MACC senior arts program challenges

MARQUETTE – Contrary to proverbial wisdom, an old dog can learn new tricks – at least according to 76-year-old Marquette resident John Ruusi, who took his first art class through the Marquette Arts and Culture Center last year. He continues to participate in art classes and has brought painting home too.

In partnership with Marquette Senior Services, the MACC offers a varied senior arts program, funded by the senior millage and free to Marquette residents aged 60 and older. The classes, with a capacity for about 15 to 20 students depending on the instructor, cover a variety of disciplines including acrylic and watercolor painting, drawing, ceramics and more, as well as programs for theater and dance that will reconvene in October.

Senior arts classes are held from 1 to 3 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of every month on the lower level of the Peter White Public Library located at 217 N. Front St. There is a $5 fee for non-Marquette residents.

Previously, Ruusi had never picked up a paintbrush in his life except to paint the barn or house, he said. He and his wife retired to Marquette from Humboldt a year ago, leaving behind his woodworking and blacksmith shop. With the extra time on his hands, he decided to take a watercolor class with Corbin Lutz.

“Being the only male, the ladies encouraged me,” Ruusi said. “I am color blind, but they saw some potential, and I found it very relaxing and fun.”

Ruusi is now studying in the art and design program at Northern Michigan University as a result of his positive experience.

“I would definitely recommend these MACC programs, especially for men looking for a quiet activity and to keep thinking outside the box,” he said. “Don’t hesitate to get started.”

The program has developed in the last year from being “arts and crafts” oriented to becoming a more mature fine arts curriculum, said MACC Director Tiina Harris.

“It’s exposing people to the arts but also to who the local artists in the community are. We have artists that are masters at what they do that are teaching it, so that makes a big difference,” Harris said.

No prior artistic experience is required.

“The intention of the senior arts program is to encourage seniors to be creative, to try something new,” she said.

Linda Hirvonen of Chocolay Township said that the latest class with instructor Dana LaLonde on Tuesday, July 15 was the first time she had worked with ceramics before.

“I think that when you’re retired, you should try all the things you can,” Hirvonen said. “Every opportunity you get, you should go for it.”

PWPL librarian Dana LaLonde, who graduated from NMU with a BFA in sculpture, said Tuesday’s class was actually the first she’d taught through the MACC, though she regularly volunteers to teach at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. She said she does it for the people.

“They’re funny,” she said. “And it’s great to interact with everyone and teach something that I know.”

August classes are open and fall classes will be announced shortly, Harris said.

“People in this community enjoy the arts, enjoy culture,” Harris said. “They move here; there’s more people retiring here. It’s important for them to have these types of quality of life experiences, and that’s what we’re trying to provide.”

The MACC has been facilitating local arts and culture since 1992, averaging over 200 visitors per day and providing services to more than 300 local artists and organizations from its location in the PWPL. The MACC offers workshops, art exhibitions, community art projects, a retail gallery for regional artists, performance events, meeting space for arts organizations, an arts calendar and coordination of national and local heritage festivals.

Information about upcoming senior arts classes can be found online at www.mqtcty.org/arts.php by scrolling down to the arts and culture calendar.

To register, sign up at the Marquette Senior Center located at 300 W. Baraga Ave. or by calling the center at 228-0456.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.