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March 14, 2023 Leanne Hoppe 3 min read

CVCOA's Creative Care Kits Promote Family Art-Making

Attend a writing workshop, and you’re likely to hear the advice (or mandate), “Show, don’t tell!” The idea is that it’s better to show, through action and keen description, how someone’s feeling, what kind of person they are, the mood of the room, etc., rather than to write something abstract, like “It was a beautiful day.”

In the same way, all art-making offers the opportunity to communicate a feeling, an abstraction.

CVCOA offers free creative care kits to people in our service area who are age 60+. Each of the four kits (poetry, drawing and illustration, crafting, and watercolor) contains a binder with several activities created by Vermont teaching artists and a set of quality supplies designed for completing the entire binder.

While kit recipients have the option to create and reflect on their work with a volunteer companion via weekly phone calls, Zoom sessions, or in-person meetings, the project (by its nature) also allows for serendipitous connections with visitors and family members.

Jeanne Ward has some great stories about this type of connection. Lately, I’ve been stopping by with my 9-month-old baby for a cup of tea and a chat with her. She tells me about her watercolors and poetry. We share favorite authors and lines. She gives the baby a blanket to sit on and a stuffed penguin to play with.

Jeanne received her first Creative Care Kit, watercolor, in 2020, the first year of the program and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, she chose the poetry kit. This year, by happy accident, she wound up with crafting, though she continues work with each of the kits.

She recently got her husband and her daughter Hillary involved in one of the watercolor activities. She had tried out “Painting the Night Sky,” a fun project that utilizes hand sanitizer and salt to add texture and swirling to a watercolor painting. The next day, when her daughter came for supper, she had the paper and materials out, along with her demo from the night before. Working alongside each other, they each created a night sky painting.

She says the creative piece offers an encouragement to a person who may be struggling to “have fun, to try something. To get the mind away from the worries.” When making art together, “the interaction that happens brings joy.”

For Jeanne, the serendipity of making together isn’t limited to chance. She intentionally leaves her art supplies out as an invitation so anyone can participate. She says, “Anybody can do it, make it. It’s an open invitation.”

Another ingredient: The messaging to just have fun! She says, “Some people have trouble having fun. They worry about how it will look.” She tells her family, “Go ahead. Make a big mess if you want to!”

Not all of Jeanne’s collaborations happen over supper. Recently, Jeanne wrote a poem that she shared with her daughter Erica, who then illustrated the words. I sat down to talk with both of them last week, and Erica tells me, “I get inspired by what Mom writes. I read the poem and saw waves. It just happened. Sometimes when that happens, I don’t draw it right away, but I just kept thinking about it.”

Both Jeanne and Erica comment on the innateness of creativity, the part of us that can be shut down early in life. Erica adds, “We marked before we spoke.” These moments of making together “tap into something that may have been dormant in you.” And, doing it together, having a chit-chat while making, “allows you to still be an adult while following a childlike intuition.”

You can tell a person how much you love them, how you admire their work. Or, you can show them, by making something that tells the story for you.