Students, residents and staff members gathered recently for a reception and installation of a mural project at Mercy Retirement and Care Center.
The murals were created through a partnership between Mercy and California College of the Arts. The ENGAGE at CCA program brought together an entire class of art students with the Mercy residents to enhance intergenerational understanding as the participants worked together to create the artwork.
At the Dec. 14 reception and project installation, approximately 20 residents from assisted living and the care center joined the class of art students. Also in attendance were Elder Care Alliance team members, Mercy staff, Elder Care Alliance Experiential Researcher-in-Residence Erin Partridge, CCA Fellow Andrea Uribe, CCA Professor Eduardo Pineda, and Evelyn Thorne, manager of the partner programs for the CCA Center for Art and Public Life.
The reception took place in Mercy’s TV room, where two of the eight murals were installed. The remaining murals were installed in the adjacent dining room. Attendees at the reception enjoyed cheese, fruit and sparkling cider from the Mercy kitchen, giving the event the feel of a gallery opening.
Sharing Experiences Through Art
Partridge said the event gave students, residents and staff members the opportunity to share their experiences and reactions to the project.
“It was really wonderful to hear students describe how they worked with the residents to design the murals, how their designs evolved, and how they hope the murals are ‘windows into the world’ in the dining room,” Partridge said. “The residents asked students questions about specific murals, and everyone had a chance to celebrate the work.”
Mercy Registered Dietician Stephanie Brandt said she was excited to get a sneak peek at the murals as they were installed ahead of the reception.
“I think they are absolutely beautiful and capture the culture of Mercy Retirement & Care Center wonderfully,” she said. “I think it will bring a bright new light and positive atmosphere to the dining room and act as a great conversation piece for the residents.”
Bringing Generations Together
The art students completed surveys before and after participating in the project. “This is part of a larger inquiry into student interaction with older adults and how these types of interactions might be part of addressing and combatting ageism,” Partridge said.
Pineda noted that students gained valuable experience from the project and interacting with the elders. “What the students made has relevance and importance after they’re done with the class,” he said.
Partridge added that residents reaped benefits by having their ideas, stories and life experiences heard and reflected back to them in the images and themes of the murals. Everyone involved hopes that the murals will continue to inspire conversation, debate and storytelling.
“Art should not just be passive wall-filler,” she said. “It should inspire strong feelings! It should invite people to ask questions, learn, teach and grow.”