BATAVIA – The universality of art is bridging the age divide in the Tri-Cities between high schoolers and retirement community residents. ArtPals is the brainchild of artist Jen Stanley, the owner of From Scratch Wellness Services in St. Charles and Chicago. Her pilot project matches about a dozen students from St. Charles North High School with residents of The Holmstad in Batavia, and Geneva High School students with residents at GreenFields of Geneva.
The participating Geneva students have created individual art journals that are passed back and forth between the ArtPals, who take turns adding an artwork each time. At the end of the school year, the students will present the journals to their respective partner who can keep the shared art correspondence, Stanley said.
Taking a different tack, students from St. Charles North share their creative expression by taking digital images of their original artwork and personalizing it with their favorite art quote before sending it to a group of ArtPals at The Holmstad.
“[They] exchange art projects as a way of creating connection, community and friendship between the generations,” Stanley said. “It’s been fantastic to give the suggestion and see how the students want to engage with it and make it their own.”
Stanley hopes to replicate the program in a wider area. She said she is working with the National Art Honor Society to promote ArtPals as a possible community service component for the organization.
Calling the exchange terrific is Kat Schumpert, life enrichment manager at GreenFields, who said the program works well even with residents dealing with dementia or cognitive impairment.
“[It can be] difficult to connect through words; [art is] an easy, fun way to connect with a different generation,” Schumpert said. “The books are absolutely beautiful.”
She said some of the residents are “amazing artists.” Members of the GreenFields community recently created watercolors with positive affirmations for the students.
Among the Geneva High School youth is Sammi Branshaw, a senior who is participating as a member of the National Art Honor Society.
“What’s interesting is that everyone at Geneva High School has a different style of art, so when we … made our first piece to give to them, it was interesting to see what we came up with and … to see what we got back,” Branshaw said, noting a goal is to make the recipient smile.
One of the works she received was a watercolor flower with a poem. Branshaw, who said she loves the service project, is considering minoring in art and possibly becoming an art curator.
As part of the message she inscribed in her art journal for her ArtPals partner, she wrote, “I’m so excited to do art with you,” complemented by sun and moon drawings. Stanley said The Holmstad has a group of 13 residents who take part.
“They tend to do a full painting a month, sending the actual piece to the [school or have] the option of printing off the picture,” Stanley said.
The St. Charles students have talked about organizing an exhibit at The Holmstad, so they will have a chance to meet their partners.
For information, contact Stanley at jstanleyfineart.com or 630-945-3867.