Residents of Clark Retirement Community Enjoy Strong Connection to Local Arts

Photo courtesy of Clark Retirement Community

The following post is sponsored by Clark Retirement Community

Whether it’s a bus trip to the Grand Rapids Symphony, a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park or viewing an exhibit of local work at the facility’s in-house gallery, on any given day at Clark Retirement Community, residents have the opportunity to partake in numerous arts, entertainment and cultural activities.

Chris Simons, director of Dementia Services & Life Enrichment Programs at Clark, said it’s important for all of the community’s residents — from those in independent living to those in the dementia care program and everyone in between — to stay connected to the arts community in West Michigan.

A Clark Retirement Community resident works on an art project.
A Clark Retirement Community resident works on an art project.

“With our independent residents, they like to go out, so we provide those opportunities,” she said.

Simons said Clark’s excursions are growing, noting a recent partnership with First Methodist Church and Charter Tours that will allow residents to visit places as far away as the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit.

“I think it’s important to have a community within, but also for our residents to participate in a community at large,” she said.

Simons pointed to recent trips to see Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie” and a visit during the fall to ArtPrize as highlights. “I went with them recently to see ‘Annie,’ … they are so happy to see something like that. Even if they don’t get around well, they get around for something like that.”

The healing power of the arts

Simons said she is especially proud of Clark’s efforts to keep its dementia residents connected to the arts, both on-campus and off. “We were the first in Grand Rapids to start a program with Frederik Meijer Gardens and the GRAM [for dementia residents],” she said.

Simons said the program came after she attended a conference at MOMA in New York where there was a presentation on a program for individuals with Alzheimer’s that included specially trained docents who had learned about dementia and how to present art to those individuals.

Simons said one of the most rewarding aspects of providing arts programming is seeing the increased verbalization from those patients spurred by the artwork.

“They talk about the painting,” she explained. “A woman who brings her mother to the art gallery said, ‘this is the one place my mother really talks.’ She talks about the paintings. It livens people up.”

On-campus, Clark’s in-house art gallery is a thriving program that residents regularly enjoy. The dedicated gallery, built four years ago, hosts several local artists each year.

“We are showing eight artists in 2018 and they are about six to seven weeks long,” said Pat Bergstrom, lead volunteer for the Clark Arts Council.

Bergstrom said the gallery focuses on 2-D art by West Michigan artists. “We try to bring in a variety of mediums. This year, we have a photographer, oil painter, pastel artist, colored pencil artist and our last one is a fabric quilting person with Christmas art.”

Bergstrom said Clark has also cultivated an impressive art collection that lines the hallways and public spaces of its facilities and is helping Clark build a reputation as a place for art and artists.

Bergstrom said the Arts Council and Life Enrichment teams work together often with the goal of improving all Clark residents’ quality of life through arts programming.

As the Baby Boomer generation begins to relocate into independent living and assisted living, both Bergstrom and Simons expect to see even greater opportunities for Clark residents to stay connected to arts, entertainment and cultural opportunities they are used to.

Simons said charter bus trips will likely increase and tailored transportation services geared toward allowing residents access to their grandchildren’s elementary school or high school performances can be expected.

There will also likely be more hands-on activities that allow residents with hobbies such as painting or playing an instrument to continue engaging their passions. Proximity to the local art scene in Grand Rapids is just one of the many reasons why more people are choosing the active retirement lifestyle at Clark.

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