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Connecting with community through art

Dec 1, 2016
by Bobbie Stewart, Photo by Sara Williamson, ‘14

Christopher Moore remembers the day his grandmother forgot him. He was in Brazil, in his new home with his parents, when he made the phone call across two continents to California.

“Grandma, it’s me,” he said. But she didn’t recognize him, even after he identified himself. And then she hung up.

Disbelief gripped him. His parents confirmed what Moore suspected: his grandmother’s lucidity was slowly fading. Age had taken its toll.

This year, when the senior had to choose between St. Augustine’s Council on Aging or St. Francis House as part of his Artists-in-Residence course at Flagler, he chose familiarizing himself with the ways of the elderly to help him better connect him with his grandmother.

“At first it (volunteering at the senior center) was a shock,” he said. “I was really scared to be around elderly people. I didn’t know what they were thinking or what to expect. But it turned out to be really good for me.”

As part of the course, the Graphic Design major, like 10 other students in the class, practiced “community-integrative education,” which required students to learn about a subject outside of the classroom through active engagement in service to a non-profit organization. The elective takes students into their communities to reinforce the value of art as a force and practice in society.  

For Moore’s project, he decided to have COA participants engage in art to revive positive memories of the past. Participants drew images that reminded them “of a happy place.” Old family homes, lost loved ones, a youthful rendition of one participant with long, flowing hair emerged.

For Moore, helping COA participants meant reviving their memory and opening the gates to the past by illustrating their experiences. The course has had a lasting impact on him.

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