74 year-old Croydon man Alexei Ho at the Boronia Progress Hall, where his art work made alongside five other adults over 60 and nine primary school students from Boronia K-12 College is now on display. PICTURE: TYLER WRIGHT
By Tyler Wright
When it came to getting involved in a collaborative art project with primary school children from Boronia K-12 College, 74-year-old Croydon resident Alexei couldn’t think of anything better.
“Young grandchildren never spend time with their grandparents and do creative things; they talk and play, [but] that’s it,” Alexei said.
“This is good – share ideas that we can offer society, your own community… I love it.
If every place do the same, how wonderful the place would be.”
Alongside five other adults over the age of 60, Alexei spent one day a week from mid-July to August at Boronia’s Progress Hall creating artwork with 14 primary school children from Boronia K-12 College as part of Eastern Community Legal Centre’s ‘My Generation’ art project.
‘My Generation’ was created as a way to break down inter-generational stereotypes, combat ageism and build connections within the community.
Participants drew animals, people and patterns; the final product injecting vibrant colour into what was a dull laneway between the Progress Hall and Knox Infolink.
Alexei has noticed visitors to the cafe at the Progress Hall who he has not seen before; attributing to the “bright” artwork made public in September.
“It brightens the place, the place looks so young again, so open,” Alexei said.
Boronia local and artist 71-year-old Bronwyn Hampshire thought it would be “fun” to create art with her younger counterparts when she first joined ‘My Generation’ – and the experience seemed to live up to her expectations.
“We had to draw something, so one of [the students] drew a basketball as a head and then the other one did a football as the body…so I did snake legs and fish arms,” Bronwyn said.
“It’s quirky art, but it really does look fantastic in the space that it’s been placed.
I’m proud of it, and I’m sure the kids are too.”
Boronia K-12 College Assistant Principal Cassandra Wright said misconceptions around being creative, or doing things ‘the right way’ became evident as the students began working with older people, trying something new and seeing things from a different perspective.
“[The] workshop leader did a lot of work with them around art as an expression of self, they talked a lot about personal values, talked a lot about how we’re feeling and how art reflects how we’re feeling, and I think that lent the kids being able to have a lot of connections with the older people that they might not have seen without that,” Cassandra said.
“Because when they talked about ‘oh, well I’m really passionate about the environment,’ and the students were ‘oh, actually, I’m really passionate about the environment, I’m really big on that, too,’ they made some connections they might not otherwise have had.”
Cassandra said shy students were able to come out of their shells during the workshops.
“There were a few, probably not misconceptions, but that old people struggle with mobility and things like that, whereas the older generation that worked with us, they didn’t struggle with their mobility… they were doing things, they made connections with them about walking dogs and doing all of that sort of stuff,” Cassandra said.
For Bronwyn, more programs like ‘My Generation’ could only benefit the community moving forward.
“Whether it be gardening projects or art projects or dancing… I think is a good thing, because there are, I’m sure, a lot of people locked away in their homes, not knowing how to interact with other people, especially if their families have moved away,” Bronwyn said.
“If projects can be created by anybody, whether it be council, or the Knox legal services…because not only was it about the kids and the oldies, also their parents were there too for the opening day, and their parents got to meet people, and I got to talk to some of the parents of some of the kids…
There should be more.”
Meanwhile, Alexei will continue volunteering at Hope City Mission in Croydon and the Salvation Army, waiting for the next community project to jump onto.
“If you do something that makes you feel good, it’s always better,” he said.
“Kindness is a disease that spreads… everyone kindness brings happiness from small things…
Partners of Eastern Community Legal Centre’s ‘My Generation’ project include The Basin Community House, EACH, Eastern Regional Libraries, Knox City Council, Knox Leisureworks, Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place (MMIGP), Swinburne University and Women’s Health East (WHE).
“It has been an honour providing a platform for participants to work together creatively, to learn about ageism and stereotypes; and to have their work permanently decorate a walkway in Boronia and celebrated through events – has just been the icing on the cake,” Eastern Community Legal Centre CEO Michael Smith said.
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