The Gerontology and Art and Design Departments at Missouri State University have partnered to offer Intergenerational Artistic Expression, a course to give students of all ages an opportunity to make art and connections.
The course features Diane Denton, a local artist, as the instructor. Denton has experience teaching art to seniors in and around Springfield. The goal was to have half of the students be traditional students and the other half from MSU 62, a program that allows people over the age of 62 to take one college course a semester without paying for tuition. Students in GER 397 participate in discussions and create art based on a theme.
“No one’s being graded on their technique,” Gerontology Program Coordinator Lisa Hall said. “It’s an opportunity for creativity, for expression, for sharing and experience. It’s this interactive environment where people are learning about each other and supporting other people’s work.”
Hall, along with Vonda Yarberry, department head of art and design, started discussing with Denton what an intergenerational art course would look like in summer 2022. The course was first offered in spring 2023, having five traditional-age college students and eight MSU 62 students. Hall said recent events made the course relevant to younger and older student populations.
“In this day and age where we know that so many young people are struggling with mental health issues, and just after this global pandemic where older people were very isolated because they were at higher risk of getting the virus, it was just an opportune time to bring these populations together and just let some of that support start happening,” Hall said.
Hall has experienced the benefits of intergenerational interaction while sitting in on the class.
“We find that stereotypes are broken down,” Hall said. “We find that it helps younger people think about their futures. It helps older people feel like they can give hope to young adults who are still developing.”
Hall said in previous centuries families would typically stay in the same area, which naturally provided intergenerational interaction. However, in modern society families will move away from each other due to different job, college or career opportunities. MSU has students of all ages, but most stay segregated.
“We know we have all ages around, but just because they’re all taking advantage of things on this campus doesn’t mean they’re interacting,” Hall said.
However, Intergenerational Artistic Expression is having trouble meeting the “intergenerational” aspect, with no traditional-aged college students currently enrolled in the course. Hall said this lack of participation among traditional age students may be due to lack of knowledge about the course.
“We know it’s great, but we also know not enough people know about it yet, and we know that the mechanisms we have to use to offer the course keeps it kind of secret,” Hall said.
The course is considered a “special topics” course, meaning it is subject to change after a certain period.
“On one hand, it seems like the epitome of public affairs,” Hall said. “We’re bringing people in from the community, including the instructor and some of the students, age-integration, all this good stuff, but it doesn’t fit into any of the boxes we already have.”
For those interested, the course will be offered in spring 2024.
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