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Art of Conversation project inspires friendships in isolation; online art show

Instigator Regal, by Terry Culbert, Acrylic on canvas, 24”x24” was created by Terry Culbert, inspired by conversations with 104-year-old Jearl Miller, a retired dairy farmer.

With a focus on addressing social isolation during the pandemic, good, old-fashioned conversations over the past few months between seniors and local artists have formed the basis of the online ‘Art of Conversation’ art show.

“Their conversations were the inspiration for the artists to create for the show,” said Debbie MacDonald Moynes, executive director of Community Care for Seniors, which partnered with the Prince Edward Arts Council for the project.

Local artists were paired with older adults for conversation, and a piece of artwork was created, based on their exchanges. Each piece will be given to the senior as a memento.

“The project roll-out was quite smooth once we got started,” said MacDonald Moynes. “The PEC Arts Council put out a call to artists to participate. We were looking for 15 local artists who were interested in participating. The response was fantastic with over 20 artists interested in the project. Community Care staff members then identified 15 clients that they believed to be more isolated than the average client.”

She notes special care was taken to find things the artist and the senior may have in common, to help start the natural flow of conversation.

“First and foremost the partnership between PEC Community Care for Seniors and PEC Arts Council and the conversations between the artists and seniors has reduced isolation levels among older adults by providing them an opportunity to socialize.

“This has been especially important during the winter months of the COVID-19 pandemic, of which one month Prince Edward County was in a full lock down and a stay-at-home order. These conversations have positively impacted both the artists and the seniors and has provided something for the older adult to look forward to. In some cases it has been a catalyst to encourage the participants to engage in other meaningful, virtual activities (Community Care offers a full range of online webinars).

MacDonald-Moynes adds that further from the conversations, friendships have emerged.

“Having this sense of companionship has helped the older adults to navigate the pandemic. Ultimately the project has provided something for the older adults to look forward to – increased socialization, and reduced isolation. Lasting connections will be the legacy of this project.”

Participating artists included Janice Gibbins, Susan Wallis, Terry Culbert, Phil Norton, Gwen Roberts, Rhonda Nolan, Andrea Piller, Irene Gotz, Renee Hiltz, Tomas Del Balso, JC Sulzenko, Petra Lepage, Sheila Stanley, Richard Leach and Pam Patterson.

The virtual exhibit includes some notes, as in this example, from painter Terry Culbert, who
was paired with Jearl Miller, a retired County dairy farmer.
The following is a portion of their telephone conversations over the past few weeks.
First phone call in February:
Terry: So Jearl, how old are you?
Jearl: I’m 104
Terry: Holy Smokes!!!
Jearl: I was conceived on Main Duck Island. My 18 year old mother and 26 year old father were hired by King Cole during the winter of 1915/16 to look after Cole’s cattle on the island. I was born in Picton, October 8, 1916.
Terry: I was informed that you have been a County farmer all your life.
Jearl: I spent 4 years in the army, then I farmed from 1945 to 1965. I raised pure bread Holsteins. Had a heard of fifty and milked thirty cows. I sold the farm property in 1971.
Phone call to Jearl on March 3rd:
Terry: Jearl, did you have a favourite cow?
Jearl: Yes, the name was Regal…..something. Could you call me back in 15 minutes. Caregiver’s voice in background: Call back in half an hour.
Jearl: Yes, I’m going to have a shower and I’m standing here in the nude (everyone laughs).
I called back an hour later to find out his favourite cow was called Instigator Regal, which became the title of my painting.

The online Art Show opens at 10 a.m. Friday, March 26th on Facebook and runs for two weeks. Click here to see the show. 



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