Jewish seniors learn drawing, painting in new art class

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 20, 2015

 Fay Smith creates a portrait on canvas during an art class offered by Jewish Senior Life.

Fay Smith creates a portrait on canvas during an art class offered by Jewish Senior Life.

Photo provided by Jewish Senior Life

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — What started with a pencil drawing has turned into a personal masterpiece.


Senior residents at the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus are discovering their inner artists in a new art class offered by Jewish Senior Life.


The classes, which are sponsored by Bloomfield Hills residents Bernard and Judith Cantor, started in January and run every other week. On April 30, students’ creations — about 20 pieces — will be exhibited at the Meer Apartments. A community reception will be held from 10:30 a.m.-noon, and the artwork will be displayed throughout that weekend.


Resident artists and family and community members are invited to attend the showcase.


Jewish Senior Life Program Coordinator Renee Fein said that this is the first year they have offered the art class, and it is the result of an endowment from the Cantors after they lost their daughter, artist Ellen Cantor, in 2013. Ellen’s artwork will be on display alongside the residents’ pieces April 30.


“(Ellen) had this program for older adults. She wanted to teach them art through drawing and painting,” Fein said, adding that after Ellen died, her parents continued her efforts.


Jewish Senior Life hired an instructor to teach drawing and painting to those who enjoy art but don’t necessarily know how to draw. Throughout the entire program, about 20 seniors participated, Fein said.


“They really do have a lot of creativity inside, but they just don’t know it,” Fein said, adding that if residents don’t try, they won’t know how far their talent spans.


The American Art Therapy Association advocates art programs for older adults, as the programs can contribute to seniors’ overall quality of life.


“Both music and art therapy are just amazing. It brings things out of people’s hearts that they don’t even realize (they) have,” Fein said.


However, Fein added, this art class wasn’t designed to be therapeutic, but a way of letting the residents on the campus show off their creativity.


Batsheba Zietchick, a resident at the campus, said in a press release that she has enjoyed the new art class offered by Jewish Senior Life.


“It’s relaxing. You get to speak to other people, and it’s a great course,” Batsheba said. “My husband’s art is so fabulous. People say, ‘I can’t believe it. This is so beautiful.’”


Leo Zietchick, Batsheba’s husband, was an artist before retiring and has had stained glass work exhibited in New York galleries, a press release states. But Batsheba didn’t have a lot of art experience until she took the art class.


Jewish Senior Life offers discussion groups once a month on art, music and literature, Fein said. Where the new art class is hands-on, Fein said, the discussion group gets seniors to discuss how different art pieces make them feel.


Both programs are currently being held, but the future of the discussion groups is unknown. Because Jewish Senior Life is running out of grant money, Fein said, she does not think the discussion groups will be held next year, and she is looking for donors to contribute to the programs. 


“We just want to make sure the residents have an opportunity to grow. We don’t want them, just because they’re older, to be stagnant,” Fein said. “We don’t want them to stop learning, to stop interacting. We want them to be alive.”


Those interested in sponsoring the discussion programs next year can call Renee Fein at (248) 592-5028.


The Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus is located at 6760 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

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