retirement, people might envision fishing, sleeping late and general relaxation. But for some seniors, retirement means finally getting the chance to try new things, which is just what seniors in Marquette are doing.

“We have been overwhelmed and extremely pleased at the response we’ve had from the community to the Senior Arts. Classes are very popular and attendance continues to grow,” city of Marquette Senior Center Manager Jane Palmer said.

Seniors are coming out in force to try the many activities provided at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center. The center provides educational enrichment courses to seniors in both the visual and performing arts.

Senior arts is funded by the city’s senior millage and the support of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and The Max and Phyllis Reynolds Foundation. Classes are instructed by professionally trained and working local artists in a variety of artistic disciplines.

“The biggest success we have had this year is our senior arts classes; senior arts was previously the visual arts and now we have added acting and dancing to that,” MACC Director Tiina Harris said. “Our visual arts classes are just continuing to grow and they are often filled to the max becuase we hire professional artists from Marquette. There is name recogination and they (seniors) get to try something they haven’t tried before.”

Since February 2013, attendance has increased by more than 300 percent. Classes are filled to maximum capacity and frequently have waiting lists.

“Many have discovered for the first time in their lives, they love to paint or draw,” Harris said. “This has led to an entirely new creative habit for many, a kind of re-awakening and self discovery.”

The benefits are two fold: The center gets a great many particpants for its activites which promotes the arts and brings the community together and the senior citizens get to try something new while also staying healthy in the process.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity for them. Most of the people in the acting class have never tried anything like this before,” Harris said. “The people participanting in the class meet here often to just go over lines and they seem to be loving it.”

Remarkably, an art or acting class can help keep one healthy. Research has shown that the elderly benefit mentally by being creative. Crafts help ward off depression. Needlework improves mental acuity and eye-hand coordination.

Working with clay exercises stiff hands and fingers. Acting improves memory and the social connections made at sewing circles and knitting groups improves emotional health.

When asked why acting is so good for seniors, acting instructor Jeff Spencer said: “Because it keeps the mind active. It’s something to work toward. It takes you out of your comfort zone and might even teach you something about yourself you didn’t know before.”

The acting started last fall and was very successful. Spencer had been working with the group to perform their first full-length play. The group performed Wednesday at the MACC and the Snowberry Heights Community Room. Seniors Arts courses are free to Marquette residents 55 and older and a nominal fee of $5 for non-residents. The program welcomes drop-ins and does not require a commitment to more than one class with the exception of acting classes.

For more information, call the city of Marquette Arts and Culture Center 228-0472 or email arts-culture@mqtcty.org.