'Studio without Walls' connects older adults to artists over the phone

The phone calls would guide a person and help them make an artist creation with spoken instructions.

The phone calls guide a person, help them make an artistic creation 

A University of Regina research project is pairing older adults with artists to study how the arts can improve a person's life during the pandemic. (© Mikaël Theimer)

Seniors feeling isolated will have a new way to connect using a traditional medium: the telephone.

Studio Without Walls is meant to give older Saskatchewan adults a creative outlet from the comfort of their own homes. 

The project was launched by the University of Regina and the connections are part of a research study. Researchers hope to study people's experiences with telephone-delivered arts-based creative activities. 

"Basically, the program involves a series of six different workshops and workshops all involve some kind of creative activity," Amber Fletcher said. "We've got things like painting and drawing. We've got some writing, non-fiction, life histories, many different kinds of artistic activities."

Fletcher, wo is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies and the project's co-lead, said the once a week sessions pair people with a professional artist giving them advice over the phone. 

"Throughout the process, we as a research team will be conducting some interviews with them to try to understand what the program is like for them and if it makes any changes in their experiences of being a little bit disconnected during the pandemic." 

Studio without Walls is part of a larger project, Fletcher said. The research group is focused on studying the value of arts in Saskatchewan communities. 

A new research project from the University of Regina lets older adults release their creativity from the comfort of their homes. Host Garth Materie finds out more from the project's co-lead, Amber Fletcher, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies at the U of R. 8:02

"A lot of us probably know that the arts do have value in our lives.... with the pandemic, more than ever we're appreciating our movies or television or music and other forms of art that permeate our lives in so many ways," she said. 

"But there's actually a really significant lack of research, a lack of data to really demonstrate the role and contribution and the value that the arts hold in our lives," Fletcher said. 

Fletcher and her team are a part of some worldwide studies hoping to show the value of the arts in people's lives. One of the reasons it's undervalued is because it's an intangible thing, she said. Hopefully by the end, she says they'll be able to have tangible data on if the arts made a person's life better during the pandemic. 

Participants only need a telephone

The project is aimed for people 55 and older and focused on people in rural Saskatchewan but anyone can participate. Fletcher said the project is meant for older adults because they're at a higher risk of isolation these days than ever before.

"Older people are being told that they're at higher risk of the virus. They're being encouraged to isolate, to refrain from interacting with other people in person, and that only exacerbates that existing isolation tendency that already exists," Fletcher said. 

"Our idea was to provide something that may potentially, depending on what our study finds, could potentially have a very positive effect in the lives of people who might be feeling a bit disconnected right now."

Fletcher hopes the people participating will feel a stronger sense of connection through the project and potentially make new friends. 

Fletcher said there are still some spaces open for participants in the project, and people interested can email People do not have to be artists or involved in the arts to take part in the free project. 

With files from The Afternoon Edition


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