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  • Writer's pictureAri Shapiro

I have inquiries for you, Senior Artists. [Age of Arts Workshop by RiNo Art District]

Senior Artists. Aging in the arts. What does it mean to be a senior adult in the arts? What kind of prejudices do mature artists face in the art world? Do older artists feel empowered by their seasoned expertise, or left in the dust by the ever moving, young blood scene that is the contemporary art world?

Questions I can’t wait to have addressed by four amazing Denver artists, all over the age of 60. Please join me for Tools for the Creative Life: Age of Arts Workshop. An illuminating discussion featuring our four panelists, artists Sharon Bond Brown, Yoshitomo Saito, Arlette Lucero, and Emanuel Martinez. I, alongside RiNo Art District Director of Curation Alex Pangburn, will be moderating this exciting panel on March 17th from 12:45 to 2:30pm. It is an online feature being held on Zoom - link below.

My time in the senior living realm has shed light on the reality many senior artists face, specifically not-by-choice “has-been” artists who have aged into communities and subsequentally left their craft behind. Accessibility is a huge issue for artists, even the young ones who aren’t tucked away in a studio apartment at Whateversuch Senior Villas. Art creation is expensive and requires a lot of space. Wait, you mean Grandma didn’t lug her 200 pound kiln with her to her new forever home? I have visited too many senior living communities to count and majority of the offered “art studios” are small, windowless boxes with a few sad craft tables and some finger paints. For residents looking to join a fun activity and socialize, this is fine. But for the residents who consider themselves artists, no inspiration can be found in these dim craft holes.

Inspiration. What inspires an artist to press on with their craft for four or five decades? I am exceedingly curious. On a personal note, I entered the soul sucking dimension of artist burnout several years ago, and am yet to regain my ~mojo~ for painting. It is HARD to stay inspired as an artist. Art drive frequently dies and you either figure out how to resuscitate it or you sink into the agonizing quicksand that is artist block. How long will it last? Nobody knows! Does it always feel this awful, like somebody ripped your identity away and all that remains is a talentless skeleton? Yes! The only cool thing about artist block is that it allows you permission to still identify as an artist. As only artists have artist block. Yeah, I’m an artist. I don’t paint anymore but it’s only because I have artist block! I’ll paint again … one day … *reads my tombstone*

I digress. The only antidote to artist block for these community-bound senior artists is access to real materials, real workshops taught by real artists, and the opportunity to collaborate with other artists of any age. I was once hired in a freelance capacity to design a luxury art studio for a senior living community based in Arizona. And it was such a fulfilling task. Full sized easels perched in front of floor to ceiling windows, large wooden craft tables for throwing clay, drying racks, a kiln, and double sink for washing brushes, the works! I would have supplied a mini darkroom in the space, if square footage allowed. This is what senior artists deserve in these communities.

Out in the world, there are older artists doing their thing. I want to hear straight from the source what inspires them to press on. What has changed in the scene? Do they consider themselves old school or are they utilizing iPads and 3D printing? Muralist Emanuel Martinez is still up on cranes painting buildings- he was born in 1947! He was a giant on Denver's art scene 40 years ago, before trendy RiNo and before mural or street art was highly regarded. He remains a giant on the scene to this day, truly a founding father of Denver Arts. What is the spark that keeps him going with such laborious and incredible work?

I can’t wait to find out. See you all on March 17th.

Zoom link to event here! >>>

Join me on March 17th at 12:45pm.

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