Multicultural Seniors Art Therapy Exhibition
Living Active Life Program
Welcome to the online exhibition showcasing some of the processes and artworks from an innovative Art Therapy program involving seniors from across Western Sydney.
Organised by SydWest Multicultural Services and funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, the 12-week pilot brought seniors together to explore art, reduce social isolation and enhance their overall wellbeing.
The program was facilitated by qualified Art Therapists, supported by trained volunteers and interpreters and involved over 40 seniors from a range of backgrounds - some with vision and hearing impairments and others suffering a range of health issues.
“When I come here, I forget my problems.”
Art from the Heart
Art allows you to relax, bringing you into your body and into the now. Art Therapy provides a safe and non-judgemental space in which you can create, explore and discover messages from the heart and soul.
During the 12-week program, the participants explored their own unique creativity, creating art from the heart and sourcing meaning and answers from within.
For some, the art processes were a new experience and for others engaging in art gave them permission to journey back to their childhoods.
“This program makes me feel younger - it reminds me of my childhood. This is a good feeling.”
“My creativity has improved. My thinking ways and imagination have been improved.”
“I become more confident. I feel younger.”
"We never did this as children back home. We only worked and cleaned the home and cooked. This is all very new, very nice.”
Learning new things and making new friends
The very nature of the group sessions and coming together each week created a safe space for the seniors to relax and have fun creating art - learning more about themselves through creative expression, sharing stories and making new friendships in the process.
“I made friends and discussed with others.”
“It gives me a chance to appreciate others and what they think.”
“I like to open up and look at myself, come to terms with my Self and my capacity to be creative.”
“I listen to other people. I learn about their families, cultures and other things.”
“I don’t do art works very often but I love it. It helped me to express myself. I am a person who doesn’t like to express how I feel. I have done it here and now I really like it.”
Each week offered a new art experience centred around different topics.
Using a mix of clay, crayons, collage, paint, pencils and mosaics, the participants explored themes such as eldership, community, the seasons, joy, life journeys and more.
“I always start the art not knowing what to do but I end up creating something that surprises me.”
“The knowledge I got from this program make my life richer and I am happier.”
“I use this knowledge to spend quality time with my granddaughter.”
The Tree of Life
What supports you, what nourishes you, how are you seen in the world and what do you give?
“The tree of life helped me to see who I am and where I have come from.”
“I can bring art to my life to make it richer.”
For one visually impaired participant, this was the first time she had created art since losing her sight 20 years ago. The Jacaranda tree representing one of her last ‘seeing’ memories and also symbolising the beauty and strength she recognises within herself.
“These sessions have shown me that if you get out and try new things, it’s marvellous what you can do. I may be blind but it has opened my eyes up and gives me self-satisfaction and enjoyment.”
The role of elders in society and what that means to you
“We have a lot of wisdom to share with younger people if they will listen.”
“I appreciate the caring and kindness towards older people in these sessions.”
We all share Australia as a common destination in our journeys. How did we get here and what are our stories?
“We all have very different experiences in life and when we share our stories we understand.”
“We are very lucky to be in peaceful Australia.”
“A chance to speak about experiences that I had forgotten. I am grateful to SydWest for this opportunity.”
Using the ancient symbol of the mandala to hold those things that we are grateful for in our lives
“This has made me realise that I need to focus on the positives in my life more.”
“This program has helped me to look within. It is helping me to think positively. I am beginning to forget my problems and my sickness. When I am drawing, my mind is at peace.”
“I am becoming more positive toward life and my friends.”
The Seasons - Autumn
Exploring Autumn as a metaphor for endings and letting go
“The seasons are like the changes that happen in our life – the ups and the downs.”
“The trees lose their leaves, like we lose our hair.”
The Seasons - Spring
Exploring Spring as a metaphor for new beginnings and hope
“Creativity brought happiness and hope into our lives.”
“I feel younger after participating in this program.”
“This makes my mind psychically and mentally active.”
Using clay to create a symbol of joy and a reminder to bring joy into our lives
“I learnt to appreciate and love life and bring art to my life.”
“I learned to occupy myself with things that make me happy so that I can feel less down and depressed.”
“It helps me forget the sorrow - I’m happy the whole day.”
Using colour and art to bring you into your body and into the now
“I forgot about everything and all my worries when I was colouring in.”
“This is something I want to do with my grandchildren.”
“It’s very helpful for our psyche- helps us to be more relaxed.”
Working with nature to give back to ourselves – an act of self-love and care
“I want to be myself, be patient and relax.”
“I want to live my life for myself and enjoy more.”
“I listen with respect to myself, and to others.”
Creating beauty through brokenness and seeing the beauty in imperfection
“I have OCD. I thought it (the art) had to be perfect, but it wasn’t and I accepted it and let go.”
“This process was simple but beautiful.”
Working together to create something that will live on in the community
“The communication and cooperation between members of the group helped me to grow as a person.”
“It gives me a chance to appreciate others and what they think.”
“Bringing cultures together and helping hands to make this world a better place.”
“Thank you to SydWest and the government for this wonderful program.”
The Seniors Art Therapy Program was organised by SydWest’s Aged Care and Disability Services team.
The program was designed and facilitated by Kerry Coombs-Valeontis, an art and horticultural therapist working in mental health and Silvana Wiggins, an art therapist and communications specialist working with the CALD community.
And thank you to our volunteers and interpreters for their invaluable support each week.