spring 2016 volume 1 issue 1
Showcasing the Creative Older Minds of St. Louis
THE FIRST ISSUE IN THIS ISSUE: Poetry from St. Louis Poet Laureate
Featured Artist: Dave Walter
The vibrant work of artists from OMA
from the editors Aging is a beautiful process, one of change and often self-rediscovery. It can also be a difficult process, not in the least because of the expectations and stigmatization placed on an aging population. In American society, age is often synonymous with deterioration, loss, and impairment. MALT Journal is a creative magazine that is meant to both counteract the stigma surrounding aging and to provide a place for the older adult community to showcase creative work. We believe in the power of creativity and in the power of older adults to make beautiful things. With eyes that have seen so much, there is so much possibility for creation. The journalâ€™s primary mission is to positively influence and enrich the older adult community. We also act as a bridge between generations and between students and the greater St. Louis community. The first issue of MALT features the work of older creative individuals around St. Louis, such as Michael Castro (St. Louis Poet Laureate), Dave Walter (a talented artist working through Artists First), the artists at OMA (Opening Minds through Art, an art program at Maryville University), and Adelia Parker (local St. Louis photographer). MALT is the product of a collaboration between an interdisciplinary group of students at Washington University in St. Louis, all of whom have an interest in becoming more involved in the St. Louis community and in forging relationships with older generations. Sincerely,
RUTH BLAIR MOYERS
DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE/OPERATIONS
table of contents
cover art by Dave Walter
FEATURED ORGANIZATION: ARTISTS FIRST
HOW TO SUBMIT
ARTISTS FIRST ARTISTS FIRST by Noelle Darling
The Artists First workshop in St. Louis, which caters to artists with disabilities and provides space and encouragement for individual expression, is filled with light, music, and of course, art. The walls, floors, shelves, and tables display works in all mediums: paintings, sculptures, drawings, jewelry, and re-imagined household items, to name a few. Several rooms adjoin the main studio, housing supplies, storage, smaller ceramics and painting areas, and a small store in which pieces are sold to the public. Complete with coffee, music, and an open communal workspace, the studio fosters an encouraging, optimistic, and exuberantly creative atmosphere.
Artists First has operated as an independent non-profit organization since 2011, and just recently changed its name to reflect its mission. Offering individuals with disabilities an opportunity to express their creativity and produce beautiful work, Executive Director Sheila Suderwalla explains that â€œin this studio, we celebrate the artist. They are the artist first and the disability second.â€? While the elderly and people with disabilities are often overlooked and can easily fall through the cracks, this setting allows them to exist, create, and thrive outside of often unfairly limiting identities.
The diversity among the artists also allows for a strong sense of community and constructive creative relationships. Sheila explains that Artists First is “truly a very diverse, inclusive community, not just in race or political or religious ideology, but in age” which is “intentional, so there’s collaboration and integration.” One of the difficulties of aging is often isolation from younger generations, which can breed loneliness and frustration. Inter-generational collaboration and bonding gives older adults an opportunity to have their voices heard and to make meaningful impressions on the lives of young people, while younger artists are able to learn and appreciate valuable new perspectives.
The collaborative environment at Artists First encourages artists to feed off of each otherâ€™s creativity.
In such a diverse setting, the artists’ individual ages and generational identities cease to be defining factors, and instead contribute to the overall growth and richness of the community. While older artists may paint icons from the 70s, and the younger artists depict those from the 2000s, there is a shared approach and a shared understanding of the ability of art to reflect personal, cultural, and temporal identity. Most of the individuals at Artists First have never worked as professional artists, although they do have a program, Lifeworks, which allows “professionally minded artists with disabilities the chance to create art as a career” (ArtistsFirstSTL.org). Speaking to general levels of experience, Sheila says “our form of art would be considered ‘outsider art’ because there hasn’t been a formal educational training or background.
Many times our artists, because of their disability - many of them have labels and thus limitations placed on them. And this is a place where there are no limitations.â€? Artists First is far from elitist, and is entirely welcoming regardless of artistic background. Art as a common practice that can both bring people together and help them to better understand themselves, and as a productive means of self-expression, is significantly more valued and valuable than formal training or the finer points of technique. Itâ€™s easy to believe that art is difficult to create and understand, and that it belongs to an exclusive, elite community, but this organization challenges such notions, proving that art is profoundly accessible and unifying.
It doesn’t matter where the artist comes from, how old they are, or what their experience may be; the act of turning energy towards creativity and self-expression is in itself healing and produces intensely personal, valuable art. As a non-profit arts organization serving individuals with disabilities, Artists First falls into the statistically lowest-funded areas, and therefore thrives “on community support, whether it’s a supply donation drive, or volunteers.” Between the staff, directors, and the artists themselves, Artists First is filled with people dedicated to bringing art to underserved and often under-appreciated individuals, as a means of gaining autonomy, respect, and a strong personal voice. At the heart of the organization is an assertion, as voiced by Sheila, that “any form of creativity, self-expression, can be healing.”
Opening Minds through Art
(From left to right) Geno, Joe, Darryl, Ron, Kevin, Rita, Elaine, Marian
by Ruth Blair Moyers Opening Minds through Art is a creative workshop offered through Maryville University to adults diagnosed with dementia. However, when you walk into the weekly hour-long art making session at OMA, all the daily difficulties that come with battling this condition become background noise. What is offered at OMA is the chance to not be the person with a condition, but an expressive creative individual with a spark for making. “I got this art thing conquered,” one artist, Joe Simmons said about his experiences at OMA. Although attending the program may not guarantee a conquering of the artistic process for everyone, Joe was not the only one who had something to say about his work. Artist Elaine Naes called art-making “kind of like dancing.”
When asked about how she creates art, Marian Reitz said, “I just go with it. I try to think about the colors.” Another artist, Kevin Shaner responded to a comment from one of the assistants at OMA: “We’ve called it a lot of things,” she said of the abstract painting he was working on. Kevin replied, “It is a lot of things.” When I asked one other artist, Geno Wetzel, if he had a method to his madness, he answered bluntly, “No, it’s just madness.” The space at OMA is no more than a room of lively people who all are looking to express themselves. OMA is a testament to the fact that art is what makes us human, and we are humans as long as we continue thinking, expressing and marveling at the world around us.
Ron Black, “Beatles”
Marian White, “Bowling”
Joe, “Joe’s Nose”
Kevin, “Deep Sleep”
Geno, “Hodge Podge”
In 2015, Castro was named the first Poet Laureate of St. Louis.
Michael Castro grew up in Manhattan, New York. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1967 to attend graduate school at Washington University. He began the River Styx Poets radio show in 1969 and continued to investigate radio as the means for his poetry throughout the 70â€™s. He taught at University of Missouri-St. Louis for eight years and Lindenwood University for 32 years until his retirment in 2012. Castro has published 10 collections of poetry, and his poems have been in over 100 publications.
photo by James Byard
w o r d wordswordswordswordswordswords w o r d -michael castro-
1 plus 1 is sum X 1 1 plus 1 is even 2 itâ€™s odd that 3 can be 1 2
JIM AIGOE’S SATORI cottonwood trees-wind-Shhhhh
photo by Will Sun
dan de lion photo by Will Sun you used to stand so straight so bright & light just like the sun now so soon yr stooped & pooped all frail & gray & gone to seed
I pledge allegiance to the world’s greatest nation— Imagination
Adelia Parker Photographing my cousin’s wedding in 2010 was a pivotal event. There are so many wonderful people in my extended family in India, as the portraits will attest. My heart aches to be there in Gujarat all the time. Mrunalini’s Blessings were given by all the members of the family. The golden thread was touched by her father and all his brothers, their wives, her grandfather and grandmother, and the priest. Their love/union would be bound by this golden thread in a circle of timelessness. The wedding festivities lasted past midnight. After we arrived home from this very long day, we continued to laugh and talk while standing in the kitchen doorway. Mrunalini’s grandmother is my Indian Mother’s baby sister, we call her Mausi Ba (my mother’s sister is also my mother). As I bid everyone goodnight, Mausi Ba held my hand in hers and promised to take me shopping for a new saari the following day. It is customary for a mother to purchase a new saari for each daughter when one of them is wed. She died that night, shortly after that promise. A few
days after we celebrated Mausi Ba, my sister Swati presented me with a new saari. She said that Mausi Ba would have wanted it that way. These two events were earthshattering. My Ba (mom) had encouraged me to come to India for the wedding and to enjoy the wedding season. We had no idea that we’d be attending a funeral as well. Mrunalini’s grandfather (we address him as Massa ji) taught me to be grateful for the time we have with loved ones. Gratefulness eliminates sadness when the people we love are gone. They had been together for 60 years and he exclaimed “....and I have no reason to be sad.” His passing followed in 2014. The love and devotion I witnessed is expressed during the wedding season. It is a beginning thread in the lives of newlyweds, it never ends, it is tradition.
IT IS A BEGINNING THREAD IN THE LIVES OF NEWLYWEDS, IT NEVER ENDS, IT IS TRADITION.
DAVE WAL TER
by Noelle Darling photographs by Will Sun
Dave Walter, sometimes affectionately referred to as “Psychedelic Dave,” is a fixture at Artists First, an open art studio serving individuals with disabilities in St. Louis. Looking at his work, it’s easy to recognize the origins of this nickname. Dave’s pieces are clearly distinguishable, as they burst with color and abstract forms. Indeed, Dave is not limited to a single medium, but rather takes on any and all possibilities. Many of his pieces are spread throughout the studio, including not only paintings on canvas and drawings on paper, but also a vibrantly painted table, detached shutters, and what seems to be a cross-section of a tree. Simply put, Dave “takes anything and makes it beautiful.” When I visited Artists First just as it opened on a Tuesday morning, Dave was already in place at his table, drinking coffee (out of a “forever young” mug) and hard at work, transforming a plain wooden object into “psychedelic” art with paint markers. As we were introduced, he kissed my hand and we sat down for a few minutes to talk about Artists First and the work he was doing.
RATHER THAN BEING LIMITED AND DEFINED BY EITHER DISABILITY OR AGE, AT ARTISTS FIRST, DAVE IS ABLE TO LEAVE THOSE IDENTITIES BEHIND AND BE PRIMARILY AN ARTIST.
hough he was quick to say that he “doesn’t own the place,” many would disagree, as he has a pronounced influence on both the studio’s atmosphere and physical appearance. Taking a tour of the facilities, I saw a bit of Dave in almost every room. His intricately detailed and vibrantly colorful paintings were set up on tables and walls, a bicycle he had covered entirely in his unique style was propped up by his workspace, and the small store area where pieces are sold to the public displayed a beautiful mailbox clearly made by Dave. Artists First as a whole exudes an optimistic, creative, and somehow limitless feeling, and Dave both fits into this and plays an active role in constructing it. Even Dave can feel his influence, stating happily “I’m the big guy.”
Dave first came to Artists First when he was 55 years old, to “rehabilitate his fine motor skills after suffering a brain injury” (ArtistsFirstSTL.org). Now 62, Dave has developed his talent and his unique style; his works are “drenched in color and show a passionate interest in pattern and contour” (AFSTL). In the transition from before his accident to after, art was a key agent in helping Dave regain and construct a sense of self, navigating the difficult new identity of living with a disability. He now stays with his two brothers, and comes to Artists First every day for the Adult Open Studio. Rather than being limited and defined by either disability or age, at Artists First, Dave is able to leave those identities behind and be primarily an artist.
Of course, art can’t exist in a vacuum and his work is connected to and informed by his many identities; however, art is itself a way of working through and moving beyond them to create meaningful pieces. According to Dave, “art is a reminder of what he has lost and gained” (AFSTL). Though he has a speech impairment resulting from his accident, Dave communicates effectively and powerfully through artistic expression. As one of the oldest and longest-standing figures at Artists First, Dave holds a special spot in the studio’s community. When asked if he likes the sense of community there, he said “yes, I like the people.” He appreciates the availability of “lots of advice” and the constructive, positive atmosphere, which he himself helps to create. When told that his work probably inspires the other artists, Dave humbly responded “I hope so.” Without a doubt, Dave’s presence, personality, and artistic style inspire not just the other artists, but the staff and visitors at Artists First.
Anything is fair game for Dave to turn into art, like these two lamp shades
Dave working on a new project in his eclectic personal style
Dave’s favorite things to create these days are pop art and collages, and his favorite artist is Picasso. Preferring acrylic paint and paint markers, he can spend up to four days on a single project, as he is incredibly patient and meticulous in his work. Naming music and specifically Jimi Hendrix as inspirations, Psychedelic Dave never fails to brighten up the studio and communicate through art. Dave can transform anything: in his own words, “just put it in front of me.”
DAVE’S PRESENCE, PERSONALITY, AND ARTISTIC STYLE INSPIRE NOT JUST THE OTHER ARTISTS, BUT THE STAFF AND VISITORS AT ARTISTS FIRST.
JUST PUT IT IN FRONT OF ME.
11 Across 1. The Gateway Arch memorializes this U.S President 5. Painted the Sistine Chapel for the pope 7. I went from missouri to the White House 10. Go to The Hill for this type of food 11. Don’t let this question “brew” too long Down 2. This nation is known for impressionist painters 3. Where is the Saint Louis Art Museum? 4. I made a big “splash” in the art world 5. “Show me” a state 6. Van Gogh’s country of origin 8. You can find a lot of fashion outlets here 9. Artist and inventor with a famous “code” 42
3 5 6 1 8
1 5 2 6 2 6 7 7
4 8 1 8 6
2 4 6 1 7
SUBMISSIONS We are looking for creative work of all kinds. Whether you have a passion for knitting footies or painting landscapes, MALT is a place to share work that you are proud of. Anything created with your hand or mind is eligible for submission.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE FOR ISSUE 2:
OCTOBER 1, 2016 via E-MAIL : email@example.com if you need assistance, please call: Ruth: 804-822-1368 (in April, May, September) Will: 248-979-6672 (June, July) Alice: 714-251-9349 (August)
Answers to games Across
1. Jefferson 5. Michelangelo 7. Truman 10. Italian 11. Anheuserbusch
2. France 3. Forestpark 4. Pollock 5. Missouri 6. Netherlands 8. Galleria 9. DaVinci
3 5 2 6 1 8 4 7 9
6 8 4 7 5 9 3 2 1
9 7 1 4 2 3 6 5 8
7 3 5 1 8 2 9 4 6
4 6 9 3 7 5 1 8 2
1 2 8 9 6 4 7 3 5
5 1 6 8 3 7 2 9 4
2 4 7 5 9 1 8 6 3
8 9 3 2 4 6 5 1 7
Published on Apr 15, 2016
Welcome to the first issue of MALT! We are a magazine showcasing the creative activity of older adults in the St. Louis area, created and ru...