Mon, April 10, 2017
Charlotte McClendon says her 86th birthday on Sunday, April 9, is the best one she’s ever had. In fact, she can’t think of another one that’s even come close.
She spent it at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art with six fellow residents from Twin Fountains Home —Gary Jenkins, Nancy Jones, Brenda Register, Mattie Stinchcomb, Jeanie Walker and Jackie White — along with a handful of family members and Twin Fountains team members. In the High Museum’s expansive Taylor Lobby in the Wieland Pavilion, McClendon and her friends from Twin Fountains each sat beside a brightly colored acrylic-on-canvas piece of artwork displayed on an easel and soaked in the compliments from museum visitors.
“When my mom told me they were going to display their works on April 9, I said, ‘But, do you realize that will be on your birthday?’” said Sheila Chastain of Gainesville, one of McClendon’s daughters. “She said, ‘I know, and what a wonderful gift it will be.’”
The High Museum displayed their art as part of its “Second Sunday” program, a time when all visitors receive free admission to see special family-friendly programming. The average attendance for Second Sundays in 3,000 to 5,000 visitors.
Their art came about when Andria Powell, Twin Fountain’s activities coordinator, contacted the High Museum, told them about the works the residents had created and asked if displaying their art was a possibility.
According to Nicole Cromartie, the museum’s manager of family programs, featuring art from nursing home residents hadn’t been done at least in the two years she has served there.
“I thought, ‘Well, why not?’” Cromartie said. “We’re always trying to think of programs that will appeal to families and to different age groups, from toddlers to older adults. We thought it was a great idea because their art certainly fit into our programming.”
In fact, Cromartie said that with the residents’ art featuring primarily landscapes, their works complemented one of the museum’s current main exhibits, “Cross Country: The Power of Place in American Art, 1915-1950.”
Led by Powell, the artists meet monthly at Twin Fountains Home to work on their pieces, which were each painted collectively.
“I usually provide a picture of something we can model the work after, and of course, their art turns out to be rather different from the picture because several people are involved in creating it,” Powell said. “I’m not an artist, so it really makes me feel good to see a blank canvas and then see how everyone puts their own touches on it and brings it to life together.”
Powell said she makes wedding cakes, and she loves the feeling of knowing when she’s created something beautiful.
“I’m sure they have felt the same way about this experience,” she said. “When you create something, you really feel accomplished. It’s gratifying, and it gives you a sense of self-worth.”
As they sat beside their artwork, the hustle and bustle of visitors echoed on the expansive wood floors in the lobby, where the sunshine poured in the windows that seemed to reach to the sky. The Twin Fountains residents answered questions about their work from a little girl wearing Minnie Mouse ears,
college students who sang “Happy Birthday” to McClendon, young 30-somethings who gave high-fives and hugs, and fellow older adults in wheelchairs who felt comfort in grasping the hands of those who had created the beautiful works and not wanting to let go.
One young artist said, “Your work needs to be upstairs in the galleries.” A young teenager whispered to her dad, “These are beautiful.”
One lady in a wheelchair brought her service dog and thanked the residents for sharing their work with the museum visitors.
“Thank you for this,” she said. “You’ve truly given us a gift today.”