Connection: Thoughts on Caregiving and Visual Art Making

By: Margie Jervis

Caregiving is stressful. Helping an aging person is an ever-changing, uncertain path. The unpredictability of it requires alertness and a high state of readiness to make quick decisions, often with intense consequences. Like art making, caregiving calls us to be creative, requiring an investment of one’s heart, spirit and energy.

I am a professional artist, designing and creating every day. I am the Set and Costume Designer at Creative Cauldron, the small and lively theater in Falls Church, as well as a Visual Art Educator at Creative Cauldron and Falls Church Arts.

I was fortunate enough to be able to help both of my parents for many years towards the decline and end of their lives. After my father’s passing, my husband and I moved in with my mother to keep her company, while also raising our newborn son. Mom needed some looking after, but not in a daily way.

A raisin on the floor changed everything. When seated at the breakfast table, Mom reached out to pick up the raisin and the chair slipped out from under her. The sudden drop to the floor was enough to break her hip due to her fragile, aged bones. In that moment, my caregiver status intensified and became all absorbing and isolating.

My caregiving experiences contributed to the evolution and growth of myself as a person as well as how I engage in art. I developed an ability to be more flexible and refined my sense of what was important and what to let be. Being a caregiver further affirmed my continued belief that people of every age, and in every stage of life, need to be together. Since then, I have focused more of my art teaching to families, children and recently retired adults.

When working with adults, my purpose is to guide and open doors into other ways of seeing and responding. During this last challenging year, everyone has been required to be caregivers of themselves as well. Exercising the mind creatively and expressing emotions and experiences through art are great tools to alleviate stress and anxiety.

My students’ comments below illustrate how the visual art creative process provides nourishment and a sense of community during this time of pandemic caregiving:

“This class has opened up an opportunity for free flowing/colorful expression I have enjoyed so much…………. leaving open the imagination to develop ideas. The goal is expression and fun, I love both and can’t wait to have more of it.”

“Doing an art project with other people causes spontaneous sharing and creates a sense of community. We all appreciate each other’s art, we all go through a magical process together, and that brings us closer.”

During this time of stress, staying at home, having many incidents of worry and frustration, I found that if I sat down and did a lesson or came up with something on my own, my blood pressure, anxiety and mood immediately improved.”

“Taking an art class during the pandemic has opened up a part of my mind I have been very disconnected from for a long time. Like many, I have been so caught up in all the uncertainty in our daily lives and not in touch with creativity. I have found my art class helps me to stay very present and focused, which in turn helps to alleviate stress, anxiety, and loneliness. For me, creating creates a calmer, happier me!”

“The art classes have caused me to see more deeply into nature and feel closer to nature. The world is more luminescent.”

My husband has also benefitted as he has had enjoyment in seeing what I have created and I think amazed to see a side of me he had not seen before. Well I have amazed myself ”

 

More information about Falls Church Arts, Margie Jervis and about her art classes can be found below.

https://www.creativecauldron.org/adult-spring-classes.html

https://www.creativecauldron.org/about-617058.html

http://www.fallschurcharts.org

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