By Julie Krienke
Visual art, photography, choir, story theatre, and writing are just a few of the activities that Delano Continuing Education is offering through the new intergenerational arts program.
Started by Diane Johnson, Community Education director, this program works collaboratively with the Tiger Kids Club and the Delano Senior Center to bring together children and seniors while promoting the arts.
“I think it’s special to bring the kids and seniors together to do art,” Johnson said. “Bringing the generations together makes it unique because we focus on building relationships and the community through the arts.”
Johnson thought of the idea for the intergenerational arts program after attending a workshop in St. Cloud this year.
“On my way home, ideas just started going through my mind,” Johnson said. “I just started to think ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do that with the kids and adults?’”
The idea of partnering the Tiger Kids Club with the Delano Senior Center came when Johnson realized how involved the senior center is in the community of Delano.
“We have done other things collaboratively with the senior center,” Johnson said. “The senior center has a history of doing some marvelous programs. It got me thinking ‘What can we do together?’”
After that, Johnson met with Gail Sinkel, coordinator at Delano Senior Center, to discuss the idea of partnering the Tiger Kids Club with the Delano Senior Center.
“I made a call to Gail Sinkel and other key people,” Johnson said. “I got everybody on board, and now, it’s becoming real.”
Johnson even decided to use some of the art programs that the senior center already had in place for the intergenerational arts project.
However, another essential component was needed for this program to succeed funding.
Johnson applied for funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board. She found out that they received the grant in May.
“It is allowing us to do some great things,” Johnson said. “It helps us do a lot, and it’s going to be great fun.”
Johnson decided to call the program the “intergenerational arts project” because it brings children and seniors together. The program was coined “Hello Delano: Creating the HeART of Community.”
According to Johnson, summer is the perfect time to start a project like this because children are not in school.
“Doing this sort of program is easier in the summer because we can have the kids all day,” Johnson said. “It adds more richness to their experience in childcare.”
When it comes to the actual classes that are offered through the intergenerational arts program, there are many opportunities that are available to both children and seniors. The programs began June 21, and they will continue into August.
“We have several components to the project,” Johnson said. “We have five intergenerational art classes with some kids and some seniors.”
Each class is taught by professionals and other individuals with knowledge and training in the subject matter.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to work with professionals in their fields,” Johnson said. “The staff does a lot of great stuff with the kids.”
The five components offered by the intergenerational arts project include visual art, vocal music, intergenerational story theater, writing group, and photography class.
The visual art classes are taught by Jeanne Stortz.
“Jeanne has done an amazing job at not only teaching kids different mediums of art, but explaining the meaning behind what they are doing,” Jackie Jerde, Tiger Kids Club coordinator, said.
Vocal music is instructed by Mary Kline, and this group will perform with the Delano Senior Singers, which is directed by Jim Schmidt.
“We have the Continuing Education piano teacher doing the vocal music component of the program,” Johnson said. “We probably have 50 to 60 kids in the choir.”
The intergenerational story theatre consists of children and seniors partnered together to prepare and perform stories. This program is under the direction of the senior center staff.
“They are going to be doing two stories together, and then they will do some other poems and jokes, as well,” Johnson said.
The writing group is led by Ted May, who also instructs the writing circle at the senior center.
“Ted May is working with a couple groups of kids who are doing original writing,” Johnson said. “We hope to publish the writings at the end of the summer.”
The last component of the program includes photography classes taught by Annaliese Johnson, a Tiger Kids Club staff member. This class is also open to children, as well as seniors.
Typically, each class lasts about an hour, and programs take place at both the senior center and the Continuing Education building.
According to Johnson, collaborating with the Delano Senior Center has been working out well.
“We love to partner with the senior center because we are so close,” Johnson said. “It is a chance to expand the program and build relationship with the community. It’s the mixing of children and seniors that makes the program special.”
Clearly, coordinating this program requires effort from many people throughout the community.
“Planning has very much been a team project,” Johnson said. “It has been fun trying to get everyone to focus on relationship and community.”
A performance will take place July 27 to showcase all of the work that children in the Tiger Kids Club and residents at the Delano Senior Center have worked so hard to achieve.
“I’m looking forward to getting the kids and seniors together,” Johnson said. “They will all be starting to come together. That’ll be fun to watch.”
The presentation will take place at the Delano Senior Center. A light dinner will be served from 5 to 6:15 p.m., with a free will donation being accepted.
The art show will begin at 6 p.m., and will be followed by a performance at 6:30 p.m.
“Basically, the art show will start on the 27th of July, and then, we will leave it up for a few weeks for the community to enjoy,” Johnson said.
There is no doubt that Johnson’s work in with the intergenerational arts project has affected the community of Delano.
“I think it’s really special because we are expanding the opportunities that our kids have,” Johnson said. “It’s the bringing of multiple generations together that makes it unique. It will help bridge the gaps and help people get to know one another.”
The intergenerational arts program has greatly influenced the relationships between children and seniors.
“The bridge between children and seniors is one to be treasured,” Jerde said. “They learn so much from each other. I believe they have a new respect for each other.”
According the Sinkel, the program has been quite successful thus far.
“We are having a lot of fun mixing the generations together,” Sinkel said. “The kids are having fun, and the seniors are enjoying being with the students.”
Looking toward the future, Johnson hopes that the intergenerational arts program will continue to build relationships between children and seniors.
“I hope that we decide to do it again,” Johnson said. “I hope that we continue doing something of this nature and mix it up to do some things differently. You have to keep it fresh.”