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When Sonja Gumpert picks up a paintbrush or demonstrates for another resident how to properly work with pastels in her weekly classes, the world and its worries seem to fade away. Gumpert, a resident at Drake Terrace, a premier senior living community in San Rafael, is one of many residents who have discovered the benefits of pursuing artistic outlets. Sonja, like so many, took an interest in art upon retirement, and now teaches two classes at the community to share with others the satisfaction which can be found in creating something uniquely your own. Once a month she teaches a pastel and watercolors class for independent and assisted living residents, and then another teaching the community’s memory care residents.


“From a young age I was always interested in art, but never had the opportunity to pursue my desire to tap into my creative side,” said Gumpert. “After retiring as a preschool teacher, I started taking classes to learn how to properly use various mediums so I could explore which techniques I was interested in working with on my own. It’s because of these early classes that I am now confident in teaching and demonstrating for others the benefit found in creating my own masterpieces. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to display my works and explain my techniques and thoughts on each piece. It’s something that will provide a sense of pleasure and accomplishment simply because I would otherwise be unable to share my artistic process.”


While art might have been an interest pursued later in life for Gumpert, for resident Nyla Wells art is a passion which extends back to her childhood. Wells has always been fascinated with the artistic process and the ability to create something from pure imagination. This is something she has carried with her throughout her life, especially when she takes a new art class. According to Wells, before she begins working with a new medium she first takes a class to learn and digest the process. From there, she becomes her own artist, working with the materials on an unstructured level to create a piece which fits her unique vision.


“I paint because I enjoy it,” said Wells. “Each piece of my work is something that I have found inspiration in and it allows me to express my feelings. I encourage people of all ages to explore their creative side. I look forward to having the opportunity to showcase my work and see how people react to the various pieces displayed and see which ones resonate with them. I’ve been fortunate to be encouraged to learn and improve my craft, and I hope that with this art show others will be inspired to pursue their own creative outlets.”


Research shows that creating art of all kinds can help with emotional and mental health by triggering the creative areas of the brain. Through the time and focus spent painting, sculpting, and drawing comes a sense of creativity which can relieve the stress of outside influences. For many, boredom and the lack of such an outlet can be one of the biggest stressors. Because of this, many seniors find moments of joy and a sense of accomplishment through creating art. 


For Tom Toland, who has a master’s degree in fine arts from UCLA, being able to find an outlet and perfect his work is incredibly important. Toland crafts consistently with papier-mâché and says that once he got used to it, this became his preferred medium. His creations are often praised and enjoyed by residents and team members at Drake Terrace alike who walk by his apartment and see the unique pieces displayed. He believes that art is something which everyone should see and enjoy no matter what materials an artist uses. Toland emphasizes the importance of self-expression and conversations sparked from imagination.


“Art is universal and free for everyone,” said Toland. “As an artist you have the ability to be as expressive and imaginative as you wish. This enables conversation and allows for connections to be made with the world around us. Everyone can see the same thing, yet feel differently about it. Art is something that needs to be seen so that it can be felt for an artist to truly express themselves, and that can only be done by sharing it with an audience.”


“When we began to see the beautiful pieces of art created by so many of the residents within the community, we knew this was something that we had to share,” said Erik Flatt, executive director of Drake Terrace. “Each resident participating in the art show is incredibly talented, and we are proud to help them share their work with an audience. Art is about expressing oneself, and we know that this show will do that. In addition, it will encourage all who visit to try something new

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