Who would’ve thought that learning art over the telephone could be such a success? When I first connected with the Surrey Art Gallery back in April, I asked myself the same question many ask me today: “how do you do art over the telephone?” The idea of learning to do art but only with voice instructions seemed so far removed from any typical learning format. But then again, the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW) model was already out of the ordinary, and the times we faced even more so.

The art program, later finalized as ‘We’re All Artists: Creative Practices at Home’, was designed in a way that participants can engage in art using basic materials most people would already have at home – paper, pencil, eraser, sometimes some colouring supplies. The entire process would be led by the instructors, Claire Cilliers and April Davis, (thank-you to Alanna Edwards for helping out the program at the start as well), from the Surrey Art Gallery using only verbal descriptions and instructions; the only visual element involved would be a one-page handout that would be sent to the participants to use as reference. These sheets would only have the date, the title of the theme, who will be teaching that day, the supplies you will need, and a simple example of type of art we will be doing.

The lack of visual examples has become a very intentional part of the program. In one discussion with the instructors, we noted that it helped create a unique, non-judgmental, artistic space. “In a normal art class, you can always see the instructor’s example and the art other people are doing, and it’s hard to not compare what you’re working on with everyone else. Well in this case, there’s literally nothing else you can compare it with! It’s very rare to have a space where you learn art but no matter what you end up doing, there is no right or wrong, everyone is free to their own interpretations of that morning’s art,” shared Edwards. And it really is true! Whenever we go around the room asking for the participants to share their progress, there’s never two of the same pieces: sometimes one person may have ended up drawing a shoe, and another a goose! Someone might have decided to use blue and yellow, while another preferred (or just simply had on hand) red and orange. There are also some visually impaired participants in the program as well, adding to the uniqueness of the experience!
This round-table sharing is another, if not the most, important part of the ‘We’re All Artists’ program.

It perfectly displays the limitless creativity and imagination of individuals and, more often than not, “we [the instructors] end up learning something from them! Whether it be a technique we forgot about, or a way of describing the art or technique we didn’t think of”. The main purpose of the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls has always been to create an easily accessible space for folks to socialize and share with each other, and that is no different in the art program. Cilliers agreed, “the most important thing is that we are creating a community. Even if [the participants] don’t end up completing the art that day, if they left having shared a little something, and heard from others as well, that’s a win.”

The ‘We’re All Artists’ program has become so popular recently that the program is currently at its full capacity. Any new participants interested will be placed into a waitlist and will be contacted by the SCWW Coordinator when new spaces are available. However, ‘We’re All Artists’ is only one of many different programs happening throughout the week! We have many other telephone programs covering various topics and interests, including exercise, literature, history, food and gardening, brain teasers, educational talks, and more!

You will find the latest program schedule available for download here: https://www.comeshare.ca/community-support–3/seniors-centre-without-walls
And if you have any questions, or want to register, please contact:

Edwin Chau
Seniors’ Centre Without Walls Coordinator
Seniors Come Share Society
T: 604-531-9400 ext. 205
E: scww@comeshare.ca

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