Studio without Walls

It was always the intention of the research team to examine the experience of seniors in rural Saskatchewan relative to the role the arts plays in their daily lives, their relative isolation, their sense of connectedness with their community. In the context of COVID 19 with the further increased vulnerability and isolation seniors were experiencing, the research team decided to take a social action research approach. It applied and received a COVID research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Working together with the Saskatchewan Seniors Association and the Seniors Centre without Walls Saskatchewan, the research team developed and delivered Studio Without Walls in 2021. This was a phone-based arts program that connected 6 professional artist/workshop leaders with older adults, 55+, especially those living outside of urban centres in Saskatchewan. Conducted via telephone conference, each workshop consisted of 6 hour-long sessions held over 6 weeks and involved visual arts, such as painting and collage, or writing activities – for example, life story writing or fiction. The workshops were free and participants were provided with supplies at no charge to them delivered by mail.

Workshop leaders included:

  • Shon Profit (Visual Art & Art Cards)
  • Judith Silverthorne (Writing Fiction & Non-Fiction)
  • Lynda Monahan (Creative Writing & Life Story Writing)
  • Jamie Reynolds (Painting and Drawing on Nature Themes)
  • Berny Hi (Journaling, Collage and Painting)
  • Marilyn Nelson (Painting to Music)

As part of their participation, each workshop participant completed 3 in-depth interviews before starting the workshop, halfway through and within one week of completion. Workshop leaders were also interviewed for their perspective on the experience and lessons learned that could inform future programming of this nature. The research team has worked with its partners to assist in making such programming an ongoing opportunity for Saskatchewan seniors, and it has presented its initial findings and the Studio without Walls model for arts and academic audiences. A fuller report on findings will be forthcoming in 2022.