Sometimes, all it takes is a large heart and vision to positively influence the lives of dozens of people—who will, in turn, pass along those positive vibes, creating a lovely cycle of charismatic energy everyone deserves to feel, especially the elderly.
Elk Run assisted living has been a staple in Evergreen since 1999. The facility provides a living space and community for the elderly who could use some extra help with daily life. What most don’t know is that Elk Run is a nonprofit where funds earned through the residents’ rent go right back into the facility. As with most nonprofit businesses, they depend greatly on volunteers, donations and fundraising to provide “luxuries” such as engaging activity programs, updated furniture, and art or décor to beautify the environment.
Most residents of Elk Run spend a large portion of time in their apartments. The range of assistance needed is vast, but most all residents eat in the dining room for at least one, maybe two meals a day. The route walked (or wheeled) to the dining area was once a boring trek through a stark white hallway with antiquated art in dark, heavy frames. But this is no longer the case.
Thanks to the inspirational mind (and heart) of local artist Nicole Huggins, a monthly revolving “art show” now beautifies the walls. Huggins’s mother was a resident at Elk Run, so she spent many hours visiting and getting to know the “Elk Run family.” Huggins reflects, “My mother and I were very close. Art and travel were our passions. After she passed, I kept passing Elk Run on my way to and from art festivals. I began thinking of those precious seniors and how most of them simply do not have the capability of leaving the facility. What if I brought the art to them?”
Therapeutic Activities Director Barre McKee immediately welcomed the idea and within the month Huggins displayed 33 of her paintings throughout the three levels of Elk Run. Nicole Huggins’s work is inspired by the impressionist movement with her muses being nature, light and travel. Her brilliant paintings adorned the barren walls of Elk Run for a month and immediately brought it to life. Not only did her artwork ignite an aesthetic glow, it also inspired a creative, social and emotional awakening at Elk Run no one had anticipated.
McKee was the first to notice: “The conversations amongst the residents on their way to the dining room increased. They admired each painting and would take their time getting to lunch or dinner,” she shares. “Some residents have visitors and will use the paintings as a talking point. For others, who don’t leave the facility due to health problems, the artwork is the most beauty they’ll see in a month.”
Huggins’s artwork became synonymous with happiness and delight. Before long, she offered “Art Walks,” where residents followed along to learn more about the artistic process and inspiration behind her work. What Huggins learned was that it wasn’t just about her. “Everyone has a past. Speaking about my work inspired others to discuss their past and creative outlets. Some were in musical quartets—others seriously advanced painters. It was touching to learn about their significant moments and passions that made them who they are,” she describes.
Due to art shows and gallery commitments, Huggins was only able to display her work for a month. But the impact was so immense, she passed the torch to artist friend Christine Oddo, who displayed her work for the next 30 days, then onto another artist, etc. Each artist usually provides about 10 to 20 pieces of work, hosts an “Art Walk,” and some have offered “Sip and Paint” for the residents. Individuals who hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in years (or ever) gather to create a guided painting. It’s been a huge hit!
The revolving art galleries have forever elevated the quality of life within Elk Run. Beyond the lively esthetic appeal, they ignite conversation, the sharing of passions, both past and future, and inspire personal creativity. Just ask resident Betty Walden, whose demeanor lit up when she spoke about the art galleries: “I love the art! Each artist comes with a whole different outlook. I like the way they think creatively, and I’ve learned so much from each of them.”
Currently, the beautiful work of artist Tatiana Lee is being displayed at Elk Run. If you’d like to help enhance the lives of seniors with your artwork, please contact Barre McKee at 303.376.2723. It doesn’t have to be just artwork. Do you have a special skill or talent you’d like to share? The seniors at Elk Run embrace new experiences and learning about life outside of their world. Light up someone’s world today!