PLATTSBURGH — Dodge Memorial Library Director Donna Boumil didn’t know what to expect when she applied for a Lifetime Arts grant for arts programming for adults 55 and older.
The results have been astounding.
“We heard about the grant through C-E-F (Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System),” Boumil said. “We had many people interested in arts programming and could not afford to take art lessons. So, I applied for the grant.”
Champlain artist Connie Cassevaugh taught the debut class in pastels in September and October 2012.
“We had 10 people in the class,” Boumil said. “That’s all I could accommodate in the class. I ended up having 25 people on a waiting list. It was huge. It was an eight-week class. It was held once a week.
“We had an art show, and we had over 50 people attend the art show.”
During a second round of grants, Boumil applied for Cassevaugh to return and teach a watercolor class, as suggested by a patron survey. The class was held twice weekly in May.
“We had 11 people in that class and a waiting list of 10 more,” Boumil said. “I need more grants.
“We had an art show at the end of May. There were over 70 people who came to the art show. We had both art shows here at the library.
“Now, I applied for a different grant through a different organization. We will be having another pastel class sometime this fall. This will be opened up to adults of all ages.”
WORTH THE EFFORT
She was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to the library’s arts programming.
“The grants are a lot of work. It’s a lot of paperwork and accounting. It was definitely worth it to see the outcome. Their expressions at the art show, they were so proud.”
Boumil plans to have another arts show with all three classes.
“We will end up having that in the church basement (St. Patrick’s) because the library is too small. They love it. They are always asking when we are going to do more art classes. We try to do what we can to have these programs at no charge. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Dodge Memorial Library, the Schroon Lake Public Library and Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay were the initial rural component in a pilot Creative Aging program started in New York City through Lifetime Arts.
“The whole idea is that there are people who are retiring that are Baby Boomers, and they are trying to figure out how to connect older adults 55 and better to spend time in creative activities and the place to do it is our local public library,” said Ewa Jankowska, C-E-F director.
“The C-E-F Library System was part of a pilot project along with New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Westchester Library System. We were the rural component of that. They have suburban, urban and rural. These programs are fairly popular in NYC.”
The Lifetime Arts funding was for a two-year cycle.
“This year, we have seven libraries,” Jankowska said. “Upper Jay has Watercolor Painting. Tupper Lake has a really interesting Print, Prose and Recycle. They are going to create objects out of garbage.
“Chazy Library has Observational Drawing, Peru has Radio Theater, and Willsboro has ‘Still Life Drawing.’”
The arts programming is very well received at the libraries.
“It’s hard to introduce something new,” Jankowska said. “A lot of librarians in this area, this is a one-person library. They work part time.
“Lifetime Arts makes sure the person who teaches is a working artist.”
The classes are free, with the grants paying the artists a small fee and covering some materials.
“The idea behind it is you not only offer a program to older adults but also provide a local artist with some income,” Jankowska said. “It’s really cool and a wonderful idea.
“It takes time and a little bit of convincing that this will work. The librarians were most afraid they wouldn’t get people who would want to participate but they do.”
At the recent American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Jankowska was a Creative Aging panelist. While preparing for her presentation, she discovered 45.5 percent of the population in the tri-county area is 55 or older, according to the 2010 Census.
“We talked a little about our perspectives and experience.”
LIVE RADIO THEATER
Rebecca Pace, director of Peru Free Library, is looking for a few good men and women to participate in Radio Theater, with instructor Karen Hildebrand, an adjunct theater professor at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“It was her idea to do Radio Theater, which I just love,” Pace said. “I love it because you’re working with a population that is 55 and older. It’s the perfect, theater experience. It’s absolutely perfect because there is no makeup, costumes, and you don’t have to memorize your lines. It’s live-radio theater.
“What you need to do is read a script, so it’s very friendly. You don’t have the anxiety of, ‘OK, I just forgot my lines.’”
The 21st century equivalent is “A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.”
Radio Theater meets on Sept. 9 at a time to be decided by the participants. The class will meet for eight to 10 weeks and culminate in a live performance.
“We will have a live radio show complete with sound effects that will be taped, so that it could possibly go out on some local radio stations,” Pace said.
“I’m absolutely delighted, and I’m really excited about it. People need to contact me or Isthemikeon@gmail.com.”
Email Robin Caudell:email@example.com