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Posted March 19, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Ageless art: Class geared toward seniors and their creativity

Artist Clive Turner, left, demonstrates a charcoal drawing technique to Doris Baker, 82, and Winnie Callihan, 76, both of Strasburg, during an “Art that Heals” class, sponsored by the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation Department and the Valley Educational Center for the Arts. Photos by Rich Cooley/Daily

Steve Balanda, 71, of Strasburg, uses his eraser in implementing a shading technique in Turner’s free drawing class. for seniors.

Baker uses her charcoal pencil in a recent senior drawing class.

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By Jessica Wiant -- jwiant@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- Sometimes everything aligns.

As Teresa Funkhouser at the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation Department was pondering an art class for seniors, so was Valley Educational Center for the Arts member Clive Turner.

Turner, an artist and art teacher, took it a step further and got a grant to do a class.

"They came to me before I had a chance to go to them," Funkhouser says.

"We all just came together on it," Turner says.

The end result was a collaboration between the two organizations -- and an art class for senior citizens being not only available, but also being available for free.

The class, "Art That Heals," started on March 3 and is continuing on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. through April 7. It is aimed at people ages 55 and up, and is limited to 12 people -- but students can attend any sessions they like and space is still available, according to Funkhouser. Classes are at the old Edinburg Middle School.

Turner, who says he has taught nearly every other age group, is working with seniors for the first time.

"I feel like [classes for seniors] usually are classes that just keep them busy. Art is a tool to be able to help someone," Turner says.

Seniors still have things they want to do, he says, and he wanted to give them an opportunity.

He has planned out a simple curriculum for the series of classes, starting out with basic drawing techniques.

At the second session, three Strasburg residents watched and participated as Turner showed them basic techniques including the use of light, medium and dark tones to create contrast, using a napkin to smear in charcoal pencil and using a stretchy knead eraser for more than just erasing mistakes.

"It's a tool to be able to draw with," he says, as he uses the eraser in a darkly shaded box to draw out the shape of a bottle.

Pencils and papers scattered around them, the three students are attentive as Turner stood at an easel at the front of the room. Later, after he tells them what to practice, they are left to try a few methods on their own while he looks on.

Turner started the series with basic drawing and basic perspective and will cover basic painting and color perspective in future classes -- teaching simple things to give his students techniques that they can use on their own, he says. This way they can check out different techniques and decide if they want to pursue them.

"Everybody can appreciate music. Everybody can appreciate art," he says.

But the class isn't all watch and learn, it's supposed to be enjoyable, too, as it seemed to be as the students pulled on their putty-like knead erasers for the first time.

"I always wanted an art program you can have fun at. That's important for them, and me, too," Turner says.

Neighbors Doris Baker and Winnie Callihan seemed to enjoy the class. Baker said she thought the class sounded interesting so they decided to give it a try -- and it helped that the class was free.

As they worked on mimicking Turner's bottle drawing, she says the class is pretty much learning the basics.

"I never drew anything like that before," Baker says.

"This is all new to all of us," Callihan says.

The third student, Steve Balanda, says he would like to work up to more advanced art work, but saw Turner's class as a starting point.

"Think basic," he advises potential students. "You've got to start with something basic."

Seniors who would like to attend the "Art That Heals" class at the old Edinburg School need to call Teresa Funkhouser at 984-3030 in advance since class size is limited.

Course info

• What: "Art that Heals," art class for seniors

• When: Tuesdays through April 7, 10 a.m.-noon

• Where: Edinburg School, room 103

• Cost: Free, with materials provided

• Information: Call the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation Department at 984-3030

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