A Golden Age for Developing Your Muse

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By John Friia People entering their retirement can expect a shift from constant work to spending more time developing their creative talents. Many seniors spend their golden years learning how to paint, draw and make pottery at local art classes. Dr. Gail Lowenstein, a geriatrician and concierge doctor serving the North Shore of Nassau County and the surrounding area, explained that once people retire, they tend to lose their sense of purpose and begin searching for something to fill the gap. She shared the story of a man who lost his wife and started to paint. Even though he had never painted before, this gentleman had the urge to create artwork and donated it to local charities. "He found his purpose, and it saved him and got him through a difficult time," she said. Throughout Manhattan, there are many places that give seniors the opportunity to embrace the art world by creating their own masterpieces. For the past 10 years the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, located on Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street, has offered numerous art programs, including a class specifically designed for seniors. Elders learn how to paint and draw, with the use of still life and photographs. Accomplished artist Gene Wiseniewski teaches the class and explained that the program is open to anyone over the age of 50, regardless of prior experience in painting. He also noted that some skilled painters use oil paint while others prefer acrylics. The program has been a success for the past the few years, and is offered three times a year on Fridays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. "Seniors are the best to work with, because they are very serious, but they also know how to have fun. They are very inspirational too," Wiseniewski said. Another location on the Upper West Side is the Art Students League of New York, which offers a range of classes for those looking to kick-start their creative impulse. For more than 100 years, the league has taught the language of art. Some of America's most prominent artists have studied at this school, including Georgia O'Keefe, Norman Rockwell and George Bellows. "Most of our 100 studio classes in drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture include students ranging in ability from beginners to established artists and ranging in age from their twenties to folks in their seventies and eighties," said Ken Park, the school's director of communications. For seniors who are interested in the arts but not necessarily in making art, they offer a seminar series that discusses classic art and artists through literature. "Folks love the camaraderie and community of the League. Students learn not just from the professional artist-instructors but also from other students," Park said. Putting a spin on art classes is Mugi Pottery, located on Amsterdam Avenue between 108th and 109th streets, which teaches individuals how to mold clay while on a spinning wheel. Mugi's adult classes allow anyone from the age of 16 and up, but many seniors enroll in the classes. Offering classes for people ranging from 2 to 102 years old, the Art Studio NY, located on West 96th Street, provides unique painting and drawing classes in an intimate classroom. For beginners, the school offers basic classes such as Oil Painting 101 and Portrait and Figure Painting 101. Whether it is drawing, painting or sculpting, seniors are exploring and enjoying different aspects of art. By doing so, they are not only learning something new, they are remaining active and continuing to live a healthy, vibrant lifestyle.

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