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Alumni Engagement

RRC alum helps care home residents unleash their inner artists

May 16, 2012

Just as the caterpillar transforms itself into a beautiful butterfly, a group of care home residents have transformed themselves into published authors and artists — thanks to the help and guidance of Red River College alum Kaitlyn Callahan.

A 2008 grad of RRC’s Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults program, Callahan recently celebrated the launch of a new exhibit at the Osborne Library — one comprised of eye-catching artwork produced by residents of Actionmarguerite St. Boniface.

The highlight of the exhibit is a series of watercolour and cut-paper pieces that make up a children’s book called The Caterpillar and the Butterfly, written and illustrated by a group of seven residents working under Callahan’s supervision.

“Art seems to be something that touches everybody on different levels,” says Callahan, 26, who partnered on the project with local artist Shirley Levacy. “It doesn’t matter if (the residents) can’t use their hands — they can still take part and produce something beautiful.”

Callahan’s residents call themselves the Creative Expressions Art Group. Members range in age from 33 to 57, and require long-term care due to either head injuries or neurological disorders.

As the recreation facilitator at Actionmarguerite (formerly Taché Centre), Callahan plans a variety of activities for residents. But she says the arts-related programming is especially popular, since it allows residents to channel their creative energies, work together as a team, and tap into skill-sets that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.

“I have one resident who’s very rambunctious — sometimes he’ll spit or act out,” she explains. “But when he’s engaged in the art program, he’ll be there for an hour doing just artwork, and none of that other stuff happens.”

The exhibit at Osborne Library celebrates a year’s worth of the group’s artistic output, and was made possible through Levacy’s connection with library staff. A second exhibit at the St. Boniface Hospital is currently in the works, and Callahan is already busying herself with plans for future artistic endeavors.

She says she originally entered RRC’s Recreation Facilitator program (through the College’s School of Continuing Education) assuming she’d find a job working with seniors and older adults. Having spent the last few years working with middle-aged residents, however, she can’t imagine being any happier with her position.

“It’s very different, but I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Click here to view a gallery of photos of the group’s artwork.