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Art(ists) in the making : exploring narratives of coming to art in later life Brett-MacLean, Pamela Jean 2007

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ART(ISTS) IN T H E M A K I N G : EXPLORING NARRATIVES OF COMING TO A R T IN L A T E R LIFE  by PAMELA JEAN BRETT-MACLEAN B . A . (Highest Honours), Carleton University, 1985 M . A . , University o f Guelph, 1989  A THESIS S U B M I T T E D IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T OF T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty o f Graduate Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A  August 2007  © Pamela Jean Brett-MacLean, 2007  ABSTRACT  Drawing on John Dewey's aesthetic theory, this inquiry was undertaken to explore the experience and significance o f "coming to art" in later life. Eight women and three men participated i n two in-depth conversational interviews. The participants' average age at the time o f our first interview was 71.6 years. Seven participants described a serious commitment to art. The remaining participants described a somewhat more casual visual art practice. A narrative approach supported a close reading o f the participants' stories which led to the identification o f three primary storylines: 1) "Coming to A r t , " 2) "Flourishing through A r t , " and 3) " A r t as Identity." The first storyline considered the role o f chance and different influencing conditions, including how various structures and routines served to sustain the participants' focus on art. Ways in which art contributed to how the participants' enjoyed their lives comprised the second storyline, which encompassed such aspects as enhanced perception, creative excitement, flow, and feelings o f intrinsic satisfaction, as well as expanding worlds o f experience (through travel and new social connections). Conditional and relational aspects o f the participants' art-based identity constructions are described i n the last storyline. In addition, reflections on the significance o f art making as a casual leisure pursuit, and music as a form o f serious leisure, along with advantages and constraints o f coming to art in later life, are described. This inquiry offers a site for developing new understandings regarding the possibilities o f aging, and the ways that art can contribute to an ongoing process o f growth and expansion in later life. Although a common view is that artists are born as such, compelled to express their talents from an early point in life, the accounts shared by the participants i n this inquiry suggest that at least for some coming to art may also be a developmental opportunity that emerges with age. In addition, while health benefits have been associated with involvement in art i n later life, this inquiry suggests that arts-based involvement i n later life can also be about creative excitement, feeling enlivened, and vitally involved ... and also about becoming an artist.  ii  T A B L E OF CONTENTS Abstract  ii  Table of Contents  iii  Acknowledgements  vi  Preamble,  ENTERING INTO STORIES O F EXPERIENCE - A L R E A D Y UNDERWAY,  A N D ONGOING  Chapter  1  1, I N T R O D U C T I O N  6  Population A g i n g and the Potential o f Later Life  7  Ongoing Positioning  9  W h y this Study?  13  Transition 1  18  Chapter  2, L I T E R A T U R E R E V I E W  20  Contextualizing Understanding(s) o f the Potential o f Later Life  20  Retirement and the Construction o f Later Life  20  Late-life Development and "Successful" A g i n g Erikson's Psychosocial Theory o f Human Development Other Influential and Emergent Theories o f A g i n g The Question o f Unfolding Capacities A Good O l d Age: H o w Older People V i e w "Successful A g i n g "  22 22 23 27 29  Activity and Leisure in Later Life Research on Leisure Involvement: Approaches and Findings "Optimal" Forms o f Leisure: Developmental and Other Benefits  32 32 35  A r t i n Later Life: Engaging and Creating " A r t Worlds" Continuity, Change and Emergence o f Interest O n A r t Worlds Inconspicuous and Overlooked Perspectives on the Value o f Art Research on Arts-based Involvement i n Later Life Another Perspective: Sir Winston Churchill  39 39 45 48 52 58  Transition 2  59  Chapter  3, INQUIRY A P P R O A C H  61  A Narrative, Interpretive Perspective  61  Guiding Questions and Underlying Assumptions  63  Inviting and Attending to Stories Setting  65 65  iii  Inviting Participation The Participants Beginning the Interviews Adrift i n a Swirl o f Stories Ongoing Interviewing: Developing Understandings Other Empirical Materials: Field Notes, Artefacts, Photographs.  66 67 67 69 71 72  In the Midst/ Mist: Developing the Research Text  73  Transition 3  75  C h a p t e r 4, T H E P A R T I C I P A N T S  76  M a l c o l m McPhee L i l l i a n Carleton Bernard W o o d Mary Topping Helen Richards Joyce Bjerke Terry Dean G a i l Lane Lynda Barnhard Madeline and W i l l i a m L i t w i n  77 78 79 80 81 83 84 86 87 88  Transition 4  90  Chapter 5, S T O R Y L I N E S A N D R E L A T E D M E A N I N G D I M E N S I O N S  92  Coming to A r t Early Beginnings Early, Intrinsic Interest Terry Dean: "This had been i n my mind all through my life" M a r y Topping: " A r t was an ongoing thing, all my life" Early Orientation, and Encouraged by Others L i l l i a n Carleton: "What on earth am I going to do with all my time?" Bernard Wood: " M y daughters ... asked me what I was going to do" A n Element o f Happenstance Helen Richards: "It all happened because I want to help people" Joyce Bjerke: "I had an interest i n art and I decided to explore it" M a l c o l m McPhee: " A r t helped me get through the horror o f Barb's sudden death" Trajectories o f Chance, and Influencing Conditions  101 102  Art/ Learning as Life Structure Flourishing through A r t Creative Engagement Enhanced Perception Creative Excitement/ F l o w Experiences Intrinsic Satisfaction Expanding Worlds o f Experience Travel  106 114 115 115 117 118 119 120  iv  92 92 93 93 94 96 96 97 98 98 100  Appreciation o f Art and Involvement i n A r t Worlds Social Connections  121 122  Art as Identity Identity Space I: A r t M a k i n g Practices Identity Space II: Spheres and Forms o f Recognition Identity Space III: Cultural and Relational Understandings Giving Form to Experience: A Gift o f Self. Enduring Commitment O n Coming to Art In Later Life: Other Variations and Themes Art M a k i n g A s Casual Leisure in Later Life M u s i c as a "Serious Leisure" Pursuit Arts Involvement i n the Midst o f Difficult Experiences Agelessness and V i t a l Engagement O n Advantages, Constraints, Barriers, and Facilitators, etc  124 126 128 132 134 138 139 140 142 143 146 148  Transition5  152  Chapter 6,  STORIES T O L D A N D SHARED:  A DISCUSSION  155  O n "Findings" and the Nature o f Possibility  155  Late Life Potential: The A r t o f Development Art as a M o d e o f Development "Positive A g i n g , " Health and Art M a k i n g i n Later Life  157 157 160  Going Forward from Here Future Inquiry Developing Leading Structures  162 162 166  Growing into " A Good O l d A g e "  174  Reflections on "Ending" an Ongoing Inquiry  177  Chapter 7, T H E  180  FINE A R T OF RETIREMENT  The A r t o f A g i n g : A n Exhibit  181  References  192  Appendices  220  Appendix A : Letter o f Information (Initial Contact)  220  Appendix B : Consent Form  221  Appendix C : Interview Questions/ Guide  224  v  A C K N O W L E D G E D ! ENTS  I extend my deep appreciation to all o f the wonderful people who participated in this study: Malcolm McPhee, Lillian Carleton, Bernard Wood, Mary Topping, Helen Richards, Joyce Bjerke, Terry Dean, Gail Lane, Lynda Barnhard, and Madeline and W i l l i a m Litwin. They generously shared their time and their stories with me. Their great patience and enthusiasm for this project contributed greatly to the success o f this dissertation project. I would like to recognize my advisor Dr. Rita Irwin for the ongoing guidance and support she provided me with, as well as her consistent beliefin me and this project. I also greatly appreciate the scholarly contributions, questions, and support that Drs. J o A n n Perry, Elvi Whittaker, and Ken Gergen (and early on, Carol Herbert) offered as 1 worked on developing this inquiry, and persisted in completing this research text. I thank all o f the people I met over the course o f this inquiry who enriched my understanding o f the possibilities and artistry o f later life. In addition, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all of my family, as well as my friends and colleagues who have encouraged and supported me. Thanks to all o f you! 1 must also make special mention o f my husband, M e l MacLean, and my mother, Veronica Brett, who offered direct support and assistance in both ongoing ways, and at significant junctures o f this long dissertation journey. It is difficult to imagine completing this project without your help and support. I dedicate this work to all o f those who are exploring, or are looking forward to exploring, the creative possibilities o f ongoing human development. I dedicate this work to my grandparents, Verona and Steve Sabjan, and also to my four-year old son Caleb who reminds me o f the moment-to-moment play o f possibility every moment o f every day. This research was supported in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the B C Medical Services Foundation, B C Health Research Foundation, Green College at the University o f British Columbia, and the Lion's Gate Hospital Foundation. Excerpts from Winston Churchill's book o f essays Thoughts and Adventures are reproduced with permission o f Curtis Brown Ltd, London on behalf o f The Estate o f Winston Churchill (copyright Winston S. Churchill).  vi  A r t Is a  av^d necessary behaviour of hu.rn.ctiA, beings that like other com.rn.oiA, a i A , d universal hu.rn.aiA. oc-cupatloiA-s ai/vd preoccupations uch as talteli/tg, w o r k i n g , exercising, p l a y i n g , s o c i a l i z i n g , learning, loving, and t a r i n g . lAormal  should be recognized, encouraged, and developed i n everyone. - Ellc^  tussanayafce,  ±^52,  p . 22.S  PREAMBLE E N T E R I N G INTO STORIES O F E X P E R I E N C E ALREADY UNDERWAY, AND ONGOING  It is difficult to know sometimes how to begin; how to enter into the telling of a story. And then, slowly, I do ... For the most part, I have followed a traditionally accepted format i n writing this dissertation. A n introductory chapter and overview o f relevant literature provide an orientation to the text. Subsequent chapters describe the approach I have taken to this inquiry, and what I have come to understand about coming to art in later life. I offer additional commentary and reflection in the discussion chapter. I perform the understandings I have come to through what I hope w i l l be considered a richly integrated and developed text. A t the same time, I offer this work i n the spirit o f an ongoing conversation rather than a "solo performance." I have had the privilege o f connecting with numerous individuals working i n different aspects o f aging and the arts over the many years o f this inquiry - artists, scholars, program participants and administrators - all o f whom have enriched my appreciation o f the possibilities and artistry o f life. I owe an even greater debt to the men and women who participated i n this inquiry. This dissertation is based on conversations that occurred over an extended period o f time. In the following paragraphs, I present excerpts taken from these conversational interviews. These excerpts are not meant to foreshadow or outline the understandings that I came to through the course o f this inquiry. Rather, the participants' voices are presented here to emphasize the uniqueness and diversity o f their lives, and also to recall the primacy o f story as a lived experience, by real people.  1  You know, all artists are poor. You don't quit your day job when you 're an artist. Helen (1,175) Just before I retired I enrolled in a few water colour classes. Joyce (1,6) You will always feel that you can do better, that you can do more, and that you can learn more. You '11 never know it all. Terry (2,715)  1 have used italics to indicate the voices of the participants that I extracted from interview transcripts. The paired numbers that appear in parenthesis indicate the interview (Interview 1 or 2), and the sequential number used to identify the location of the text segment from that interview transcript (1 upward to 10,000). 1  1  Ijust found out last year that Michelangelo and Raphael and Rembrandt were using the technique of Chiaroscuro to give a sense of depth ofperception. Malcolm (2,225) There is all this stuff you can use in your art, you know, you see the potential. One of the classes I've taken is "Trash to Treasure. " People bring all kinds of things and then we incorporate that into our art. Lynda (2,468) I think retirement is the best time of life. There is all that time you have, to do what you darn well feel like doing. Gail (1,390) To learn the flute at my age is extremely satisfying. I never think, "Oh, gosh! I have got to practice that darn flute. " Just talking about it makes me want to get my hands on it! Gail (1,232) I never had any trouble with composing a piece, but the colour and where the light is coming from, that got to me a little bit. That was the thing that Ifound a bit hard. But then you can learn that. You learn that from experience. You don't learn everything all at once. You definitely don't. It took a while. It took a lot, a lot of time. Lillian (1,951) When I walk down to our soapstone class, it is as if I've got a backpack on my back. You know, after you have been diagnosed with cancer you've always got this thing on your back. When I get to the room, Ifeel I can take my backpack off and leave it outside. Madeline (1,625) If you 're looking for something to do, just try it. Don't think you have to have a lot of talent. Don't think "Well nobody in my family ever did it, so I can't. " Just do it. You might surprise yourself, andfind that you can do it and that you really like it. Lillian (2,1298) I started doing portraits as an experiment because I'd never heard of water colour portraits before. It was really more or less the challenge that got me going on water colour portraits. Bernard (2,201) Our soapstone instructor makes you feel like you 're so talented. He makes you feel like you could be Michelangelo. William (2,824) I've had two different instructors - our soapstone instructor and a painting instructor. You know I'd love to be able to paint a bouquet of flowers but there's no way. I tried. I can't seem to get it together. I wasn't told how to do it. I was just told to do it, and I couldn 't. Madeline (2,833) I can go out to my garage studio and be there for a long time, and be very, very, happy. Mary (1,355)  2  If you don 't say "Yes " and do things, interesting things won't happen to you. Helen (2,90) You should put at the very end, "You don't make much money. But you do have a lot of fun!" Helen (2,931) A s I reflect on the participants' voices presented above, I am acutely aware (as I have been through much o f the writing o f this text) that I cannot offer a final, true account o f what it means to "come to art in later life." Through the experience o f this inquiry, I have learned that stories and narratives incorporate a multiplicity o f texts, oriented to different reference points that w i l l be understood in different ways by different people across time. There is no one "fixed" meaning that can be identified in a set o f narratives. Rather, as observed by Denzin (1999), qualitative research texts "are dialogical, the site at which multiple voices commingle" (p. 33). I have presented the voices o f the participants, and myself as researcher, here primarily to invite you - the reader - to enter into the text. I invite you to take your place in the midst o f our ongoing conversations, to appreciatively attend to the meanings we may develop, and possibly share, even for a while, as we go along together. ... toperceive a beholder m.ust create his (sic) own. experience. A n d his creation relations cofM-f arable to those which the o r i g i n a l producer underwent. ... w i t h o u t a n act of recreation the object Is not perceived as a worfe of art. The artist selected, simplified, clarified, abridged and covidt^ed atoordi^ to his (sic) point of view a n d Interest. The beholder mus.t go through these operations accordLiA.q to his point of view a n d Interest, i n both, a n act of abstraction, that Is of extraction of what Is s i g n i f i c a n t , tatees place, (n both there Is comprehension I n Its literal s i g n i f i c a t i o n - that Is, a gathering together of details a n d particulars p h y s i c a l l y scattered Into a n experienced whole. -  J o h n i>ewey, 1 9 3 4 , p. 5 4  A s I write this, I imagine you the reader - text in hand - about to turn the page. I imagine that you w i l l consider this account according to your own point o f view and interest, and those standards and practices you may use to evaluate this as a dissertation text. I hope you also approach it as a site for developing new understandings o f the possibilities of later life, including our own future aging... an open, forward looking temporality. A s Ray (2000) has suggested, by sharing stories we may "come to see them in the light o f other  3  possible stories" (p. 28), and may be inspired to create new worlds o f possibility both for ourselves and others. whatever artform one chooses, whatever materials, and Ideas, the creative siege Is the same, o n e always -finds, rules,, a l w a y s tremendous concentration, enhancement, and exaltation, always the tension of spontaneity caged by restriction, a l w a y s rlste ... the w i l l i n g n e s s to be shateento the core ... The world Is drenched with color, and nature Is f u l l of spectacles, you. would thlnfe that would be enough, yet we are driven to add even more sensations to the world, to ma tee our thoughts and feelings visible through wortes of art. we create art-for m a n y reasons. As a form of praise and celebration. To Impose a n order on the formless clamour of the world ... To help locate ourselves I n nature, and give us a sense of home. A r t brings pattern, m e a n i n g and perspective to life. - T3lane Ac\zerman,  ±°QJ, p. 1 3 £ >  I was interested in the stories that older people have to share about becoming involved in art making in later life. Although interest i n the arts is often limited to the early years o f our lives, I undertook this inquiry in the hope o f supporting a beginning understanding o f some of the ways in which art can contribute to an ongoing process o f growth and expansion across all the years o f our life, and in particular, the latter years. Before continuing, additional commentary regarding the organization o f this text is in order. In Chapter 1,1 consider population aging trends in Canada, and describe various theories that emphasize the dynamic, relational, and aesthetic aspects o f human development. I also offer information about my background, m y interests and desires, and some o f the historical contingencies that contributed to the path I followed in undertaking this inquiry. In Chapter 2,1 cover a broad expanse o f literature (theoretical and empirical) to further contextualize the potential o f aging, and the limits o f what is known regarding latelife involvement in the arts. I also consider a variety o f perspectives regarding the value o f art that might inspire a more sensitive understanding o f the significance arts-based involvement in later life. I then turn, in Chapter 3, to a discussion o f the narrative inquiry approach I followed. In Chapter 4,1 describe the individuals who participated i n this inquiry to provide an overall sense o f their stories, against which the storylines I present i n Chapter 5 can be considered. Against this backdrop o f orienting literature and "findings," I consider the idea o f art as a mode o f development, and ways in which art and aesthetic experience are not only health promoting but life promoting i n Chapter 6.1 also consider future directions for this area with respect to both inquiry and the need to develop "leading structures" to  4  support recognition and development o f the arts and aging as a field o f inquiry and practice in Canada. In Chapter 7,1 present examples o f the artwork o f the participants.  5  CHAPTER l INTRODUCTION  In Canada, as in many other countries, we are living longer and retiring earlier. Given additional years o f retirement that many can look forward to, later life offers an opportunity to consider new beginnings. In her long treatise on aging, The Fountain of Age, Betty Friedan (1993) pointed to the "developmental possibilities o f age as a unique period o f life" (p. 49). Although scholarly work has considered different aspects o f retirement, little research has considered those activities that inspire a deeply absorbing and meaningful, continuing engagement with the world. Some investigators have considered continuity and change in longstanding interests and involvements (e.g., Nakamura, 2002). However, little research has considered the emergence of new sustaining interests i n later life, including interest in the arts. Friedan refers to the emergence o f new interests and passions in later life as "the uncharted terrain in studies o f human aging" (p. 85). In this inquiry I explore the experience o f "coming to art" among older adults who became passionately committed to art following, or just prior to "retiring." I was aware that art courses, workshops and other less formal educational offerings seemed to attract a great deal o f interest and enthusiasm among older adults. However, few studies have focused on the origins, sustaining conditions, and benefits o f coming to art in later life. A s I considered this, I wondered i f the standard account o f artistic development - that artistic interest emerges early in life, is realized during adulthood, and then declines with age - had limited inquiry in this area. I wondered i f this reflected not only other overriding concerns within gerontology, but also the marginalization o f the amateur arts and creative activity within the hegemony o f the elite "art w o r l d " (Sholette, 2005). I felt that this seeming doubling (or tripling) o f prejudice might suggest that there was in fact much to be learned from attending to this understudied area. Being familiar with the book Art and Experience (1934), I was aware that the American philosopher John Dewey considered aesthetic experience to be the ideal for all experience. According to Dewey, "art in its form, unites the very same relation o f doing and undergoing, outgoing and incoming energy that makes an experience to be an experience" (italics added, p. 48). H e described experience (to the extent it is realized as such) as being "heightened vitality" (p. 19), and a "complete experience" to be one that was "intensely and  6  concentratedly felt" (p. 52). Dewey attributed significant developmental consequences to "being fully alive" (p. 18) in and to the world through aesthetic experience. I elaborate on these connections in later sections o f this text, but first want to consider population aging trends i n Canada and the potentials associated therein. Population A g i n g and the Potential o f Later Life The proportion o f Canadians aged 65 years and older has grown significantly over the past 80 or so years (see Health Canada, 2002; National Advisory Council on A g i n g , 1999; Novak & Campbell, 2006; and Turcotte & Schellenberg, 2007). Population aging, which w i l l continue to accelerate in the coming years, has been influenced by advances i n healthcare, decreasing fertility rates and an aging "baby boomer" population. In 2001, 3.92 million Canadians (or one i n eight) were aged 65 years and over. It is projected that older Canadians w i l l number 6.7 million i n 2021 and 9.2 million in 2041, or about one in four Canadians (Health Canada, 2002). Those aged 85 years and older are the fastest growing segment o f the population. W i t h more people taking early retirement, these trends suggest that a good proportion o f Canadians can expect to spend a third or more o f their adult life in retirement. Although older people have more education, better health and greater financial security than in previous periods (see Health Canada, 2002), little is known about those interests that older people are passionate about, that provide ongoing opportunities for learning, growing and enjoying their lives. Although the health status o f most seniors compares well with younger people (Turcotte & Schellenberg, 2007, p. 44), and their self-reported well-being exceeds that o f younger cohorts (p. 51), much o f the gerontological literature is based on an "aging as decline" model. In 1986, K . Gergen observed that: Generally the aged are viewed as a culture o f unfortunates - beset by illness, poor housing, low income, bereft o f social function, and facing social isolation and imminent death. Since they are unable to help themselves, it is the challenge o f the social sciences to clarify and publicize the conditions o f the aged and to aid in generating policies that w i l l improve or alleviate these conditions, (p. 68) The proceedings o f the International Congress o f Gerontology held in Vancouver i n 2001 suggested little change in this focus. A columnist for the Vancouver Sun described the conference agenda as "an unsettling catalogue o f the ways a human body might wither ... [the session titles] go on and on, [there are] hundreds o f papers and seminars on the  7  decrepitude o f advanced age" ( K . Gergen & M . Gergen, 2001a, para 1). Katz (1996) has attributed the construction o f aging as a "problem" to a biomedical view that has equated "pathological disease, decline, and incapacity with the normality o f the aged body" (p. 47). Patterns o f healthy aging are defined as the absence of chronic illness, functional and cognitive impairments, and sometimes in relation to preventive or risk-reducing behaviors (e.g., Guralnik & Kaplan, 1989; Khaw, 1997; Rowe & Kahn, 1987, 1998). Psychosocial perspectives have tended to emphasize adjustment to decline and loss (Hansen-Kyle, 2005). Recalling Gidden's (1991) reminder about the "reluctance o f most progressivist thinkers since the Enlightenment to think in Utopian terms" (p. 213), Gullette (1999) suggests that in aging studies (as in other areas o f cultural theorizing) "it's not chic to be optimistic" (p. 241). Further to this, in Canada the fields o f health promotion and gerontology have evolved to have a more collectivist and macro-focused orientation than exists in other countries. Raeburn and Rootman (1998) describe a shift away from the role o f individuals in health promotion efforts, noting that social scientists "preferred to operate i n broad terms o f 'society,' 'structures,' 'policy,' 'populations,' and the like, rather than in terms o f the individual" (p. 7). They also note that "holistic" or "high level" health is not a concept favoured by those working in the public health sector. Chappell, Gee, M c D o n a l d , and Stones (2003) note that "the political economy o f aging has been a more important and more used perspective in Canada than i n the United States" (p. 50). Although research on "problems o f aging" conducted within this context has contributed to policy, programs and interventions that have benefited older people, there remains a need to explore the complex relationships that exist between such intersecting social divisions as class, gender, age, ethnicity, and individual biography. That is, there is a need to consider the personal and social meanings o f growing older to illuminate the abundant possibilities o f aging. A s Manheimer (2000) has argued there is "too narrow an appreciation for the lived experience of growing o l d " (p. 88). o w e human Life becomes the object of technical- scientific  reconceptuallzatlon, the difficulties of that life become understandable only as technical problems requiring technical solutions. Being alive becomes something to solve, and finding one's life difficult,... Is a mistake to be covetcttd ... [we find that] there Is no 'play' left In life, [such that] ... new life, liveliness, some 'movement' might be possible. -  8  Davidjardlne, i^J)2, pp. 122-123  O'Hanlon and Coleman (2004) attribute the paucity o f research into the positive potentials o f aging to "researchers and gerontologists (who) themselves view old age in threatening and aversive ways" (p. 33). Friedan (1993) also suggested that "the image o f age as inevitable decline and deterioration . . . . (is) a mystique o f sorts, but one emanating not an aura o f desirability, but a miasma o f dread" (p. 41). Likewise, Hazan (1994), differentiating between "experience-near" (old age as self-awareness) and "experience-distance" ("objective," or scientific) approaches to aging, as perspectives "construed respectively by those on its verge and those desperate to avoid it" (p. 5). In his critique, Hazan concludes that older people "are seen as representatives o f an abnormal social condition" (p. 20). H e suggests that "the aged" have been constructed as "other" (see p. 18), with "deterioration and maladjustment" (p. 93) viewed as a universal process. Somewhat more optimistically, Katz (2001-2002) has observed that the postmodern life course "has created new avenues for self-care and self-definition in later life thus empowering elders to innovate resourceful roles and ways o f life both for themselves and for those who w i l l follow" (p. 28). K . Gergen and M . Gergen (2000) have also suggested that we are experiencing an increasing number o f individuals "with enormous potential for self-construction, for generating and sharing conceptions o f self, age, and personal value ... a population that can increasingly resist the constructions o f others" (p. 290). In relation to this, the concept o f "positive aging" has developed as part o f a nascent "positive psychology" movement that has focused on healthy human functioning (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; see also Williamson, 2002; Vaillant, 2004), and also has longstanding proponents i n K e n Gergen and M a r y Gergen who have explored the potential of later life from a social constructionist perspective (see above, and M . Gergen & K . Gergen, 2001,2003). Ongoing Positioning Social constructionism provides yet another frame, then, that I have used to position and enter into this inquiry. That is, I understand meanings and understandings o f age, and the possibilities o f aging, as deriving from and being a function o f social interaction. This view 2  This theoretical frame is also connected to the early work of Berger and Luckmann (1966; see Gubrium & Holstein, 1999), and Blumer (1969). For example, Blumer (1969) and other symbolic interactionists (who were influenced by Dewey) focused on the social construction of meaning and ways in which meanings are modified through interpersonal, interpretive processes. 2  9  concords well with notions developed above regarding the possibilities o f "positive aging," and it w i l l come as no surprise that Kenneth Gergen and M a r y Gergen are leading proponents o f social constructionism (see K . Gergen, 1994a; 1994b, K . Gergen, 1999; K . Gergen, 2001, M . Gergen, 2001). They describe social constructionism as not being concerned with identifying universal truths as an outcome o f inquiry, but rather as offering an orientation that fosters reflexivity and dialogue. Following from this, they suggest "there is no one 'theory o f social construction,' nor a set o f prescribed 'constructionist practices'" ( K . Gergen & M . Gergen, 1997). Gergen recently described social construction "as a set o f dialogues - spanning the sciences and humanities - and primarily concerned with the collaborative constitution o f meaning, the historical and cultural lodgement o f science, and the ethico-political dimensions o f knowledge generation and dissemination" (Mattes & Schraube, 2004, para 4). Inquiry influenced by social constructionism encompasses: 1) ideological critiques o f institutional knowledge; 2) inquiry into the ways that "people achieve understanding, how failures in understanding occur, etc.;" and 3) analyses that consider the variability and diversity o f people's accounts o f their everyday lives, and destabilize what is "taken-for-granted" ( K . (Gergen, 1994a, pp. 130-141). In relation to "methods," K . Gergen includes qualitative approaches that emphasize "participation, narration, polyvocality, discourse, performance, social action, and the l i k e " (para 18) as methods which recognize the constructed nature o f knowledge claims, although not constructionist methods, per se (Mattes & Schraube, 2004). In undertaking this inquiry, I was also influenced by a constellation o f dynamic theories o f human development that offer an alternative view to those emphasizing orderly progression toward defined end-points. The following is not meant to be a comprehensive review o f relevant theories, but to suggest a foregrounding thread o f interest and awareness. For example, I was influenced by models o f human development which emphasize the continuously emergent, and relational, aspects o f human experience. These include K . Gergen's (1994b) aleatory account o f development in which individuals grow, or develop within a "confluence o f changing and potentially interacting factors" (p. 153). In this account, Gergen emphasizes the number o f possibilities that exist for "multiple symbolic translations o f the same experiential conditions" (p. 161). He also recognizes that development depends on such factors as opportunity, ability to consider alternate paths, and  10  one's relationships with others. Still, an individual may "move in any number o f directions at any time" (p. 161). Gergen's aleatory account appreciates the remarkable variability within and between individuals across the lifespan. Other theoretical work has also conceptualized development as complex, open-ended and relational. A leading perspective i n contemporary developmental studies, Vygotsky's sociocultural theory considers the means o f development as originating in, and depending on social interaction and experience within a specific culture (see Berk, 2001). Vygotsky (1981) considered language as being a pre-eminent culturally generated, symbolic tool for representing experience and communicating with others. In addition, he coined the phrase "zone o f proximal development" to describe "the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level o f potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Thus, development occurs within a context o f learning, and dynamic collaboration. Interests lead individuals to engage in activities suited to their potential development, thereby providing a frame for and promoting development. Bakhtin (1981, 1986, 1993) has also offered an explicitly relational and dialogical conception o f development in which we are always in the process o f "becoming." Bakhtin's (1986) notion o f a "polyphonic novel" has served to develop the idea o f the self as a multiplicity o f voices that is contextually constituted through interaction, moment by moment (also see Denzin, 1997, p. 36). Development occurs not as a process o f "individual emergence" but is more so considered "a story o f persons-in-relation, persons in inescapable dialogue with one another over the course o f the entire lifespan" (Tappan, 1998, p. 393). There is what is given, and what we create in response to this. We change and develop as a result o f our encounters "when we are in a state o f responsive or answerable involvement" (Bakhtin, 1993, cited i n Shotter, 2000a, p. 111), creatively open to the possibilities o f experience. M u c h o f Shorter's work has explored dialogical aspects o f human development, based on Bakhtin's work. For example, Shotter (2000b) asks: "What must be the nature o f our everyday activities that we can ... sustain this flow routinely i n our actions?" (p. 120), and suggests that we must adopt a responsively-expectant attitude, a way o f responding creatively and imaginatively within a context o f anticipations and possible emergent relationships. For  11  instance, he suggests that the everyday "inexhaustible richness o f connection between details i n our immediate surroundings and the rest o f our lives, leaves us always with a sense o f 'something more' to come" (p. 125). It is i n how we engage with others, and the life-world in which we are immersed that we display our relationally-responsive understandings (this is contrasted with an instrumentalist representational-referential orientation to being). Newman and Holzman (1997b) have proposed that development involves moving about around where one is at, moving from "product to process, from fixed mental states and identities to relational possibilities with others" (p. 131). Their conceptualization focuses on the ongoing creation o f "new forms o f life" through relational play and the ongoing performance o f subjectivity. They refer to development as being "continuously and nonpragmatically emergent" (p. 137), and refer to meaning-making as a key to development as we attempt to live "a head taller than ourselves" (p. 159). Freeman and Robinson (1990) conceptualize development as occurring through individual desires, goals and strivings rather than a universal set o f motivational concerns. They suggest that development occurs "within individuals" (p. 60). It begins with recognizing a disconjunction between what is and another "more ideal state o f knowing or being" (p. 64), which allows for developmental movement. It occurs through a selfperpetuating transformation o f ends, "by being predicted neither upon preconceived ends nor the absence o f ends, but upon the revision o f ends, it is a process that sows the seeds o f its own perpetuation" (p. 61). A s ends are revised, so are the narratives o f our lives. Likewise in Brandtstadter's (1984, 1998) action-theoretical account, development is conceptualized as being more intentional than functional, involving both "tenacious goal pursuit and flexible goal adjustment." Brandtstadter maintains that development occurs through emergence o f interest and the arrangement o f "developmental affordances and constraints prevailing in a given sociohistorical context... (and reflects) the ways in which individuals, through constructive and selective activity, make use o f and act on these contextual conditions" (1998, p. 847). Overall, Berk (2001) describes the study o f human development as having evolved from a small number o f core theories, through diverse fragmentation, with the field currently characterized by "powerful theoretical models involving multiple interacting variables at several levels o f influence—biological, psychological, proximal environmental (family,  12  child-care centre, school, neighbourhood), and distal environmental (community, society, cultural, historical)" (see The Field Today, para 1). Social constructionism, along with the array o f transactional models o f human development outlined above (that emphasize continuous emergence, interest and intention, relationships with others and the larger environment as contributing to development), has features i n common with the interactionist perspective Dewey (1934) outlined in his text Art as Experience. Social constructionism holds that what is taken as "real" (knowledge) is based on social interaction. Dewey describes development as occurring through "active and alert commerce with the world; ... (through the) complete interpenetration o f self and the world o f objects and events" (p. 19). In this, Dewey presents an understanding o f human experience that is developmentally realized when a "consummatory" harmonization o f meaning occurs. He writes: "Because experience is the fulfillment o f an organism in its struggles and achievements in a world o f things, it is art i n germ. Even i n its rudimentary forms, it contains the promise o f that delightful perception which is aesthetic experience" (p. 19). Experience takes on an aesthetic quality when a coalescence o f meanings occurs, referenced across the past, present, and future. A positive spiral o f influence is suggested between aesthetic experience, imaginative reconstruction o f meaning, and human development. That is, "imagining weaves the flux o f experience into a meaningful continuity by constantly organizing and reconstructing the situational event" (Alexander, 1987, p. 261), so that it becomes familiar. People grow not deterministically because o f experience, but through experience and an "an expanded meaning scape" (p. 4). W e create our lives through the way we experience the world, and make meaning o f our experience. Development occurs through the integration o f the old and new, is ongoing and interpretive. Social constructionism and dynamic, relational theories o f human development have informed this inquiry . . . . but then, so have I. W h y this Study? This inquiry has arisen from my own interest i n art and aesthetic experience. A s I "place pen to paper" (I am actually sitting at a computer, keyboard at hand), I find I am writing from a position o f frustrated desire. Denzin (1997) writes that researchers "work outward from their o w n biographies to the worlds o f experience that surround them" (p. 87). Who am I? How have I arrived at this page?  13  Keating (2005) recently noted, somewhat wryly, that "baby boom" researchers in the field of gerontology are themselves growing older, and that "contemporary interest in positive aspects o f aging is probably not a coincidence" (p. 3). Hendricks (1992) has also described generational influences on questions and concerns addressed over time in studies of aging. This is one o f the positions I claim in relation to this inquiry. I am also aging. I am aware that I am growing into middle-age. I am caught at the end o f the post-war baby boom that is disrupting accepted expectations o f what it means to grow into old age. I began an interdisciplinary doctoral program when I was 36 years old, a biographical moment that constituted a "coming home to myself." I married my husband when I was 38 years old. I gave birth to our son just months before I turned 41.1 look forward to beginning "a career," finally, upon the completion o f this dissertation. I am living forward into the fullness o f my own life within the crags and crannies and liminal spaces that exist outside o f "normative" expectations o f my age. M y husband has experienced his own path. We are both somewhat "out-of-step" with our contemporaries. I imagine that my husband and I w i l l continue to be involved in some form o f paid employment beyond the age o f "retirement." I feel mostly appreciative o f all that is, and all that has yet to come into being, trusting, .. .and yet, sometimes troubled by the extent to which I have "played" with time, dancing on the outside edges o f life-course expectations, defined by such markers as education, marriage, pregnancy, birth, and career, many o f which I should have properly (or normatively) accomplished, or set in course before mid-life. O f course, a diversity o f experience is found within and across lives. Thankfully, this is becoming increasingly recognized. A s early as 1980, Bernice Neugarten suggested that "we are becoming accustomed to the 28 year old mayor ... the 50 year old retiree, the 65 year old father o f a preschooler and the 70 year o l d student" (cited in K . Gergen & M . Gergen, 2000, p. 283). Likewise, K a t z (1996) describes later life as being less determinant than in earlier periods, with a "blurring of traditional chronological boundaries and the integration o f formerly segregated periods o f life" (p. 6). Hazan (1994) describes old age as "a form o f post-modern existence i n which the mobilization o f meaning is fluid and constant and confrontation with the self is continuous" (p. 92). Still, I believe that we can only begin to grapple with the multifarious meanings o f growing older when we have faced the process o f aging directly, from within our own personal experience. Often such moments catch us unaware.  14  Simone de Beauvior (1972) wrote i n The Coming of Age, " D i e early or grow old: there is no other alternative. A n d yet, as Goethe said, ' A g e takes hold o f us by surprise.' For himself each man (sic) is the sole, unique subject, and we are often astonished when the common fate becomes our own." She continued, " W h e n we are grown up we hardly think about our age any more: we feel that the notion does not apply to us" (cited in Moody, 2006, p. 420). I recently learned (at the time o f this writing) that it may not be possible for me to conceive a second child as I had always imagined I would. Even after experiencing a miscarriage after the birth o f my son, I did not appreciate the rate at which miscarriage risk increases and fertility declines after 40.1 had somehow overlooked the chapter entitled "The Fantasy o f Fertility Forever" when I skimmed through G a i l Sheehy's (1995) book, New Passages. A year later, I was astonished, left breathless in fact, as I attempted to absorb copious evidence on the Internet that suggested I very likely w i l l not have another child. In the wake o f this shock o f my own aging I have begun to rewrite some o f the narratives that have guided m y life as a mother to date. A s I "look back" toward what at one time seemed a sure possibility, I am keenly aware that I stand at one narrative endpoint o f my life. O f course, new narratives and other possibilities w i l l emerge. I know how much my son enjoys his cousins' visits. I have begun to think more about "play dates," the need to organize and schedule in friends. But there is something, too, to recognizing and honouring the end o f a narrative, even for the few moments that it holds both strong and true. I have been living many life narratives through the time I have been involved in this inquiry. I can trace more than a few lines o f movement that have guided me to this dissertation, over the course o f my life. Here are some o f the ways that I have made meaning of this for myself: I have always loved nature, taking long walks in the countryside. I have also been attracted to art, ritual and celebration as forms that provide a means of a more enlivened engagement with, and of the phenomenal world. As a child, I marvelled with joy at the fullness and richness of life experienced in moments, through small ceremonies and old world rituals  15  of the everyday and high religious holidays, celebrated around my grandparents' dining room table, and experienced in the gardens, woods andfields surrounding their old farmhouse, in southwestern Ontario. . In the midst of this, within this everyday life world, care and concern was woven into presence and beingness, into things and occasions, within a relational web that held, sustained and renewed all of us. I have been sensitive to the ways that a poeticizing or storying of our lives draws us into the present moment, and engenders an expansion of hope, a coming together that might — connect us for a moment in mutually benefiting ways. Preliminary proposals that I developed for my doctoral research focused on the impact o f arts programming on the lives and health o f frail seniors living in the community. I hoped to conduct an ethnography o f an exemplary, community-based arts program i n San Francisco. Given my experience o f an arts program offered in a veterans' health care facility, and having worked as a researcher i n the area o f care o f the elderly, I was interested in exploring the impact o f arts-based experiences on senior's health and quality o f life. I only began to consider the developmental possibilities  of coming to art in later life when anticipated  funding for my project failed to materialize and I found myself in need o f a new question. I reflected on the number o f older artists that had been profiled i n newspapers, usually in the "lifestyles" section, i n a number o f Canadian cities that I had lived in and visited over the early years o f my doctoral program. These articles included stories o f both emerging artists and the accomplishments o f long-established artists. Friends and colleagues told me stories about parents and grandparents who had taken up art after they had retired. I was also aware o f prominent folk artists who began to create art in later life, such as "Grandma" Moses who began to paint in her mid-seventies (see Edelson, 1995). In her study o f aging, Friedan (1993) provides numerous examples o f people who became painters and  16  writers following retirement. -1I had also come across (and continue to come across) other such biographical accounts in different studies o f aging (e.g., Kaufman, 1986; Savishinsky, 2000; Vaillant, 2002). A recently published book has profiled the lives o f visual and performing female artists (aged 85-105 years), some o f whom took up their art form i n later life (Gorman, 2006). G i l l (1996) includes additional examples in her book Late  Bloomers.  The book If I Live to be 100 by Ellis (2002) includes a profile o f a man whose passion for art was realized only in his later years. A t 100, Harry Shapiro was concerned about producing "some decent paintings" i n the four or five years he felt he had left to him. These stories suggest the possibility o f growing into age by continuing to explore new vital dimensions o f one's being. M y grandparents and my mother have also inspired this work, by offering me models of a vital and strong aging. Through the many years o f my relationship with both my grandparents, I had been struck by the magnificence and power o f all that they have shared with me over the course o f their long lives. They offered me their commitment to family and community, a strong sense o f place and love o f the land, following the rhythms o f nature, as gifts that have inspired my work. M y mother also has a strong sense o f family. In addition, she has begun to enjoy a great sense o f adventure and personal freedom through world travel and other new "adventures o f age" she has embarked on following her retirement. Inspired by a "strong face" o f age (Friedan, 1993), from a relatively early age I can remember looking forward to growing older. I remember discussing the prospect o f aging with girlhood friends, and sharing how I looked forward to each decade, reflecting on the different opportunities I might embrace. What might my life be like in my 30s and 40s? What new adventures would I embrace in my 60s? H o w would I grow through my 70s? These "wondering" questions continue to engage me, i f not "delight and excite me" as they once did when I stood at a farther reach from this approaching horizon. A s witness to the startling rate at which my son continues to grow older, I am now more worried about remaining aware o f each present moment. I am attempting to best experience and enjoy my life at this time, while attending to needs, demands, and the day-to-dayness o f everyday life. A t bottom, I believe my interest i n this area has been inspired by my own frustrated desire. I  These examples are profiled along with examples of older adults who embarked on other new life adventures, and others who continued to pursue lifelong interests, often following new directions in their work. 17  confess to an abiding interest i n art making which I have been able to indulge only infrequently when I have had time and opportunity. I know the significance o f art in my life by a felt absence. In the midst o f the ongoing "busyness" o f my life, I hold onto the idea o f immersing myself in art - at some future point. Given this, I was keen to learn about the stories o f those who had taken up art in later life to realize a longstanding dream deferred until after retirement, or that emerged only after retirement. These then are some o f the beginning points o f this long journey: a great respect for the strong face o f age, an interest in the potential o f later life as a period o f growth and development, an artistic sensibility, and desire, ... as I have followed my own wondering, and wandering, curiosity.  Transition 1 ... I have undertaken this inquiry not to develop a fixed, explanatory theory, but to explore the stories of older adult artists who have come to art in later life. In the next chapter I review some additional background contexts o f understanding that helped me to appreciate different aspects o f the stories that the participants shared. These contexts include some o f the literature on retirement and "successful aging," as well as research on leisure on involvement i n the arts in later life. I also consider various overlapping art worlds that exist in our culture, including those that are "largely hidden from v i e w " (Wali, Severson, & Longoni, 2002). Before continuing, I offer a few more sign posts that may be helpful as we begin this journey. The terms art and art making are among some o f those I have used to refer to the creation o f visual images (drawings, paintings, sculpture, etc.). Recognizing that the word "aesthetics" derives from the Greek word for perception, and following Eisner (2002), I use the term aesthetic primarily i n the sense o f that which does not anaesthetize one to the potential for engaging and interacting with others and the phenomenal world, and to refer to the developmental potential that may inhere within any moment. Eisner notes that "an anesthetic suppresses feeling; it dulls the senses. It renders you numb to feeling" (p. 81). A s I use the term, "aesthetics" does not refer to philosophical theorizing focused on conceptions of beauty or assessing the quality o f a particular artwork, but rather should be taken to reflect a felt quality o f experience. I use the term development to refer to a process o f  18  expansion that emerges from following a sense of'"something more' to come" (Shotter, 2000b, p. 125). I understand development as occurring through goals and strivings, and meaning-making that supports movement toward enhanced or more desired ways o f enjoying life (see Freeman & Robinson, 1990). That is, people develop in response to both challenge, and interests that they find engaging and meaningful. I understand creativity to be fundamental to the developmental process o f human life. M u c h o f the psychological literature on "creativity" has focused on the invention o f "things" (e.g., tools, concepts, etc.) that transform the larger culture. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) refers to this as large " C " creativity. Small " c , " or personal creativity is associated with fresh perception, an attitude o f curiosity, wonder and excitement that may engender new understandings about the world, and thus growth and development - a view which concords more closely with the perspectives that have informed this inquiry. In this inquiry I am more interested i n the developmental affordances o f art making than the way art directed to "troubled individuals" (see Kramer, 1980) may be used to effect therapeutic ends. Packard and Anderson note that federal funding policies in the United States in the 1970s led to "use o f therapeutic terminology to describe traditional art programs for exceptional populations" (p. 21) such as "the elderly." This has continued in a relatively unexamined way until the present day. M y interest lies more so i n healthy, relatively well-functioning individuals and their experience o f arts-based involvement. I might add as a final statement that, in this inquiry, I understand that who we are and what we invite into being through our relationship with others and the world around us is always " i n play."  19  CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW  Contextualizing Understanding(s) o f the Potential o f Later Life In the first part o f this literature review, I touch on various meanings o f "retirement," and accounts o f late life development. I consider notions related to "serious leisure," and vital engagement that have been used to conceptualize and explore optimal approaches to aging. I also review the literature that has focused on art and aging with a view to identifying areas that have been emphasized, relative to others that have been overlooked. I then consider the social construction o f art and "art worlds," and various perspectives on the value o f art and art making. I also describe empirical findings and anecdotal reports o f the benefits associated with arts-based involvement in later life. Finally, I offer excerpts from Winston Churchill's essays regarding his experience o f taking up painting i n later life - in part, to suggest the rich insights that personal narratives can offer i n expanding appreciative understandings o f human experience. (In Chapter 3,1 expand on narrative as an approach to inquiry as used i n the present study). Retirement and the Construction o f Later Life Retirement has emerged as a social institution only i n the last half century or so. Ekerdt (1986) offers that, compared to earlier periods, "our cultural map o f the life course . . . (now includes) a separate stage o f life called retirement" (p. 239). The construction o f retirement as a significant life period in Canada occurred as a result o f national policies that began to be introduced after World War I (Moody, 2006; Phillipson, 1998). The O l d A g e Pensions A c t was introduced i n 1927 to provide modest support to those aged 70 years and older with little or no income. After W o r l d War II, the O l d A g e Security A c t provided a pension to all Canadians aged 70 years and older. It was at this point that retirement began to assume the status o f a social institution. This act, along with subsequent policy programs and legislative amendments, has helped to reduce the incidence o f poverty among older Canadians (see Chappell, Gee, M c D o n a l d , & Stones, 2003; M c D o n a l d & Wanner, 1990; McPherson, 2004). More recently, legislation has focused on banning mandatory retirement (Klassen & G i l l i n , 1999). In 1974, Manitoba outlawed mandatory retirement on the basis o f discrimination based on age. Most Canadian provinces and territories have followed suit, with some allowing exceptions for specific labour force sectors. Thus, most Canadians are  20  able to choose when they want to retire based on their lifestyles, financial circumstances and priorities. Although some controversy exists about the adequacy o f retirement pensions, it is generally agreed that older people enjoy greater financial security than in earlier periods (Health Canada, 2002). Retirement is often defined as having left the paid labour force, with no intention o f returning, in receipt o f retirement income, and o f advanced age. The age o f retirement is often considered to be 65, when a person becomes eligible for government pension benefits. However, complex transitions characterizing this period o f life makes it difficult to define "retirement" in any absolute sense. In 1976, the average age o f retirement in Canada was 65.3 years o f age for men, and 63.9 years for women. In 2005, the mean age was 62.0 and 60.6 years o f age, respectively (Statistics Canada, n.d.). A s M c D o n a l d and Wanner (1990) 4  have noted, pathways leading to retirement have become "increasingly complex and variable" (p. 382; also see Moody, 2006). Transitions leading to retirement, include gradual reduction in hours worked, part-time work (sometimes in another area), and sometimes commitment to a new career path (Stone, 2006). Further to this, meanings associated with the term "retirement" may shape the way that people may claim or refuse it as a status. One may not have been, or only have been inconsistently employed in the labour force, but still look forward to, or consider themselves to be retired. The concept o f retirement developed primarily in relation to male employment, with early research on retirement focused primarily on male samples (see Stewart, 2004). Historically, women through their role as wives would have "adjusted" to their husbands' retirement. However, as more women have gained entry into the labour force, retirement has increasingly become personally relevant both as a transitional experience and identity status (for a discussion o f the gendered aspects of retirement experience, see M c D o n a l d , 2006a, 2006b). A decision to continue working after age 65 may reflect financial need, a desire to remain connected to a lifelong passion, need for structure, or desire for work-based social connections. O n the other hand, an age discriminatory workplace, physical job demands, and retirement o f one's spouse may contribute to a decision to leave the labour force (see Chappell, Gee, M c D o n a l d , & Stones, 2003; Stewart, 2004). Likewise, retirement may occur as a result o f lay-offs and prolonged  On the annual Labour Force Survey, respondents who are not working, and who left their last job in the past year, are asked why they left their job. A response option is "retired." 4  21  unsuccessful job seeking, or result as an outcome o f illness or disability o f oneself, one's spouse or other family members. For women, i n particular, the need to provide caregiving may precipitate the decision to retire and require deferment o f retirement plans and interests. Given this very brief overview, it is clear that retirement may not mean the same thing to people, and may mean different things at different points i n time. The changing meaning o f different patterns o f transitioning to retirement, among both men and women, remains an understudied topic. Nevertheless, the development o f retirement as a social institution has had a significant influence on the possibilities that older people may enjoy in later life. It has also significantly influenced the field o f gerontology, contributing to the construction o f later life primarily as "a problem in need o f a solution." Late-life Development and "Successful" A g i n g Erikson's Psychosocial Theory of Human  Development  Despite the great variability that exists within and across individual lives (Mishler, 1999; also see developmental theories reviewed i n the previous chapter), stage-based theories o f human development have tended to emphasize early developmental milestones. For example, only three o f eight life stages outlined in Erikson's (1959) psychosocial theory o f development are concerned with adult development beyond adolescence and only two focus on m i d - to late-life periods. The challenge o f early adulthood (19-25 years) involves resolving intimacy needs. During adulthood (ages 25-65 years) the challenge is one o f generativity, understood as encompassing "procreation, productivity and creativity" (p. 67). The final stage o f life (65 years and older) involves facing the inevitability o f the end o f life with despair or integrity. Although demographic changes that have occurred over the past half century or so would suggest a need for a revised set o f age ranges (as outlined above), for his time Erikson offered a vision o f continuing developmental growth over the life course that continues to influence gerontological theorizing (see Katz, 1996, pp. 60-61). A s important as this contribution may have been, however, a developmental model o f ordered change can no longer be considered viable. A s previously noted, "human developmental trajectories may be virtually infinite in their variation" (Gergen, 1994b, p. 156), and normative lifespan developmental expectations have broken down. Evidence also shows that many older people view aging as a positive period of life. In a chapter entitled "Human aging: W h y is even good news taken as bad?," Carstensen and Charles (2003)  22  reviewed findings that suggest older people are less depressed than younger people, have strong bonds with close friends, and experience emotional closeness with family members. Katz (2005) notes that after W o r l d War II gerontologists "adapted social science perspectives to the study o f aging to expand it beyond medical and social welfare models" (p. 123). M u c h o f this research focused on how older people might best adjust to deterioration and decline, which worked to reinforce the hold o f the biomedical paradigm in gerontology. It is noteworthy that theories that developed during this period focused on the significance o f retirement as a defining stage o f later life. Other Influential and Emergent Theories of Aging The following theories are not inclusive o f all those proposed, but cover some o f the frequently cited theoretical work i n this area. For example, Havighurst and Albrecht (1953) introduced the idea o f activity theory by emphasizing ongoing engagement (mental and physical) as a means o f enhancing life satisfaction and maintaining self-esteem i n retirement. According to activity theory, successful adjustment to old age depends on adapting one's activities, or substituting new activities for those that one may have to let go o f (also see Lemon, Bengtson, & Peterson, 1972). Disengagement  theory proposes that  awareness o f impending death i n old age involves "an inevitable process i n which many o f the relationships between a person and other members o f society are severed, and those remaining are altered i n quality" (Cumming & Henry, 1961, p. 210). The primary tasks o f older people are "to be rather than do, to maintain his [sic] equilibrium, to symbolize the past, rather than to change and learn and create a new history" (p. 223, italics added). A reduced level o f expectation was considered mutually beneficial for both the larger society, and for older individuals as they prepared for death. Erickson (1959) in his psychosocial theory o f development also suggested that "burdened by physical limitations and confronting a personal future that may seem more inescapably finite . . . , those nearing the end o f the life cycle find themselves struggling to accept the inalterability o f the past" (p. 56). In both o f these theories, "life review" is considered an important developmental task, a notion which was subsequently elaborated by Butler (1963) i n his theory of life review. Butler defined life review as involving a "return to consciousness o f past experience, (in particular)... unresolved conflicts; (which are)... surveyed and reintegrated . . . . prompted by the realization o f approaching dissolution and death" (p. 66). According to  23  Butler, life review as a naturally occurring process is often manifested as reminiscence. This may occur unconsciously and consciously i n various forms (oral, written, etc.). However, Hyland and Ackerman (1988) found that both older and younger adults engaged in frequent reminiscence, relative to those in middle-age. These findings, which were confirmed by Webster (1995; Webster & M c C a l l , 1999), suggest that reminiscence requires having available time, and in addition, may contribute to self-identity and self-esteem across the life span, and not solely i n preparation for one's impending death. To the extent that o l d age is conflated with death, life review theory can be critiqued as being based on a view o f older people as "finished entities," limiting appreciation o f the ways i n which we continue to grow in later life (also see Cohen & Taylor, 1998). This critique can likewise be applied to dying. Palliative care pioneer, D r . Balfour Mount, speaking from 30 years o f experience o f caring for the dying, and his own experience o f cancer, described the experience o f preparing for death as an "extraordinarily productive and valuable" period o f life. He suggests that we search not for the meaning o f our lives, but for "connectedness, ... to ourselves, to others, to the cosmos, however conceived" (Scott, 2002, p. B2). A l o n g these lines, Joseph Campbell (1988) has suggested that it is not meaning that people are seeking, but rather it is "an experience o f being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane w i l l have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture o f being alive" (p. 5). Dissanayake (2000) recalls the former American poet laureate Robert Hass as saying that people die every day from "the lack o f what is i n poetry." She writes, "I assume he was referring to sense o f meaning, o f connectedness, o f seriousness, the validity and momentousness o f one's sense o f being," adding, " i f our society does not sufficiently provide such things, our arts - at least some o f our arts - can. They allow us to show how much we care .... They encourage attention to and involvement with the most abiding and affecting part o f human life" (p. 192). These ideas recall Dewey's (1934) work on art and experience, in which he describes dynamic transactions between the self and environment through which heightened vitality is experienced, and there is "complete interpenetration o f self and the world" (p. 19). A s described earlier, the interplay between experience and having an experience is influenced by the quality o f attending that we bring to our experience, as informed by our senses. According to Dewey, we can intensify our openness to, and deepen our awareness o f the  24  world, such that the most mundane and routine o f our doings become infused with significance. For Dewey "art is not a specific category o f human experience," but rather is "a way o f articulating experience so that it realizes expressive meaning and value" (Alexander, 1987, p. 250). It is realized i n the integration o f experience and embodies what may be described as "a life well-lived," and by extension ...a good old age. Returning to developmental theories that have been proposed to describe the possibilities o f later life, activity theory has often been prescriptively interpreted to suggest the frequency o f "activity" w i l l help older people to adjust to the "emptiness" o f later life, without considering the quality or meaning o f these involvements. Likewise, disengagement theory does not take into account the different meanings that some people may associate with letting go o f different roles and activities. For example, some people may prefer a less structured life while others may prefer to embrace a quiet contemplative lifestyle. In sum, early theories can be criticized for being failing to capture the diversity o f experience, and the significance and meaning o f people's various involvements at different points in time. Other theories developed during this early period offered a somewhat expanded, although still limited view o f the potentials o f later life. For example, Atchley's (1971) continuity theory suggests that people adapt to change in relation to what they have experienced i n the past. Lifestyle patterns, values and preferences established prior to retirement are viewed as resources that are used to meet challenges associated with aging. In 1999, Atchley presented a body o f research that indicated considerable consistency over time in thought patterns, lifestyle, personal goals, and capacity to adapt to changing circumstances in later life. Baltes and Baltes (1990) offer a theoretical framework o f selective optimization with compensation by which older adults strategically select different approaches to achieving their social, economic, and personal aspirations. These theories have not been subject to much empirical testing, but along with theories previously described attest to a long and abiding interest in adaptive aging processes i n the face o f declining physical and other capacities. In recent years, the notion o f "successful aging" has captured the gerontological imagination. Havighurst (1961) coined the phrase "successful aging" in an article he wrote for the first issue o f The Gerontologist. "Successful aging" subsequently developed into a focus for research following its introduction as a theme at the 1986 annual meeting o f the  25  Gerontological Society o f America (Fisher, 1995). Rowe and K a h n initially presented an argument for studying those with better physiological and psychosocial characteristics in late life, or "successful agers" compared to average or "usual agers" i n 1987. The results o f their landmark study suggested that those who age successfully have a " l o w probability o f disease and disease-related disability, high cognitive and physical functional capacity, and active engagement with life" (Rowe & Kahn, 1997, p. 433; also see Rowe & Kahn, 1998). Based primarily on a biomedical perspective, their model suggests a number o f health promoting approaches for staying healthy. However, just as quickly as it gained a preeminent position within gerontology, critical discussion emerged that questioned the very notion o f "successful aging." For example, Holstein and Minkler (2003) suggest that only at an objective distance could one conclude that "a disease-resistant 80 year old man playing golf at Augusta or skiing at Aspen is aging more successfully than a woman in a wheelchair who tutors inner city children or writes poetry or feels a passionate energy that she is too fragile to enact (Maxwell, 1968)" (p. 792). Scheidt, Humphreys, and Yorgason (1999) likewise argue: The paradigm is parochial with respect to defining criteria; fails to incorporate adequately life course dynamics, particularly the multiple meanings o f age-related losses and dependency; fails to address the generalizability o f assumptions and findings to heterogeneous populations o f elders; ignores evidence indicating numerous routes to aging well; and fails to consider the implications for elders who cannot age "successfully" due to incapacitation or lack o f access to environmental resources (p. 277). Others, such as Hepworth (1999) and Katz (2000) have made similar criticisms. Despite these critiques, the idea o f "successful aging" has gained substantial recognition. It has proved a catalyst for research, including studies conducted by Rowe and K a h n (1997, 1998) that have been funded by the MacArthur Foundation. Related terms such as "healthy aging" (Guralnik & Kaplan, 1989), "productive aging" (Bass, Caro, & Chen, 1993; Bond, Cutler, & Grams, 1995; Butler, Oberlink, & Schechter, 1990; M o r r o w - H o w e l l , Hinterlong, & Sherraden, 2001), "active aging" ( W H O , 2002), "optimal aging" ( A l d w i n & Gilmer, 2004), and "aging w e l l " (e.g. Chapman, 2005; Vaillant, 2002) have been proposed and studied. Although not well-differentiated, these terms suggest interest i n different aspects o f positive aging. Only infrequently have these studies considered opportunities that may be realized and enjoyed only later in life.  26  The Question of Unfolding  Capacities  ... A kumav^ being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old If this longevity had no m e a n i n g for the species to which he belonged. The tA-fttrv^oov^ of h u m a n life m u s t also have a significance of Its own a n d cannot be merely a p i t i f u l appendage to life's -  W^OYV^IV^OJ.  C a r l j u n g , 1 ^ 3 3 , p. ±OJ  What may be gained because of age that serves to enlarge and enrich our lives? What about the "progressive and cumulatively unfolding o f capacities" (Moody, 1988a, p. 34), and realization o f newly emergent interests and abilities? Offering a somewhat sardonic observation, R y f f (1989a) has observed: "Ponce de Leon may have missed the point. Instead of searching for the fountain o f youth, which would have arrested human experience in an incomplete, unfinished form, a greater quest would have been to discover the richness and rewards o f life lived fully to the end" (p. 35). Drawing on life-span developmental theory (e.g., Erikson's [1959] psychosocial stage model), personal growth theories proposed by Maslow, Rogers, Jung and Allport, and Jahoda's (1958) model o f positive mental health, she proposed an early, integrative model o f successful aging which focuses on wellness and continued development, and emphasizes self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth (Ryff, 1982). Building on this, R y f f and Singer (1998) have offered a philosophically grounded formulation o f positive human health, which they define as the "life course unfolding o f well-being." This is conceived as a dynamic process, rather than an achieved end-state. T w o core components are outlined: 1) leading a life o f purpose, which encompasses "the autonomy to choose and then actively pursue projects that give value to one's life" (p. 7); and 2) quality connections to others. Positive self-regard and mastery are also described as important elements o f positive human health. R y f f and Singer suggest that "it is one's sense o f purposefulness and deep connection to others that likely builds and maintains positive self-regard, sense o f self-realization, personal growth, and mastery, with the latter serving to enhance the pursuit o f life goals and quality relations with others" (p. 10). Further, difficult life experiences are viewed as offering opportunities for enriching one's engagement with life, deepening relationships with others, and heightening one's self-regard and mastery. In keeping with the positive and expansive models o f development outlined above, various theoretical standpoints have emerged that offer promise for exploring the potential o f  27  aging. For example, the life course perspective views development as an ongoing process which is contextualized in relation to one's overall life course (see Elder, 1998; Giele & Elder, 1999; Settersten, 2003). According to this perspective, development occurs through the experience o f trajectories, transitions, continuities and discontinuities, and related meanings that individuals develop as they live their lives over time. It is viewed as multidimensional (involving biological, social, psychological and other dimensions), multispheral (occurring in family, work, education, leisure and other spheres), and multidirectional (with simultaneously occurring gains and losses). This perspective focuses on the life course within the context o f history and prevailing social structures, and considers how individual lives are embedded and shaped by their experience o f a particular time and place, and how individual lives also shape the larger society (see Setterston, 2003, p. 17). Recognizing that prior experiences, imagined futures, and current social contexts influence development, this perspective also appreciates the great variability that is found within stories told about human lives. A s a critique o f mainstream inquiry, critical gerontology offers an approach to exploring the potential o f later life which focuses on unsettling conventional understandings regarding aging. Murphy and Longino (1997) have described old age as no longer representing "a place on a temporal trajectory" but as simply being an "existential construct" that is referenced i n relation to various life possibilities that may be considered along the life course (p. 90). Resignifying the "aging process as heterogeneous and indeterminate," critical gerontologists "advocate stronger ties to the humanities, endorse reflexive methodologies, historicize ideological attributes o f old age, and promote radical political engagement" (Katz, 1996, p. 4). In doing so, they hope to expand awareness and appreciation o f what has been hidden from view. A sampling o f this work would include: Baars (1991); Featherstone and Wernick (1995); Katz (1996; 2005); Kenyon, Birren, and Schroots (1991); M o o d y (1988a, 1988b, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2006); Murphy and Longino (1997; Phillipson (1998); Tornstam (1992); Weiland (1995); and Woodward (2003). Contributions have also appeared in texts edited by Cole, Achenbaum, Jakobi, and Kastenbaum (1993) and Cole, Kastenbaum, and Ray (2000), and a special issue o f the Canadian Journal on Aging (see Kenyon, 1993). Representatives o f this movement would also include K . Gergen and M . Gergen (2000; M . Gergen & K . Gergen, 2001), Gubrium, Holstein and Buckholdt (1994), as well as scholars  28  who have contributed to a developing "feminist gerontology," such as Garner (1999), Kunneman (1997), Neysmith (1995), and Ray (1996, 1999). Critical gerontology encompasses the study o f how older people themselves interpret and describe their lives, an area that has been called narrative gerontology (Kenyon, Clark, & de Vries, 2001; also see Chapter 3). In contrast to earlier, more limited accounts o f aging, development is viewed as an ongoing, open-ended process. Emphasis is placed on the plurality o f meanings associated with older people's ongoing experience o f life. In addition, M o o d y (1988a) suggests that critical gerontology should also reveal the potential o f later life, o f "what it means for the last stage o f life to be a period o f freedom and fulfillment" (p. 28). A Good Old Age: How Older People View "Successful  Aging"  Various theoretical formulations o f "successful" aging as outlined in the previous section have led to an increase in concern for well-being in later life, including interest in how older people themselves describe their views or experiences o f "a good old age." Yielding to a resonant synchronicity, I begin with a work that Erik Erikson published in 1986 with his wife, Joan Erikson, and Helen K i v n i k , when he was 84 years old. In their text, Vital Involvement in Old Age, they considered the experience o f later life by interviewing 29 octogenarians living in Berkeley, California. Based on these interviews, the term "vital involvement" was coined to mean "to be alive and to stimulate the environment even as it stimulates us, to challenge the environment to involve us" (p. 33). Relationships with family and friends, as well as meaningful activity were identified as important in the experience o f a vital aging. The authors suggest that "the satisfaction o f those who are enjoying their retirement does not come from an 'open-ended vacation,' but from new expressions o f skilfulness and perseverance, from pursuing new and modified hobbies, from turning o l d skills and interests in new directions" (p. 159). A sampling o f subsequent interview-based studies also suggest a variety o f themes that older people (mostly community-dwelling) associate with the idea o f "successful aging." R y f f (1989b) interviewed 102 older Americans (with an average age o f 73.5 years), and identified the following as factors associated with well-being: 1) being "other"-oriented (having positive relationships with others, caring about others); 2) being able to accept change; 3) continued growth; 4) enjoying life; and 5) having a sense o f humour. Likewise, Fisher (1992) asked 19 older men and women (aged 62-85 years) about the meanings they  29  associated with "life satisfaction" and "successful aging." Life satisfaction was described in relation to having generally fulfilled their earlier expectations o f life. In contrast, understandings o f successful aging were based on developmental considerations. Successful aging was associated with a "present-future orientation about what they were doing and hoped to do" (p. 196). In a subsequent study with 40 older people (aged 61-92 years), Fisher (1995) identified interactions with others, a sense o f purpose, self-acceptance, personal growth, and autonomy as central aspects o f "successful aging." Nilsson, Ekman and Sarvimaki (1998) interviewed 30 older community-dwelling Swedes aged 82-92 years about their experiences o f aging and identified a "successful aging, or enjoying life" pattern. Six o f the participants described a great zest for life, and "did not view themselves as old ... despite the presence o f disease and impairments" (p. 98). They enjoyed an active social life and had close, affectionate relationships with family and friends, including relationships with younger people. They were involved in meaningful activities, caring for others or practicing interests or hobbies. They did not spend time reminiscing about their earlier life. They viewed the past positively, and considered their life to be good overall. Further, they viewed the future "as something i n which they w i l l be a part" (p. 99). Additional patterns included: a good old age; a comparatively good life i n old age; bad aging; and a miserable life in old age. A "good old age" was also associated with commitment to meaningful pursuits or hobbies. Passive or idle levels o f activity engagement were associated with other patterns. Bryant, Corbett, and Kutner (2001) conducted a grounded theory study o f 22 older people selected from a larger survey sample regarding their perspectives on healthy aging. They found that health meant being able to go and do something, which included both physical activities and those that were mentally stimulating. Having goals that were viewed as worthwhile and desirable, sufficient independence and ability, along with various supportive resources and a positive attitude, all contributed to perceptions o f healthy aging. Interviews that Knight and Ricciardelli (2003) conducted with 60 participants (aged 70-101 years old) yielded health, activity, personal growth, happiness, close relationships, independence and an appreciation o f life as themes related to successful aging. They found that although many o f the participants had experienced physical decline or health setbacks "there was still a tendency to see themselves as quite healthy and active" (p. 238). In their  30  qualitative study, Duay and Bryan (2006) found that their participants (n=18) viewed engaging with others, positive coping (or adjustment to changes), maintaining physical and mental health, financial security, and new learning as important elements o f successful aging. Guse and Masesar (1999) found that for 32 long-term care residents in Winnipeg, Manitoba aging successfully involved "being friendly, having a sense o f humour, being interested in and willing to help others, adapting to changes, never giving up or letting things get you down, and enjoying yourself as much as you possibly can" (p. 534). A s suggested by many o f the foregoing studies, as well as R y f f and Singer's (1998) model o f positive human health (outlined earlier), health and well-being need not be discounted even when illness or disability is experienced. Similarly, M c W i l l i a m , Stewart, Brown, Desai, and Codere (1996) found that older people with chronic illness experience health as a process that involves struggling with what is and what w i l l be, creatively balancing resources, responding positively to challenges by realizing their aspirations, and otherwise accepting their life experience. Some strategies for promoting health included creating a sense o f purpose, goal setting, and learning about one's self. M o c h (1989, 1998) studied the phenomenon o f "health-within-illness" within the nursing literature and described the opportunity for increased meaningfulness o f life, through relationships with others and awareness o f self. The conceptions outlined above are, o f course, culturally and historically bound. Nevertheless, the studies described above offer a counterpoint to formulations o f positive functioning developed by researchers and theorists from an "objective," or external standpoint, outside o f the experience o f old age. Unlike Rowe and Kahn's definition o f "successful aging," older people's conceptions o f well-being do not require the absence o f disease, or maintenance o f functional capacities. From the perspective o f older people, there is no single way o f aging "successfully." Bryant, Corbett, and Kutner (2001) observe that health and well-being are viewed "as a reflection o f the lived experience o f daily life, as a capacity to engage meaningfully with and respond to the contingencies o f daily life regardless o f afflictions and (dis)abilities" (p. 940). Fisher (1995) concluded that "the heart o f successful aging - (is) learning about one's self and growing, staying active and involved, reaching out to others, and trying to make a difference" (p. 249). Overall, these studies challenge ideas o f predictable stages o f human development in later life, and extend  31  understanding o f aging in relation to positive aspects o f aging, and the potential o f later life. In addition, a more involved, subjective, dynamic, and meaningful engagement with life is suggested than that conveyed in many o f the theoretical formulations outlined earlier. Activity and Leisure in Later Life Insights and perspectives into successful aging, as described above, represent the beginning points o f understanding o f how later life might be fully experienced and welllived, as we grow into "a good old age." What can be taken from the foregoing sections is that: 1) retirement affords an expansion o f available time; and 2) that leisure involvement can contribute to the experience o f "aging w e l l . " However, understanding o f connections between these areas - leisure, health and well-being, and aging - is for the most part underdeveloped. Research on Leisure Involvement: Approaches  and  Findings  A review o f three major Canadian texts in gerontology suggests somewhat uneven concern for leisure and activity i n later life. McPherson's (2004) and N o v a k and Campbell's (2006) texts on aging in Canada both cover this topic, and suggest that older people can develop new interests, although physical fitness and other "productive" activities (such as volunteering) are emphasized. Chappell, Gee, M c D o n a l d , and Stones (2003) do not consider leisure as an explicit aspect o f retirement or as a component o f health and well-being in their text. None o f these texts includes consideration o f the arts i n later life. M u c h o f the leisure and aging literature, and literature on health promotion and aging, has focused on physical activity as a central leisure activity. In a situation that may be unique to Canada, the term "active l i v i n g " is often conflated with physical activity (see, for example, Cousins & Home, 1999). This has followed from Fitness Canada's (1991) influential definition o f "active l i v i n g " as "a way o f life in which physical activity is valued and integrated into daily l i v i n g " (p. 3), which has served to cast physical activity as providing a singularly optimal means o f enhancing health and well-being in later life. Indeed, research in this area has shown 5  significant positive relationships between exercise, health and well-being (Bassey, 2005; also see Wister, 2003). But what about the benefits o f the other activities and involvement i n later life?  The emphasis on physical activity programs has even influenced description of educational programs for seniors. For example, lifelong learning programs are described as "mental fitness" programs (see Cusack & Thompson, 2003). 5  32  Research on patterns o f leisure involvement in later life has tended to focus on simple frequency counts, or "time use" patterns to document the impact o f involvement in different kinds o f activities. Analysis approaches typically consider the differential influence o f "active leisure" (such as physical activity, volunteering, hobbies) compared to "passive leisure" (watching television, listening to the radio). "Social activity" is also sometimes compared to other kinds o f activities. For example, Zimmer, Hickey, and Serale (1995) explored relationships between different kinds o f activity and well-being among older people with arthritis and found a significant relationship for social activities. In contrast, solitary and physical activities had little impact on overall well-being. Based on a six-year longitudinal study, Menec (2003) found that greater overall activity levels, and i n particular, social and productive work (including volunteer work, housework, and yard work) were associated with happiness, better physical function, and reduced mortality. Stobart, Dosman, and Keating (2006) found that older people who were less healthy and less satisfied with their lives spent more time on passive leisure. Several longitudinal studies have associated activity involvement with reduced cognitive impairment. The relationship between activity and survival rates i n later life has also been examined. Bassuk, Glass, and Berkman (1999) found that regular social activities protected against cognitive decline among 2,812 community-dwelling older people who were assessed over a 12-year period. A longitudinal study o f 732 older adults followed over a three-year period in Sweden found that mentally stimulating and socially-oriented activity appeared to be associated with maintaining cognitive function (Wang, Karp, Winblad, & Fratiglioni, 2002). Based on a study o f 469 older people who were followed over a five-year period, Verghese, Lipton, Katz, H a l l , Derby, Kuslansky, Ambrose, Sliwinski, and Buschke (2003) found that reading, playing board games, playing a musical instrument, and dancing were associated with a lower risk o f dementia. Finally, Glass, Mendes de Leon, Marottoli, and Berkman (1999) showed that social, productive and physical activities were independently associated with survival, even after controlling for pre-existing health status and history o f disease. They suggest that social and productive activities are as effective as fitness activities i n lowering the risk o f death. What can be concluded from these studies is that how we spend our time significantly influences our experience o f life, and thus our experience o f "aging w e l l . "  33  However, there has been little discussion or agreement on critical dimensions o f leisure. Usually a limited number and varying assortment o f activities are considered from study to study. The meanings that older people associate with different leisure activities are also rarely explored (Freysinger, 1995 and Kleiber, 1999 provide exceptions). Rather, more interest has focused on changing patterns o f leisure involvement i n later life, with many studies concerned with, a now familiar theme, documenting loss and decline. For example, Strain, Grabusic, Searle, and Dunn (2002) using longitudinal data from Manitoba focused on patterns o f continuing or ceasing a number o f leisure activities, such as watching television, reading, shopping, playing cards, travel, attending spectator events (theatre, movies, sports), etc. They found that passive activities (television viewing, reading) were more likely to be continued over time, and that being younger, having more education, and better health was associated with more active leisure involvement. Articulating what appears i n this literature to be an accepted understanding, Stebbins (2001) suggests that "elderly retirees tend to continue with the leisure they have come to enjoy in their earlier years" (p. 136) until declines associated with aging eventually limit their participation. Although leisure interests are for the most part viewed as a stable trait, or innate predisposition (see Roadburg, 1985), some studies have explored the development o f new leisure interests following retirement. For example, M c G u i r e , Dottavio, and O ' L e a r y (1987) studied older outdoor enthusiasts and identified two groups: "leisure contracters," those who demonstrated focused commitment and continuity over time; and "leisure expanders," individuals who continued to explore new activities throughout their lives. Iso-Ahola, Jackson, and Dunn (1994) considered patterns o f engaging i n different leisure activities over the life span (based on 1984/1985 Alberta survey data) and found that although "overall quantity o f leisure participation may decrease with years, ... there was a significant increase i n the number o f people starting 'hobbies' and 'home-based' activities over the life cycle" (p. 227). Based on longitudinal data from Ontario, Singleton, Forbes, and Agwani (1993) documented relatively stable activity patterns over the life course, along with a tendency among older men with more education and higher income to explore new activities following retirement.  34  "Optimal" Forms of Leisure: Developmental and Other Benefits In this inquiry, I am assuming the position that simple involvement in many different activities does not directly enhance the experience o f aging well. Rather, benefits that may be experienced occur more so through the meaning that such involvement holds for an individual, and how it contributes to their enjoyment o f the world. Hendricks and Cutler (2003) assert that "leisure is not merely a listing o f activities," that are restorative i n some way, "but has meaning that is inordinately more phenomenological than any binary definition can convey" (p. 110). Recalling concepts developed by Huizinga (1955) in his classic study o f "play" in Western culture, Hendricks and Cutler suggest that: it is through play, in one form or another, that all o f us, .. .find relatively low-risk opportunities to try out alternative self-concepts, modes or styles o f interaction, personas, capabilities, and competencies. In the event o f failure the only response required is that one was merely playing . . . . In the face o f success, new experiences are ... assimilated into a person's identity and presentation, (p. 115) According to this account, play provides a context for development. Huizinga described play as involving a "stepping out o f 'real life' into a temporary sphere o f activity with a disposition all its o w n " (p. 8). In play "there is something 'at play' which transcends the immediate needs o f life and imparts meaning to the action" (p. 1). Playfulness refers to a way o f being in the world, an imaginative orientation that allows us to remain open to exploring varying perspectives, and relational engagements that may be calling one "into play." Compared to the play o f children which is described as being integral to their "development," adult play is most often identified as "leisure." It has been proposed that the kinds o f leisure i n adulthood that provide the conditions for enjoyment and well-being are those pursuits that hold great personal interest, are challenging, require commitment, and development o f skill. Mannell (1993), following from the earlier work o f K e l l y and his colleagues (e.g., K e l l y & Ross, 1989, p. 57), uses the term "high investment leisure" to describe these kinds o f activities. Mannell describes "a growing belief among researchers that leisure needs to be more than simply a pleasant, diversionary, escape-oriented experience i f it is to contribute substantially to quality o f life" (p. 127). Leisure that is good for you, then, begins to sound a lot like work! These ideas also recall theories touched on in Chapter 1 that suggest that development occurs through individual desires, goals, and strivings. Interest in forms o f leisure that contribute to well-being has also  35  led to the development o f such concepts as "serious leisure" (Stebbins, 1982, 1992, 1997, 2001) and "flow" (Csikzentmihalyi, 1990, 1996). Stebbins has differentiated between "serious" and "casual" leisure based on ethnographic studies he conducted o f professional and amateur involvement in such areas as music, theatre, sport, astronomy, community volunteering, and the like. While casual leisure includes spectator sports and other activities that are engaged in to pass the time, "serious leisure" refers to the pursuit o f an activity in which those involved substantively "launch themselves on a career centred on acquiring and expressing its special skills, knowledge and experience" (Stebbins, 1992, p. 126). "Serious leisure" involves commitment and perseverance. Stebbins (2001) notes the "fundamentally populist character o f serious leisure; it is an activity pursued by ordinary people who recognize it as special" (p. 21). Typically, participants strongly identify with their chosen pursuit. In addition, a distinctive social world often develops around the activity, which helps to structure and support it. According to Stebbins (1992), benefits o f serious leisure include: self-actualization (opportunity to develop one's talents, knowledge; fulfill an aspect o f one's potential); selfexpression (durable benefits, reflecting one's skills); self-conception (formation o f an identity around the leisure activity); self-gratification (enjoyment); self-enrichment (attainment o f memorable experiences as a resource for living); re-creation (regeneration, through a focus o f concentration, or absorption); and monetary awards (see pp. 94-95). In addition, he identifies "comraderie" as an important aspect o f serious leisure, noting "the appeal o f talking about it (the activity), and being part o f the scene" (p. 95). Those involved in serious leisure interact with each other, with their various "publics" (which can include family and friends, and those buying their work), and their professional counterparts (including instructors, association members, and the like). Stebbins notes that those involved in serious leisure associate strong ideals and values with their pursuits, in part as a way o f accounting for their interest and investment in these pursuits (see p. 90). The subjective experiential aspects o f serious leisure involvement have most frequently been described in relation to the concept o f "flow" as introduced by Csikszentmihalyi (1975), and expanded upon in his later work (1990, 1996). F l o w is used to describe a "state i n which people are so involved i n an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people w i l l do it even at great cost, for the  36  sheer sake o f doing it" (1990, p. 4). Csikszentmihalyi associates flow with optimal experience, characterized by feelings o f "joy, creativity, the process o f total involvement with life" (p. xi). F l o w is initiated by focusing one's attention and energy on achieving a challenging, yet realistic, goal-directed activity, such that there is a merging o f attention and action. The level o f challenge is comparable to, or is gauged at a level slightly higher than one's level o f skill or ability. During flow there is a loss o f awareness o f self, time, one's worries and preoccupations. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that by "integrating one's actions into a unified flow experience" (p. 216), flow contributes to an overall sense o f wholeness and personal meaning. These notions again recall those that Dewey (1934) developed in Art as Experience, described earlier. Developing the notion o f flow in relation to those activities that support an absorbing and meaningful relationship to the world, Nakamura (2002; also see Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2003) introduced the concept o f "vital engagement" i n her study o f continuing creative engagement o f eminent older adults involved i n artistic, scientific, and social scientific domains. K e y features o f vital engagement include enjoyed absorption (or "flow"), i n an activity that is sustained over time, provides a link with the outside world, and is considered meaningful and significant. Another aspect o f such involvement is that it is "structured," and is engaged i n with a specific purpose in mind. In her study, Nakamura (2002) focused primarily on the continuation o f engagement in longstanding domains o f interest. Other ethnographic work i n this area has looked at development o f new leisure interests following retirement. For example Weiss' (2005) The Experience of Retirement offers insights into new worlds o f experience and engagement that may open up to people following retirement. O n the basis o f interviews with 89 people, Weiss offers the following advice: "Whatever retirees choose to do, i n the time they once gave to work, the activities should, ideally, sustain their feelings o f worth, be intellectually and emotionally rewarding, and reduce their vulnerability to isolation" (p. 113). H e also identifies several characteristics of activities that contribute to one's enjoyment o f retirement, including "flow," as well as opportunities for recognition (see p. 131). The narrative portrayals o f 26 recent retirees living i n a rural community developed by Joel Savishinsky (2000) i n Breaking the Watch: The meanings of retirement in America underscore the diverse ways people experience retirement. Whether pursuits involved newly  37  discovered or resurrected interests, Savishinsky describes two distinct approaches to retirement: "One was a well-planned process that emphasized carefully laid out purposes, reasons, and agendas, and the other a philosophy that stressed a Zen-like mind-frame o f openness, uncertainty, and expectation" (p. 84). In a subsequent article, Savishinsky (2001) identified three dominant "American" approaches to adjusting to retirement, including: deep involvement in art, public service, and self exploration (italics added). These patterns were associated with attempts to reconcile "passion and purpose ... self-fulfillment and social responsibility" (p. 41). He describes a man who by accident "found himself launched, unwittingly, on a new passion for sculpture - what he later came to call 'the poetry o f the matter'" (p. 42). Another participant wrote and illustrated poetry about her Jewish heritage, her life as a daughter, teacher, mother, wife, and lover. After losing a leg i n a car accident she wrote: "Who are you/ when some parts/ are missing, and/you question what is left? " She had taken a creative writing course after her retirement, and discovered a passion for words. A t this stage, she considered her life to be her work: "She wanted to understand it, and play with it, to paint and put words to it" (pp. 48-49). Another participant became involved i n painting after a hiatus o f 45 years "because this was finally her chance, as she put it, 'to go looking for the light'" (p. 49). Art in Later Life: Engaging and Creating " A r t Worlds" It is clear from much o f the foregoing that late-life leisure can provide opportunities for purpose and enjoyment, growth, development, and well-being. In locating inquiry into art in later life I found it helpful to consider various intersecting areas o f scholarship, such as writing on the nature and structure o f "art worlds," and the value o f the arts. Although there has been interest i n the emergence o f involvement in art making and the influence o f artsbased pursuits on one's enjoyment o f later life, many studies i n this area have considered the effects o f aging on the artistic output o f eminent artists - and this is where I begin. Continuity, Change and Emergence of Interest In an early study Lehman (1953) concluded that eminent artists, scientists, and other cultural contributors experienced their "greatest" achievements before mid-life, with declines i n achievement noted thereafter. Other historical evidence, however, attests to the continued growth o f many long-lived artists, such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Georgia O'Keefe (see for example, Antonini & Magnolfi, 1992; Cohen, 2000; Friedan,  38  1993; Osgood, 1993; and others). Lindauer's (1993, 2003) research suggests that artistic creativity continues into the later years. In terms o f creative output, he identified master works that were completed by artists in their 40s and 50s. He also found that artists who continued with their art beyond "retirement" age, often worked into their late o l d age. Munsterberg (1983) showed that many great artists completed their most profound and aesthetically successful works late in life. Other studies also suggest a positive or null effect of aging on the work achieved by artists. Lindauer, Orwoll, and Kelley (1997) considered the relation between aging and creativity based on questionnaire responses o f 88 graphic artists 60 years or older, who were nominated as creative by recognized artists. In terms o f the quality, quantity, and originality o f their work, a positive portrayal o f the influence o f aging was obtained. Physical and sensory losses o f aging were described as largely irrelevant, as they could strategically be overcome. Likewise, studies o f the self-perceptions o f artists (including those who became involved in art i n later life) suggest that creativity does not decline over time (see Dohr & Forbess, 1986; Lorenzen-Huber, 1991; Reed, 2005). Mishler's (1999) study o f the lives o f five craft artists revealed various career pathways, including movement from casual involvement to serious engagement i n later life when other responsibilities and commitments have subsided. Others have also made note o f "late bloomers" who became involved in art, and known for their artistic achievements only in later life. A n oft-cited example, A n n a M a r y Robertson (Grandma Moses) took up painting at 78 years o f age and continued with art past her 100 birthday (Marling, 2006). Elizabeth Layton enrolled i n an th  art class at the age o f 68 to help her deal with depression. Even after her depression lifted, she continued to paint and experienced significant success with her work (Lambert, 1994). Her paintings were exhibited in art museums throughout United States, as well as internationally (Lambert, 1995). Noted as a gifted amateur artist, Winston Churchill began painting at the age o f 42. He devoted much o f his time in his later years to painting, ultimately producing more than 500 canvases. When he was 84 the Royal Academy o f Arts in London held a retrospective exhibit o f his work (see Gombrich, 1965; Soames, 1990). Simonton (1988, 1998) addressed a number o f weaknesses i n Lehman's early, foundational work (such as ignoring the artists' "age o f death" and found that the relationship between age and creative output was dependent on the domain o f creative  39  activity. Simonton concluded that artistic creativity can continue until very late periods, and that "late bloomers may attain career peaks at ages at which their colleagues may be well past their prime" (1998, p. 13). Simonton suggests that this may be due in part to differences in motivation, more clearly articulated goals, and desire. What can be taken from this overview is that there are many ways individuals may "come to art" and experience artistic creativity over their life. Many artists, o f course, achieve recognition only after devoting many years to their art. Some patterns that may be usefully explored in relation to pathways described above include those narrative forms Gergen (1994a) has proposed to describe the unfolding o f individual lives, including: the stability narrative (consistent over time); progressive and regressive narratives; tragic narrative (rapid downfall); comedy-romance (downfall, followed by progress); "happily ever after;" and "heroic saga" narratives. Recognizing that the notion o f decline (and likewise, the notion o f "growth") is socially constructed, it is instructive to consider Hendricks' (1999) relational analysis o f "creativity." Similar to Csikszentmihalyi's (1996) systems model which conceptualizes creativity as occurring at the intersection o f the person (individual-level interest and capacity), domain (constitutive rules and regulations) and field (constituted by domain gatekeepers), Hendricks suggests the need to view creativity "as an outcome o f a recursive sweep o f social roles, norms and expectations that yield cognitive maps o f shared meanings." He maintains that "creativity is woven from many threads to be sure, but none are dissociated from referential communities that mediate meaning" (p. 96). Although much o f the literature reinforces "a presumption that social context plays little i f any role" (p. 102), Hendricks argues that creativity cannot be understood separate from "the frames o f reference o f actors themselves insofar as meanings are emergent properties negotiated, renegotiated and fused from social and individual resources" (p. 102). In addition, recognizing that "decline" is a socially constructed notion that may be viewed in different ways, including positive ways, Hendricks suggests that some artists may turn away from their own career building pursuits, and turn to the nurturing o f others in later life, or they may begin to explore other forms o f creative expression or engagement. Katz and Campbell (2005) suggest the need to consider the material contexts and conditions in which artistic creativity develops, noting that "a narrative o f creativity across the life span that supersedes individual differences, artistic traditions,  40  and historical contexts" has developed in the field o f gerontology (p. 106). They note as problematic a broad focus on creativity that: shifts it from artistic products and collections to the adaptive human capacity for imaginative problem-solving and coping with the physical and cognitive challenges o f aging. For example, i n their examination o f successful aging and creativity, Fisher and Specht interview older artists and observe, "creative activity is less about the products resulting from the process as it is about the process i t s e l f (1999, p. 467). Artwork, when defined as an expression o f self, means that older artists are "less afraid o f challenge and the associated frustration" (p. 469) and thus become "role models o f successful aging" (p. 470; also see M c L e i s h , 1976). ( p . 106) Katz and Campbell argue that this narrative ignores the "often contradictory conditions o f production and the historically situated lives o f the heroic artists themselves." Further they suggest "where gerontological and historical writers on art venture beyond these narratives on creativity, they offer new interpretive directions" (p. 107), at which point they turn their attention to question o f the "late-life style" o f aging eminent artists. In relation to this inquiry, my interest was not on established, elite artists. Rather, my interest was focused on older people who came to art in later life, who, while positioned at some distance from, nevertheless related to, various art worlds (local, regional, and canonical). I was not interested in the arts considered as a " f r i l l , " or as diversionary, busy work, or even art as therapy. The wondering, wandering interest and questions I followed as part o f this inquiry journey led me to consider the role o f art as a serious, highly meaningful activity in the lives o f older people. M y interest came to focus on amateur arts involvement in later life. Given an awareness o f Dewey's (1934) writing on "art as experience," I somehow felt that there was more to understand about the possibilities o f art and aging. I wondered i f new ways o f thinking about art as contributing to the experience o f aging might be suggested when the experience o f those who became passionately involved in art in later life was considered. Although little hard evidence exists, I was also impressed by the sheer number o f older people that seemed to be interested in exploring art as a serious late life interest. Little empirical data exists in Canada regarding the involvement o f older people in art. Surveys i n this area focus primarily on attendance, and appreciation o f arts and culture, rather than involvement i n the arts as a participant or creator. Recent national General Social Surveys, for example, ask about "attendance at art galleries" (see Statistics Canada, 1998,  41  2002, 2003). When more active, creative and participatory involvement i n the arts is considered (which is sometimes the case with provincial surveys), large, relatively undifferentiated categories are used, such as " A r e you involved in - 'doing a craft or hobby (e.g., photography, woodwork, sewing)'?", "Taking part in the arts (e.g., drama, music, drawing, writing)?"(Alberta Community Development, 2004). Likewise, research conducted within the cultural sector regarding the arts has focused on the availability o f the arts, arts attendance (see Decima Research, 2004; H i l l Strategies, 2002), the economic impact o f the arts, and role o f the arts i n transforming neighbourhoods (see H i l l , 2004; also see Florida, 2002). In other jurisdictions surveys o f adult participation in the arts have been undertaken, such as the National Endowment for the Arts' 1982, 1992, and 1997 surveys o f public participation i n the arts (see Beisgen & Kraitchman, 2003; Cherbo & Wyszomirski, 2000; Peters & Cherbo, 1996), although making sense o f this data is sometimes difficult as a wide variety o f art forms, and forms or levels o f involvement are collapsed into general categories. Nevertheless, consider the following observations that have been offered by different people involved in this area. A s early as 1982, Jones identified that i n the United States (and the same would hold for Canada): The name o f one or more o f the arts can be found in the listing o f courses or "activities" offered by any well-established educational, recreational, or therapeutic program for the elderly. Although interest and participation i n the arts is strong among the elderly, gerontology and arts professionals i n the field are working from a nearly nonexistent information base. (p. iii) In 1990, Saranson offered the following: Unless my observations are grossly atypical, there has been a startling increase in the number o f older people who seek and decide to engage in some form o f artistic activity, especially women. I have spoken to scores o f such people, and one theme runs through their responses: T have always wanted to do something creative ... (but) who was I to regard myself as an artist? A s the years went by, as I began to ask what I wanted to do with my time and myself, I knew I had to do something about that empty feeling, that sense o f unfulfillment.' In most o f these instances the decision to act was facilitated by a friend's action or by receiving a brochure o f adult education courses offered in local schools, or at a local 'creative arts workshop.' If their responses to my queries varied somewhat, there was no variation in the degree o f satisfaction they voiced about engaging in artistic activity, (p. 106)  42  Edelson (1995) writing from the perspective o f his own experience o f beginning to take art classes in mid-life notes the striking "dissimilarity between the importance attached to learning art by adult students and the relative disinterest and lack o f enthusiasm accorded to this phenomenon by members o f the traditional educational establishment" (p. 230). Grant (2001) also describes a growing trend o f older people enrolling i n art school degree programs. He quotes Samuel Hope, executive director o f the National Association o f Schools of Art and Design who observed: "Where once you only had the 18- to 22-year old cohort, now you see people i n their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s." Grant notes " M a n y o f these older artists are either nonmatriculated students-at-large or are enrolled in continuing education courses. For example, almost half o f the students at the non-degree granting A r t Students League o f N e w Y o r k i n Manhattan are 50 or older" (para 2). Sargant, Field, Francis, Schuller, and Tuckett (1997) i n the United K i n g d o m state that: "Many people have not had an adequate arts education when they were younger, and come to such activities later i n life, often as the Open College o f the Arts notes, 'as something they have always wanted to d o ' " p. 78). M c L e i s h (1981), a Canadian, relates a story about Barker Fairley, a noted Goethe scholar, who was actively painting and exhibiting his work i n Toronto at age 93, but who refrained from painting until mid-life because he had been told that he had no talent i n school. M c L e i s h suggests that many individuals i n their later years "feel the need to engage i n some form o f creativity i n dozens o f possible channels, in order to directly or indirectly change their o w n lives and their selves" (p. 101). M c L e i s h had previously held a number o f academic posts at different universities, including Dean o f Education at Brandon University. W h e n he taught extension courses at the University o f Toronto during his retirement, he was struck by the creative learning ability o f the mature students that attended his course. This led h i m to undertake a review o f the literature that had been published on the topic o f "creative aging." Using the ancient Ulysses as an archetype o f a vibrant, creative, and active older individual, he wrote The Ulyssean Adult: Creativity in the middle and later years (1976). He described such older people as having an acceptance o f aging, an "openness o f mind, ... (and need for) new experiences," and an appreciation o f the "kaleidoscopic beauty and mystery o f the world and the cosmos." Later i n The Challenge of Aging: Ulyssean paths to creative living (1983), M c L e i s h suggested five core elements o f creative living i n later life: learning, insight and creativity;  43  self-exploration; growth and development; ability to adapt to change; and a zest for living. Contributions which have subsequently focused on creativity as a general orientation to, or means o f approaching and shaping one's life include Creative Aging: A  meaning-making  approach by M a r y Baird Carlsen (1996), and Gene Cohen's (2000) The Creative Age: Awakening human potential in the second half of life Many have suggested that artistic involvement provides a particularly effective means o f creatively engaging life, and that later life is conducive to realizing one's artistic interests. Joan Erikson (1988) observed that "art is a hard way o f life in our technological world, where success is measured by economic standards and few aspirants achieve acclaim" (p. 13). Stebbins (1992) also describes commitment to the arts, particularly i n earlier periods, as "a hard life, poorly remunerated life - done for the profound love o f the pursuit" (p. 30). Osgood (1993) likewise points to a lessening o f career demands and family commitments as facilitating conditions that contribute to increasing interest in the arts: The Ulyssean life is possible for older individuals because in many ways the conditions required for the creative life are more available in the later years o f adulthood than earlier. Older people have more time to rest and to think; they also possess a rich storehouse o f experiences accumulated through life and are more free to adapt unorthodox concepts, (p. 176) It may also be easier to explore and become committed to art in later life when one's identity may not be as bound up with the need to achieve success as an artist. Having a lifetime o f experiences to draw on, having achieved a level o f economic security, and having more time, there may be an emboldened sense o f what is considered possible, and a willingness to try something and persevere at it, in later life. Cohen (1998, 2000) has observed that the majority o f the artists who were included in a major exhibit o f folk art in the United States (covering a 50 year period from 19301980) had started their work in later life (this exhibit was held at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D C in 1980). Likewise, Kaufman and Barrett (1985) organized an exhibit o f "late blooming" folk artists at the Folk A r t Institute in N e w Y o r k City. The majority o f the artists included in a more recent exhibit o f "Self-taught Artists o f the 2 0 Century," th  organized by the Museum o f American Folk A r t in N e w Y o r k City, also appear to have developed a focus on their art making in later life (see Wertkin, Longhauser, Szeemann, & Kogan, 1998). Roedheaver, Emmons, and Powers (1998) also describe a number o f folk  44  artists who were "latecomers to artistic expression" (p. 214). A t one point, I thought that exploring the experience o f folk artists who came to art i n later life would offer an interesting inquiry path, but in the end this was not the path I followed. A s it turned out, those I met as part o f this inquiry tended to be oriented to formalized art worlds. It is to this literature that I turn, to explore landscapes o f knowledge that may be helpful in understanding their experience. On Art Worlds Inconspicuous  and  Overlooked  Those who are interested i n art or becoming an artist find themselves situated i n the midst o f a system o f art worlds which, according to Becker (1982), are known i n relation to shared conventions related to the creation, presentation, valuation, and sale o f art. There are no clear boundaries between art worlds - rather, groups o f people who work together to bring artworks into existence comprise an art world. Individual artists are recognized as having a "special gift," and thus, are recognized as making "a unique and indispensable contribution to the work" (p. 35). In the end, however, art worlds produce "art." Becker states that "the interaction o f all the involved parties produces a shared sense o f the worth o f what they collectively produce. .. .If they act under the definition o f 'art,' their interaction convinces them that what they produce are valid works o f art" (p. 39). Becker (1982) distinguishes between "integrated professionals, mavericks, folk artists, and naive artists" (see Chapter 8, pp. 226-271). Integrated professionals participate i n formal, institutionalized art worlds. They have skills, abilities, and knowledge, and are recognized by "large and responsive audiences" (p. 229). Mavericks, similar to integrated arts professionals, circumvent the constraints o f established art worlds by creating their own organizations and exhibit spaces. Becker describes folk art as "work done by ordinary people, in the course o f their ordinary lives, work seldom thought o f by those who make or use it as art at all, even though, as often happens, others from outside the community it is produced in find artistic value in it" (p. 246). They may become involved i n art because it is something that is done by those in their community, or at their age. They tend "to belong to and produce their work as part o f a well-organized community" (p. 248), for example, quilting communities. Another category that Becker considers is primitive, or naive artists, who may later be discovered and incorporated into the formal art world. Such artists (Becker refers to the case o f Grandma Moses) "know very little about the medium they are working  45  in - about its history, conventions, or the kind o f work ordinarily produced in it. ... Most frequently, they at best succeed in recruiting a few people to play the role o f appreciators o f the work" (pp. 258-259). Becker describes amateur painters as being similar to naive artists, although they tend to have had "classes in painting, belong to clubs o f similar amateurs, and participate in a world o f Sunday painters" (p. 260). Other types o f artists have also been described, including "craft artists," "picture painters," "hobbyists," "commercial artists," and "academic artists" (also see Ethridge & Neapolitan, 1985; Mishler, 1999; Stebbins, 1992). Similar to Becker's (1982) observation that "art worlds typically have intimate and extensive relations with the worlds from which they try to distinguish themselves" (p. 36), Stebbins' work on serious leisure suggests a close relationship between amateur and professional artists (in particular, see 1992, p. 20; also pp. 23, 40-42). Amateurs are oriented toward standards o f excellence set by professionals who are viewed as role models. They complete special training, and continue to study and practice to attain expert levels o f knowledge and skill. They often interact with professionals, and engage in similar activities, such as teaching, exhibiting and selling their work. Although he cautions against clear and firm distinctions between amateur and professional artists, Stebbins suggests amateurs are somewhat less dedicated to art making as the central or focal interest in their lives compared to professional artists. In addition, their involvement i n more formalized art worlds is "incompletely institutionalized" (see Stebbins, 1992, pp. 120-121). Further, he suggests that the artwork o f amateurs is not scrutinized, or critiqued i n the same way as professional or integrated artists. He states that "on the rare occasion that an amateur product is considered in the press, the treatment is largely descriptive. What evaluation there is, is likely to be charitable" (p. 63). Stebbins (1982, 1992) notes that while hobbyists may be just as serious and dedicated about their involvement in art, they tend to be less oriented to professional art worlds than amateurs. The need to be cautious about these distinctions, however, is suggested by the category o f "outsider art" which refers to art which is ostensibly raw, unrefined or untutored. In the late 19 century and early part o f the 2 0 century, avante garde painters such as th  th  Picasso became interested in "primitive" or tribal art. Jean Dubuffet, who viewed artistic creativity as a universal human gift, described the artwork o f those living i n asylums as "art  46  brut," or raw art (Maizels, 1996). In addition to these groups, Zolberg and Cherbo (1997) identify that "outsider artists came to encompass folk and ethnic artists, the homeless, prison inmates, elderly people in nursing homes, hospice patients, and others, confined or isolated, who produce objects or performances o f aesthetic interest" (p. 1). Further, they note that many "outsiders" are no longer completely detached from recognized "art worlds." M a n y receive instruction o f some kind, and aspire to recognition and remuneration. Zolberg and Cherbo state that "the barriers between high and l o w art, ... art and emotional expression, art and therapy, art and life itself have been significantly breached. L e d by a changing body o f practitioners, art can be intended or unintended, made by professionals or non-professionals" (p. 2). Thus, the rigidity o f established "high art" worlds has evolved and developed more permeable boundaries. Nevertheless, practices associated with "insider art," continue to define how art is evaluated and understood. While there is space for outsider art within the sphere o f "high art worlds," gatekeepers and other aspects o f the social fabric o f art worlds contribute to how and when and //such artwork is received or recognized as art. Zolberg and Cherbo (1997) suggest that what social scientists interested in art have in common is an appreciation o f art as a social construction, and interest " i n influences in the making and unmaking o f artists, art, and art worlds" (p. 6). Further, Peters and Cherbo (1998) suggest that there is a need to attend to the wide range o f "unincorporated arts" (para 1), to grasp art as a "universal characteristic," and consider the associated "programmatic and policy implications" such an awareness entails (final para). In a paper published in 2005, but which was circulated on-line as early as 2002, Sholette (2005) called for an appreciation o f the "art producing masses" (p. 92), relative to the few that are recognized within formalized institutions associated with "high art." Within these masses, he includes those who have completed fine art degrees and certificate programs, as well as amateur and self-trained practitioners. Sholette poses the question: H o w would the hegemony o f the art world be affected i f scholars began to discuss, classify and assess the work o f "Sunday" painters, amateur artists and hobbyists in terms similar to those used for "professional" artists? It is worth noting that specific examples o f this work are far from invisible, we encounter them far more often than we do "serious" art. Rather what remains out o f bounds is any consideration o f this work as complex or compelling or forming its own cultural category, (p. 92)  47  In presenting this challenge, Sholette hopes not to expand "the hegemony o f the art world into this shadow zone," instead he hopes "to find within this nether world what Walter Benjamin understood as the explosive power o f the inconspicuous and overlooked" (p. 92). Similarly, W a l i , Marcheschi, Severson, and Longoni (2001) suggest that i n order to "develop a more accurate portrait o f the complex nature o f arts production, we need empirical data on the intersection between art and everyday life" (p. 213). W a l i , Severson, and Longino (2002) conducted an in-depth investigation o f adult participation in informal, "unincorporated," and amateur arts. They found that individuals engaged in informal arts activities acquire a wide range o f skills, and interact with a wide variety o f people. Given this, they suggest that informal arts activities serve to contribute to social capacity and civic engagement. They also suggest that art considered as an expressive behaviour across the life span, and not as a separate and distinct sphere, w i l l help to illuminate the significance o f the various ways people engage with art and art making. I had originally considered the experience o f coming to art i n later life as providing a unique focus for exploring the developmental potential o f aging relative to that which had been portrayed in the gerontological literature. After considering some o f the literature on art worlds, I have expanded my view to consider the experience o f coming to art i n later life as also being a special case within another largely overlooked cultural phenomenon - the amateur arts. Perspectives on the Value of Art People have needed to thlnte that there needs, to be direct or obvious benefits of the arts, i f It is not obvious then they consider the arts to be a frill. Margaret Atwood I n conversation with V>aniel Tetchier, on "Rlchler, Infe" (200&)  In Canada, M a x Wyman has offered a passionate argument for arts and culture funding to ensure public access to the arts. In his book The Defiant Imagination:  Why  culture matters (2004), Wyman asserts the relevance o f art in all o f our lives. Consider a few introductory excerpts from this text: Without the inspiration that contact with creative activity can give us, we risk short changing ourselves i n becoming the fully developed human spirit. W e risk becoming less than what is possible for us to be (p. 3). Our artists supply the raw materials o f the imagination, the foundations on which wisdom and hope are built, for our young people and for Canadians everywhere.  48  The stories we tell each other—in our plays, our books, our films—affirm the importance o f the human, the local, the specific (p. 5). Cultural activity belongs to everyone. It is simply an essential part o f what it means to be human (pp. 9-10). Wyman describes the "creative impulse [as being] part o f what makes us who we are ... [it contributes] to social health - through the therapeutic values o f art, through art's value as an educational tool and through art's ability to advance a more compassionate society" (p. 30). Still, rather than arguing for support for "ordinary art" activities, Wyman argues for sustained funding for professional arts organizations and artists, and an ongoing "commitment to creative excellence" (p. 181) as foundational to ensuring the essential role o f art i n contributing to Canada's economic, social, and cultural capital. Concern for quality, i n the end, is presented as the primary justification for public support o f the arts, a value that imbues much o f Canada's arts scene. There are cultural theorists and commentators, however, who have countered this view. Leo Tolstoy (1995/ 1898) dedicated much o f his later life to considering the meaning and value o f art. In What is Art?, which he completed when he was 70 years old, Tolstoy argues against the valorization o f what is sometimes called "high art." H e wrote: W e are accustomed to regard as art only what we read, hear and see in theaters, concerts, and exhibitions, together with buildings, statues, poems, novels. . . . But all this is but a small portion o f the art by which we communicate with one another i n life. The whole o f human life is filled with works o f art o f various kinds, from lullabies, jokes, mimicry, home decoration, clothing, utensils, to church services and solemn processions. A l l this is the activity o f art. Thus we call art, i n the narrow sense o f the word, not the entire human activity that conveys feelings, but only that which we for some reason single out from all this activity and to which we give special significance, (p. 41) Tolstoy described art to be "one o f the conditions o f human life." He described art as providing a means o f communication and "communion among people" (p. 37), across cultures and historical periods. He offers the following: "To call up in oneself a feeling once experienced and, having called it up, to convey it by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds, images expressed in words, so that others experience the same feeling - in this consists the activity of art" (pp. 39-40; italics in original). Ellen Dissanyake in her text What is Art For? (1988) also argues that art making functions as a basic aspect o f human behaviour. Writing from an ethological perspective, Dissanyake suggests that the role o f the arts is to highlight behaviours and events that  49  emphasize and strengthen communal values. A r t functions to "make special," to make ordinary experience extraordinary, through formalization, exaggeration, repetition, patterning, and other related means. She provides examples o f ways i n which painting, song, dance, and drama have served to shape knowledge and feelings, and reinforce communal values and facts o f life in pre-literate societies, and "provide access to a supramundane world, a level o f reality different from everyday immediacy" (p. 67). In a subsequent work, Homo Aestheticus:  Where art comes from and why (1992), Dissanayake considers ways in  which we are inherently aesthetic and artistic human beings, and suggests that: When we expand our vision to include all examples o f societies, past and present, we discover that people do a number o f things that are artlike ... they explore, they play, they shape and embellish, they formalize and order. These ways o f doing are inherent in human activity ... Regarding art as a behaviour - an instance o f "making special" - shifts the emphasis from the modernists' view o f art as object or quality or the postmodernists' view o f it as text or commodity to the activity itself (the making or doing or appreciating), (pp. 222-223) In addition to describing art as a fundamental aspect o f our lives, Dissanayake (1992) describes how consideration o f prevailing standards can reflect the degree o f care taken with one's work. She writes: " T o make something special generally implies taking care and doing one's best so as to produce a result that is - to a greater or lesser extent - accessible, striking, resonant, and satisfying to those who take the time to appreciate it" (p. 224). Although Dissanayake makes little mention o f his work, her conclusions seem to be compatible with John Dewey's (1934) writing on art as a means o f heightening o f one's lived experience. Dewey considered the arts as offering a more intense, vivid, and lively experience o f the world. According to Dewey: art throws off the covers that hide the expressiveness o f experienced things; it quickens us from the slackness o f routine and enables us to forget ourselves by finding ourselves in the delight o f experiencing the world around us in its varied qualities and forms. It intercepts every shade o f expressiveness found i n objects and orders them in a new experience o f life. (p. 104) He described art as having the unique purpose o f "clarifying and concentrating meanings contained in scattered and weakened ways in the material o f other experiences" (p. 84). Further, Dewey describes the arts as offering "a manifestation, a record and a celebration o f the life o f a civilization, (and) a means o f promoting its development" (p. 326).  50  In Is Art Good For Us: Beliefs about high culture in American life (2002), Jolie Jensen draws on Dewey's work to develop an argument in support o f art as a means o f experiencing our lives and the world around us. She strikes a challenge against an instrumental view o f high culture as "good medicine" that can be passively ingested to "counterbalance the bad effects o f mass media" (p. 2). Jensen argues that i f art is good for us it's because o f what it affords us not i n terms o f instrumental, direct effects, but in relation to its "expressive" functions. She writes, "Dewey does not imagine the arts instrumentally, as social medicine, although he values them as social experiences ...Dewey presumes that everyone has aesthetic impulses, and takes delight in aesthetic experiences" (p. 169). Compared to Dewey's writing in this area, Vygotsky's contributions are only now becoming recognized. A s described earlier, Vygotsky developed a dialectical view o f human development. What is less well known is that Vygotsky's career began with the dissertation he completed i n 1925 on aesthetic response to literary works, which was later published as The Psychology of Art (1965/ 1971; see Moran & John-Steiner, 2003, p. 61). One o f the ideas that he developed in this early work was that creative expression and art are profoundly social. Vygotsky advocated a dynamic interplay between the individual and social/ relational arenas, stating that "art is ... a tool o f society which brings the most intimate and personal aspects o f our being into the circle o f social life" (p. 249). He also emphasized the mobilizing role o f art, stating that "art is the organization o f our future behaviour. It is a requirement that may never be fulfilled but that forces us to strive beyond our life toward all that lies beyond it" (p. 253). Moran and John-Steiner explicitly link Vygotsky's theoretical work on development to his writing on art, by citing a quote from his early work that suggests "development never ends its creative work" (p. 63). Most recently, in What Good are the Arts?, John Carey (2005) describes the constructed nature o f "high art" by noting that what is taken to be art are those objects and performances that are recognized as such "by the right people" (p. 15). He savages the argument that art appreciation creates empathic and thoughtful people by pointing to the superiority that can follow from its exclusionary practices. In an extended passage he outlines how in N a z i Germany "worship o f art made human beings expendable" (p. 143). He concludes: "The religion o f art makes people worse, because it encourages contempt for those considered inartistic. We now know that it can foster hideous and earth-shattering evil.  51  It is time we gave active art a chance to make us better" (p. 167, italics added). Influenced by writing by Tolstoy and Dissanayake, Carey argues for a revaluation o f art done by ordinary people. He calls for interdisciplinary research that would include contributions from sociology, psychology, and public health, to "create a body o f knowledge about what the arts actually do to people" (p. 168). Research on Arts-based Involvement in Later Life In 1982, Jones referred to an almost nonexistent knowledge base regarding the involvement o f older adults i n the arts. For the purposes o f this inquiry, I have bracketed literature on art therapy, experience o f "ordinary creativity" i n later life (with some exceptions), intergenerational arts activities, and arts activities directed to those with dementia or cognitive impairment. In the following overview, I have focused primarily on literature that has considered learning/ skills development, or leisure-focused arts engagement directed to primarily healthy (that is not frail, or cognitively-impaired) older adults to illustrate some o f the major themes addressed i n this area. Given that literature in this area is relatively sparse, I have included studies published i n the early 1970s (which continue to be cited) until the present. Dawson and Bailer (1972) conducted a study o f the effects o f participating i n an 18week o i l painting class for older adults. Two years following the class, 72% o f the participants were still involved in painting, and 50% were active in other creative activities. Analysis o f 10-year follow-up data found that o f those involved in the art class, 67% were still living compared to 38% o f a matched control group. In addition, all were "mentally alert" and physically active compared to 62% o f those still living who had been assigned to the control group condition. In the same year, Hearn (1972) published a study in which he explored how aging affected the lives o f first-career artists, and the influence o f art on the lives o f second-career artists, or those who came to art in later life. H e found that for both groups art offered "income, sociability, and a positive self-image" (p. 357). Sarkisian (1982) interviewed three older people about their reasons for taking art classes i n later life and found great diversity in the personal meanings they attached to their art making. After the death o f her husband, one woman explored a number o f interests and when she finally focused on metal sculpture felt that she was linked again "to society, making a contribution" (p. 188). Another participant, described as a "returning art student,"  52  reconnected with an early interest and training in art when he was recovering from major heart surgery. The third participant valued the new social connections she experienced, but was noncommittal about taking further classes as she valued having a sense o f freedom regarding her time. Lieberman and Lieberman (1983) explored the experience o f 70 individuals who developed a second career as a craft artist following retirement. In general, these individuals reported enhanced levels o f personal satisfaction and quality o f life i n their new careers compared to their earlier occupations. The experience o f being self-directed, being able to take pride i n their artistry and craft, and the opportunity to meet others with similar interests contributed to their satisfaction. The experience o f occupational independence and enjoyment o f new relationships were identified as important factors contributing to satisfaction i n a second career as a craft artist. Dohr and Forbess (1986) explored lifespan patterns o f creative involvement among older adults involved in both community-based arts programming, and on their own. They noted "consistent," "up-early/ up-late," and "rising" patterns o f involvement. LorenzenHuber (1991) confirmed Dohr and Forbess' three patterns o f life-span creativity. These patterns would conform to the stability, comedy-romance, and progressive life narratives described by Gergen (1994a), noted earlier. In relation to associated benefits, Dohr and Forbess found that late life involvement in art yielded: 1) social benefits; 2) personal benefits (cognitive stimulation, self-actualization, well-being); 3) product-related benefits (the "simple need to manipulate materials," p. 131, which recalls the importance Dissanayake [1995, 2000] has placed on the pleasures o f "making" as an integral and vital aspect o f being human); and 4) expressive benefits. Based on a sample o f 20 artists who were "past winners o f the Annual A r t Show for Older Nebraskans" (p. 384), LorenzenHuber (1991) also found that her participants felt that having time available was critical to their involvement i n art. Other factors identified as important to their experience o f art included "teachers, rewards and recognition, selling, and clubs and organizations" (p. 385), as well as their own commitment to realizing their artistic interests and talents. Fisher and Specht (1999) explored the benefits o f creative activity in relation to "successful aging" among 36 older adults (aged 60-93 years) who had participated in a seniors' art exhibition, most o f whom had previously retired from professional occupations. Benefits associated with being engaged in art making included: self-transcendence, in large  53  part through "flow" experiences; a sense o f accomplishment; and positive connections with others. Fisher and Specht suggest a connection between creative activity and development i n that art making fostered "a perception o f circumstances as opportunities for growth, ... openness to challenges ... the practice and development o f skills that facilitate practical creativity in other areas" (p. 469) o f life. Further, "their artwork draws them onward, does not permit disengagement, and demands active involvement i n both the cognitive realm o f their inner being and the physical world manipulating resources into unique expressions o f s e l f (p. 469). A s noted by Katz and Campbell (2005) (described earlier), the authors do not consider the historical contexts and artistic traditions that inform their involvement in art. Most recently, Cohen (2006; Cohen, Perlstein, Chapline, K e l l y , Firth, & Simmens, 2006) reported on a study o f 300 older men and women (with an average age o f 80) distributed across three study sites - San Francisco, Washington and N e w Y o r k - i n which half o f the participants were engaged in community-based "cultural" programs, such as music, writing, painting, and jewelry-making. The remaining participants were assigned to a "control condition." He found that those involved in "cultural activities" had better overall health. Specifically, they experienced fewer falls, reported less use o f medication, and had fewer doctor visits. They also showed improvement over baseline on depression, loneliness, and morale scales, and reported an increase i n the number o f activities i n which they were involved. Cohen attributed the positive impact o f the arts on health and well-being in later life to having an increased "sense o f mastery." He also referred to the positive benefits o f social engagement, citing findings published by Glass, Mendes de Leon, Marottoli, and Berkman (1999) and Verghese, Lipton, Katz, H a l l , Derby, Kuslansky, Ambrose, Sliwinski, and Buschke (2003) (also described earlier). Indeed, an emerging trend in this area has been to focus on the health promoting benefits o f cultural participation.  Although not solely focused on older people, these  findings suggest that live arts experiences may be both health protective and health promoting. A n eight-year prospective study o f 12,982 Swedes (aged 16-74 years) found that after controlling for other determinants o f survival, those who participated i n cultural events (such as attending the cinema, art exhibits, other cultural events, sports events, reading, or playing music) lived longer than those who did not (Bygren, Konlaan, & Johansson, 1996). A t the 14-year follow-up period mortality risk was again assessed, but i n relation to specific  54  forms o f cultural engagement. Attending films, concerts, museums, and art exhibits were all associated with reduced mortality rates (Konlaan, Bygren, & Johansson, 2000). The investigators found it "noteworthy that the effects were most obvious i n non-verbal stimulation through pictures, objects and music" (p. 178). In a parallel study, Konlaan, Bjorby, Bygren, Weissglas, Karlsson, and Widmark (2000) conducted a randomized-control study o f the health impact o f attending cultural events (such as movies, opera, music concerts, theatre performances, art exhibits) compared to structured weekly physical activity, both o f which occurred on a weekly basis over a two-month period. They found that diastolic blood pressure was significantly reduced among those who participated i n the "cultural stimulation" condition. A subsequent longitudinal study o f 3,793 survey respondents suggested that those who became more culturally active over the eight year study period, had the same degree o f perceived health risk as those active at both baseline and follow-up periods (Johansson, Konlaan, & Bygren, 2001). C l o w and Fredhoi (2006) found that stress levels (as measured by saliva Cortisol samples) fell by 32% among participants after office workers spent 40 minutes viewing paintings and sculpture in art galleries in London, England. In contrast to these studies, Michalos (2005) using a social indicators approach found that relative to other domains o f life, self-reported cultural engagement had a "very small impact on the quality o f life ... (of those) who generally cared about the arts" (p. 12) in Prince George, B C . More recently, a number o f sponsored projects have attempted to articulate the benefits o f the active arts participation. Matarasso (1997) undertook a study on the participation o f non-professionals in the arts on behalf o f Comedia. He found that active 6  involvement in the arts contributed to personal growth, enhanced confidence, skill-building, educational enhancements, increased social contacts, as well as development o f networks and social cohesion. He also described a range o f benefits related to community development. In this report, Matarasso suggests that in addition to contributing to the economic revitalization o f communities, the arts also "contribute to a stable, confident and creative society" (p. v). A monograph sponsored by the R A N D Corporation along with the From COMEDI A's website: "... [COMEDIA] is linked to the idea of 'The Creative City' and now the notion of 'The Art of City Making' and how people and cities can make the most of their possibilities. 'The Intercultural City' adds another concept and focuses on how cities can live well with their multicultural diversity. Our philosophy is that there is always more potential in any place than any of us would think at first sight (see, retrieved on March 12, 2007). 6  55  Wallace Foundation begins with an explicit recognition o f the pressures exerted on arts advocates during the "culture wars" in the United States i n the early 1990s (which also occurred in Canada, but to a lesser extent) which resulted i n a wide-range o f benefits being identified. In this overview, McCarthy, Ondaatje, Zakaras, and Brooks (2004) present a critique o f what they view to be an overemphasis on instrumental benefits o f the arts, suggesting that attention should be given to "other, intrinsic benefits" (p. xi). They call for greater recognition o f a continuum o f arts-based benefits, including intrinsic individual benefits (captivation and pleasure), relational benefits (expanded capacity for empathy), and public benefits (expression o f communal meaning) (see p. 44). Referring to the work o f Dewey, Dissanayake, and Csikszentmihalyi, among others, they also suggest that the realization o f these benefits is linked to sustained involvement in the arts. In Canada, Cooley (2003) reviewed literature on the benefits o f the arts in relation to both illness and disease, and the promotion o f health and well-being, and concluded that "the arts can contribute to promoting both individual and community health" (p. 6). Cooley refers to research on psychoneuroimmunology to suggest a range o f physiological effects that may be associated with art making and live arts experiences and may promote enhanced immune function. She further suggests that these outcomes may most effectively be obtained not through passive reception to art but through the active pursuit o f growth enhancing activities (see p. 30). Significantly, she considered benefits identified in the literature i n relation to seven o f the 12 determinants o f health used by Health Canada as a basis for developing health policy, such as the opportunity that the arts provide for social connection and engagement. Noting that cultural and arts-based activities are effective i n "reaching out and engaging the elderly," Cooley draws on ideas developed by Cohen (2000) to suggest that the arts may provide an opportunity for older people "to learn new skills, discover new aspects o f themselves, and find new ways to express and perceive the w o r l d " (p. 41). Although they did not specifically consider the arts, Lapierre, Bouffard, Dube, Labelle, and Bastin (2001) found a significant relationship between positive aspirations and goal setting directed to self-development, and well-being among older Canadians in a series o f studies that they conducted. The significance o f the arts for older adults is, however, suggested by studies o f the impact o f arts-based activities on identity. Howie, Coulter, and Feldman (2004) explored the  56  experience o f being involved in craft-based artistic pursuits on identity among six retired individuals aged 78 to 87 years old. They suggest four processes as influencing changes in sense o f identity: 1) relational practice (sense o f self is shaped in and through interactions with others); 2) changing self-awareness (awareness o f the self as always evolving); 3) enduring qualities (those more constant or stable, qualities o f self); and 4) reflective processes (thoughts, values, enjoyment o f the process o f "crafting"). Benefits o f developing an identity as an "artist" included opportunities to relate to others about common areas o f interest, and developing an identity in addition to, for example, being known as a mother or wife. Schofield-Tomschin & Littrell (2005) offer a similar observation in relation to involvement i n textile crafts i n later life. One o f their participants offered that, "most women grow up being somebody's daughter or somebody's wife, or somebody's mother . . . . (in taking up art) you're a weaver or a spinner, as well as a mother and wife, grandmother or whatever" (p. 46). The participants also described a sense o f pride and identification with their accomplishments as textile artists. Other articles and texts have also considered the role o f artistic creativity i n the lives of older adults, and the ways in which art making as experienced within both community and continuing care settings can be beneficial to one's health and well-being. Based on anecdotal accounts and program descriptions, these works tend to focus on the potential that age brings for ongoing learning and growth, and the benefits o f art making as a means o f fostering well-being. Examples include articles included i n special issues o f Generations: Journal of American Society on Aging which focused on "creativity in later life" (Kastenbaum, 1991) and "aging and the arts" (Perlstein, 2006), respectively. Other examples include Fitzner and Rugh (1998), Harris, Hays, Kottler, Minichiello, Olohan, and Wright (2005), Hart (1992), Hickson and Housely (1997), Hoffman (1992), Kastenbaum (2000), Meltzer (1996), Osgood (1993), and Weisberg and Wilder (2001). A m o n g these contributors, Osgood (1993) offers the following observation: Through participating in creative activities, the older adult comes to view him- or herself as an active, vital, useful, human being The arts are inspirational, infusing the older adult with a spirit or zest. Older individuals can be liberated i n spirit from poverty, pain, and loneliness, and lifted out o f the doldrums o f depression when they find creative powers i n themselves. The role o f creative arts activities is significant as a potential contributor to life satisfaction and psychological health for the elderly, (p. 177)  57  Perlstein (1996) describes a range o f benefits o f arts programming for older adults, including "building self-esteem and a sense o f identity and belonging, connecting people and celebrating life." She adds, "arts programs can create positive, invigorating, life-giving, and life-sustaining activities that, again, make those human connections. In a caring, connected community, people are more likely to stay healthy because they look out for one another" (p. 24). Contributions such as these offer the important perspective o f those who are actively engaged in developing or promoting creative arts programming for older adults. Thus, both studies and program descriptions point to the life-inspiring and developmental value o f the arts for older people. Another Perspective: Sir Winston  Churchill  A s noted earlier, Churchill was recognized as being a gifted amateur artist who enjoyed painting throughout his later years. In addition to the literature described above, his exceptionally expressive writing on his experience o f painting (published when he was 68 years old) provide another source o f insight into the experience o f coming to art in later life. From the essay "Hobbies" (Churchill, 1932): M a n y men (sic) have found great advantage i n practicing a handicraft for pleasure .... But, best o f all and easiest to procure are sketching and painting in all their forms . . . . Painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part o f life's journey . . . . Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes o f Time or the surly advance o f Decreptitude. ... Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, w i l l keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, o f the day. (p. 302) From the essay "Painting as a Pastime" (Churchill, 1932): ... to find oneself plunged i n the middle o f a new and intense form o f interest and action with paints and palettes and canvases, and not to be discouraged by the results, is an astonishing and enriching experience. I hope it may be shared by others . . . . D o not turn the superior eye o f passivity upon these efforts. B u y a paint-box and have a try do not be too ready to believe that you cannot find what you want here. (p. 305) ... Inexpensive independence, a mobile and perennial pleasure apparatus, new mental food and exercise, the old harmonies and symmetries i n an entirely different language, an added interest to every common scene, an occupation for every idle hour - an unceasing voyage o f entrancing discovery - these are high prizes. ... a j o y ride in a paint-box. (p. 306)  58  ... how varied are the delights which may be gained by those who enter hopefully and thoughtfully upon the pathway o f painting; how enriched they w i l l be in their daily vision, how fortified in their independence, how happy in their leisure. Whether you feel that your soul is pleased by the conception or contemplation o f harmonies, or that your mind is stimulated by the aspect o f magnificent problems, or whether you are content to find fun in trying to observe and depict the j o l l y things you see, the vistas o f possibility are limited only by the shortness o f life. Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there w i l l stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, everimproving path. Y o u know that you w i l l never get to the end o f the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the j o y and glory o f the climb, (pp. 312-313) Transition2 ... In this chapter, I have described an expanding segment o f the Canadian population that is looking forward to an extended period o f retirement. I have also covered a broad expanse o f literature to outline "a recognizable but (largely) unmapped terrain" in the area o f aging studies (Moody, 1989, p. 227). I have done so i n an attempt to suggest ways in which gerontology could be expanded and reframed to support the study o f positive and passionate involvement i n later life. Nakamura (2002) states that "standing out within each person's life are moments, periods, and spheres o f intense engagement with the world . . . . when an individual is 'engaged, engrossed, or entirely taken up with some activity because o f its recognized worth' (Dewey, 1913, p. 17)" (p. 1). She has also observed that most o f those who study processes o f aging and human development have aimed at understanding "normative experience ... or else to illuminate the ways i n which adversity and pathological societal conditions distort lives. ...there has been little systematic research on lives that are distinguished by positive experience" (p. 1). These observations echo much o f what has been presented in the foregoing. Although an increasingly prominent aspect o f one's experience, much remains unknown about leisure i n later life. In addition, little is known about unique spheres o f leisure involvement and how they may contribute to aging well. Simple activity counts have obscured the significance o f absorbing, meaning-centred pursuits in later life. What is needed, I believe, is a re-positioning that returns us to an interest i n older people as people (and not just as bodies), and further, an interest in their lives as a creative unfolding o f being, growth and development - not conservation o f abilities, or worse, simply decline. Hendricks  59  and Cutler (2003) describe different leisure activities as providing a socially constructed action space that provides the conditions for promoting developmental meaning and personal growth. They argue that different leisure domains provide opportunities "for experimentation and integration o f identity; ... emotionally meaningful bonds; . . . ideational flexibility giving rise to ... meaningful experience" (p. 111). A s a specific domain, K . Gergen and M . Gergen (2001b) have suggested that the arts provide an important mode or frame o f "play" in adult life. They suggest that the "arts are particularly rich i n offering opportunities for experimenting with realities, with identities, with expressive potentials." Despite the existence o f older artists, and the establishment o f arts programs for seniors i n community and continuing care settings, the role o f art in later life has not been widely researched and remains poorly understood. Interest i n the arts in later life exists on the periphery o f a gerontological knowledge base. Stebbins (1992) has noted, "People tend to be in the dark about what older artists do, and why they pursue their activity with such passion" (pp. 120-121). This might be related to a view o f older people as being "incapable o f creativity, o f making progress, o f starting afresh" (Hazan, 1994, p. 28). This may also be related to the marginal status o f related areas that could also contribute to an understanding o f art as a means o f growth and development. For example, the "amateur arts" have been marginalized within the realm o f "the arts," and art education as a field o f practice and inquiry has tended to ignore the developmental potential o f art beyond childhood (see Gardner, 1990). Matarasso (1997) has stated that "evaluating the social impact o f participating i n the arts has long been a sort o f terra incognita, a continent whose existence is known, but which remains unexplored" (p. i). W i t h respect to social indicators research, Michalos (2005) has stated that "the impact o f the arts broadly construed on the overall quality o f people's lives is both under-rated and understudied" (p. 12). I undertook this inquiry hoping to enrich the repertoire o f understandings that are available to appreciate the significance o f coming to art in later life. This inquiry has necessarily been exploratory. Following a line o f inquiry informed by literature in the areas o f aging, leisure and health, I hope it may begin to articulate that which has largely gone unrecognized and untheorized across all o f these areas in relation to art and human development in later life. I also hope to suggest a revaluation o f the significance o f art as an action domain within the lives o f "ordinary people."  60  CHAPTER 3 INQUIRY A P P R O A C H  A Narrative, Interpretive Perspective James Birren (2001) describes narrative as offering a methodological approach for exploring "personal experiences o f and interpretations of... growing o l d " (p. vii). Interest i n narrative studies o f aging has developed within a context o f increasing appreciation o f the role o f narrative as a basic mode o f human experience i n the social and human sciences. Compared to ready-at-hand, surface understandings, narrative offers an approach that privileges subjectivity, and fosters a close attending to the particularity o f experience. Stories can help us appreciate aspects o f experiences that otherwise might be overlooked. Richardson (1990) states, "When people are asked why they do what they do, they provide narrative explanations, not logico-scientific categorical ones. It is the way individuals understand their own lives and best understand the lives o f others" (p. 126). Bruner (1986, 1990, 1991) has argued that personal narratives provide a valuable source o f insight into ways in which we make sense, clarify, and come to understand our lives. Freeman (1997) also maintains that "narrative is the basic medium in which human beings speak, think, grow into selves and understand others" (p. 175). K . Gergen and M . Gergen (2002) offer a similar description o f the significance o f stories: W e understand our lives through stories. These stories can lend order to the past, significance to the present, and direction to the future. O n a personal level our lives acquire meaning through narrative. They inform us that we have participated significantly in the world, that we have witnessed, and possibly achieved something o f value. O n a social level our stories are a major means o f forging and sustaining connection with others. They bring others into our lives; they allow us to share our lives with others, (para 1) Narrative helps us to bring our experiences into view in the midst o f our continually, unfolding lives. Narrative also helps us to come to other (often more complex) understandings o f our experiences through the stories we may share with others, and through our experience o f others responses to these tellings (also see Frank, 2002). While generalizations based on "objective findings" may offer valuable insights, they fail to convey the developmental contours o f experience and meaning, shaped in relation to what may be remembered from the past, ever changing present contexts and circumstances, and imagined possible futures (see Denzin, 1997, p. 33). The details o f  61  individual experience, expressed i n human terms, remain invisible. In this, narrative can be recognized as an approach consistent with critical gerontology. Gubrium and Holstein (2000) have argued that "what is missing (in gerontology) is a distinct view o f the everyday life o f older people ... based on the stories told o f older people i n their own right" (p. 3). Manheimer (2000) also argues for the inclusion o f personal accounts o f old age, to gain a better appreciation o f the experience o f growing old. He states, "empiricism based on a biomedical paradigm o f later life restricts researchers to too narrow an appreciation for the lived experience o f growing old, an appreciation better served by inclusion o f personal accounts o f old age in written, spoken and visual forms" (p. 88). Although not a central methodological approach in gerontology, insights that have emerged from such studies have been influential. Early examples include Gubrium's (1997/1973) study o f the experience o f living and dying at Murray Manor as revealed through the stories o f the residents, and M y e r h o f f s (1978) study o f experience and identity as revealed i n the narratives o f residents living at a Jewish seniors' centre. Another significant early study would be Kaufman's (1986) research involving older individuals and the ways in which they described their sense o f self, not in relation to age but through a sense o f continuity, that is, " i n being themselves in old age" (p. 6). Additional examples include (in chronological order): Gubrium's (1993) study o f the life narratives o f seniors living i n a continuing care setting; Berman's (1994) study o f personal journals o f later life, including those o f M a y Sarton and Florida Scott-Maxwell; Gullette's (1997) autobiographical narrative that challenges ideologies o f aging within the mainstream culture; Basting's (1998) study o f the performativity o f age, which involved analysis o f the theatrical performances o f older adults presented as dialogue across generations; R a y ' s (2000) study of aging and life-story writing; and Savishinsky's (2000) narrative portrayal o f the diverse retirement experiences o f seniors' living i n a rural community i n upper N e w Y o r k State (described earlier). K e y texts that have outlined elements and potential contributions o f narrative to the study o f aging include Birren, Kenyon, Ruth, Schroots, and Svensson's (1996) Aging and Biography: Explorations in adult development, and Randall and Kenyon's (2001) Ordinary Wisdom: Biographical aging and the journey of life. In 2001, Kenyon, Clark, and de Vries proposed the term "narrative gerontology" to describe those approaches that explore the meanings and experience o f aging from the perspective o f older adults as  62  they describe the significance o f different events they have experienced through stories and narratives. Glover (2003) has also considered the relevance and value o f narrative as a way o f exploring the diverse and unique ways i n which we make sense o f our leisure experience. Narrative approaches described in these texts and the research studies cited above vary widely. Mishler (1999) states that the "diversity o f studies that fall under the 'narrative' rubric confounds any attempt to specify a canonical definition o f what it is and how to analyze it" (p. 17). Different approaches are framed in relation to guiding research questions, the disciplinary location(s), and perhaps most importantly, the personal meaningmaking horizon o f the inquirer. Given this, narrative can be viewed as a noncategorical qualitative approach, similar to "interpretive description" which "provides direction i n the creation o f an interpretive account that is generated on the basis o f informed questioning, using techniques o f reflective, critical examination, ... (to) guide and inform disciplinary thought in some manner" (Thorne, Kirkham, & O'Flynn-Magee, 2004, p. 6). A s observed by Clandinin and Connelly (2000), the researcher's own narrative o f experience provides an important starting point for narrative inquiry. They suggest that "these narrative beginnings ... help us deal with questions o f who we are in the field and who we are in the texts we write on our experience o f the field experience" (p. 70). In the work cited above, most o f the researchers recognized and drew attention to the constructed nature o f their work, at least to some degree. In Chapter 1,1 began to articulate some o f the narrative beginnings that brought me to this inquiry. In subsequent chapters I attempt to continue integrating my experience o f living this inquiry. In this chapter, I offer an account o f the interpretive, narrative approach I followed, presented in some ways out o f temporal sequence, known only "after the fact." Before doing so, it may be helpful to review the research questions that guided me in this inquiry. Guiding Questions and Underlying Assumptions I was interested in learning how older adults came to art in later life, and the place and significance o f art in their lives. What are the stories of older adults who took up art making following  retirement? How do they make meaning of the significance of art making  in their lives? Drawing on Dewey's (1934) writing in this area, I have described ways i n which art and aesthetic experience can help us to become aware o f our experience. I have suggested that adoption o f an aesthetic frame o f reference can suggest new ideas regarding  63  possibilities for growth that may be enjoyed in later life. W i t h a view to sharing, and i n some cases restating, some o f the guiding assumptions that informed my journey through this inquiry, I offer the following: •  Throughout our lives, we strive to provide meaningful account(s) o f our experience, through the stories we share (Bruner, 1986, 1990, 1991; K . Gergen & M . Gergen, 2002);  •  The development o f meaning is continually evolving; it evolves from, and is expressed through narratives that are partial, situated, and shifting; we are always i n the process o f "storying" our lives (see Freeman, 1998, pp. 42-43);  •  Meaning develops through some form o f interchange, including the interplay o f self, other, and material contexts; dialogue provides a means o f both developing and articulating meaning ( K . Gergen, 1999, 2001; Mishler, 1999); A n interview follows a dialogical process in which meanings are co-constructed " i n the ongoing process o f our trying to make sense to one another" (Mishler, 1999, p. 15).  •  •  •  A research text can provide a space for exploring meaning and significance; as a reflexive text that recognizes its own partial nature, it can work to engage others' interpretations and perspectives (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Richardson, 2000). In relation to a research text (and other texts), both readers and writers co-produce or perform the meaning o f a text (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2002; also see Denzin, 1997); this reflects, and contributes to, the complexity and multiplicity o f understandings that may be considered in relation to human experience.  •  And, we can never finally determine what things mean; there is no end to  meaning...  I returned to these guiding assumptions again and again, as "touch stones" or openings along the path when I found myself lost along the way in the mist/ midst o f evolving (mis)understandings. I use the term "narrative" to refer to description of, and reflection on lived experience. Denzin (1989a, 1989b, 1999) suggests a close connection between experience, narrative, and story. He writes "narrators report stories as narratives. A story is told in and through discourse, or talk" (1989a, p. 41). He suggests that "self stories" are told " i n the context o f a specific set o f experiences" (1989b, p. 186) given to the narrator to reflect on. Events that are described are chosen as significant for the narrator, and appropriate for the person(s) to whom the story is told. Denzin suggests that "the self story is made up as it is told. It does not exist as a story independent o f its telling; although, after it has been told, it can take on the status o f a story that can be retold" (1989a, p. 43). A story often involves an initial situation which changes over time, culminating i n a resolution which may be characterized as regression, progression, or continuity (see Denzin, 1999, p. 158).  64  M y use o f the term "narrative" is inclusive o f partial, fragmented story segments, and also refers to the way a story is told. A s pointed out by B l o o m (1996, 1998), among others, linear coherence and unitary subjectivity are not always characteristic o f stories that are told. Rather, stories and interpretation are "always in process." B l o o m suggests that multiple storytelling offers an opportunity for enhanced understanding for participants and researchers as they attempt to "make sense" o f their experience. Following Mishler (1999), I use the term "research account" to reflect my attempt at making sense o f the narrative materials I collected through the course o f this inquiry, with a view to sharing my efforts with others (and in this particular instance, an academic audience with the hoped for outcome o f obtaining a doctoral degree). Again, following from Mishler, I use the term "storyline" to refer to configurations o f meaning that I identified within the participants' narratives, and refined through continuing dialogue. Inviting and Attending to Stories The process o f undertaking a narrative inquiry is, o f course, rarely straightforward. In this section, I briefly outline the journey I followed from the beginning o f my dissertation research, to this point, still in the midst o f coming to new understandings. A s I write about this, the inquiry design gains a sense of clarity which was often elusive, and solidity, which in truth I only sometimes experienced. Rather than offering a straightforward, linear approach, I found that narrative offered a path of inquiry that became articulated only as I moved forward (in fits and starts) hoping/ attempting to iteratively make sense o f both the participants' accounts and their reflections on the understandings I shared with them over time, " i n the midst o f living and telling, reliving and retelling" (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 20) our stories and emerging understandings. The path I followed has been rendered most visible in the process and completion o f writing this text - and yet understandings continue to develop. Setting I chose Edmonton as the setting for my inquiry after moving to the city from Vancouver. Although I was not very familiar with Edmonton, I was aware that it had a rich and diverse arts community, and so was hopeful that there would be many seniors who would have been attracted to becoming involved i n the arts as they approached retirement.  65  A s a new Edmontonian, I also looked forward to learning more about the city and its arts community, through the stories and experiences o f the participants. Inviting  Participation  . Purposive sampling guided my approach to inviting participation in the inquiry. Participants were required to be competent to give consent, able to communicate i n English, and be living on their own, or with family in the community (that is, were not living in an institutional care facility). In addition, I was interested in learning about the experiences o f those "55 years or older," "non-professional older artists," who had "established a serious commitment to art making in later life." Most o f the participants were identified through a process o f third party recruitment. I approached a number o f individuals who, because o f their occupation and position, I expected might be aware o f older adults who had become involved i n art i n a serious way in later life. These included administrators and coordinators with responsibility for a wide variety o f arts programming including: classes and workshops offered by art galleries and seniors' centres; and other classes offered in the community, including classes offered through the University o f Alberta, and an "arts i n medicine" program. I presented information about the inquiry to these individuals. If they felt that they knew someone who met the "inclusion criteria" (described above) and might be interested in participating, I provided a letter o f information (see Appendix A ) that they could pass onto the potential participant. With the exception o f one individual, all o f those who were contacted agreed to participate (no reason was offered by the one individual who declined to participate). When I learned o f a potential participant's interest in being approached, I contacted them by telephone. I provided a brief overview o f the study and arranged for a convenient time and place to meet. There were a few individuals who learned o f my study informally, often through conversations that we had when I was unaware o f their involvement i n art. When they expressed an interest i n sharing their experiences o f coming to art in later life, and the significance o f art i n their lives, I assured them that they were not obligated to participate. If they continued to express interest i n participating, I presented information about the project for them to review. Some o f the participants also suggested others who might be interested in being involved. Although I had originally intended to focus on the narratives and stories o f only three to five individuals, depending on the stage o f the  66  research, some o f these individuals were also approached as I was concerned about including a sufficient range and diversity o f experience that would help to outline some o f what might be important in appreciating the experience o f coming to art i n later life. I was surprised by the relative ease with which I met and connected with older adults who had come to art in later life. I was also impressed by their enthusiasm for sharing their experiences with me. The Participants A total o f 11 people agreed to participate i n this inquiry. A description o f each o f the participants is presented in the Chapter 4. Some o f the participants had dabbled in art making earlier in their lives, and then reconnected with art around the time of, or following their retirement. For most o f the participants (but not all), a serious commitment to art was indicated by the fact that they had sustained an art making practice over several years. Although I had originally planned on including only those who had publicly exhibited their artwork, believing that experiencing an "audience" was important in relation to having a significant realization o f themselves as an "artist," I became aware that a serious commitment to art could occur in the absence o f actively exhibiting one's work. G i v e n this, I dropped this as a requirement for participation. In addition, I made an exception regarding the 55 year age limit I had set when I learned o f a woman who had first become involved in art at 52 years o f age, and had completed an arts certificate in her early eighties. Beginning the Interviews Kvale (1996) suggests that at their most basic level, interviews can be considered conversations. He describes qualitative research interviews as "attempts to understand the world from the subjects' point o f view, to unfold the meaning o f peoples' experiences, to uncover their lived w o r l d " (p. 1). He views the interviewer as a "traveling companion," who invites "stories o f the lived world" (p. 4), and explores an individual's stories, thoughts, and insights into their experience. According to Kvale, interviewers encourage the interviewee to describe what is meaningful or important to them using their own words as the interviewer attempts to understand and construct meaning within the context o f conversation. The current inquiry was framed as an extended conversation over time. I intended to interview each participant three to four times each, over a relatively short period o f time (e.g., a couple o f months). However, I underestimated the amount o f time I would need to  67  work with the interview transcripts (reading and rereading, working with individual storylines, etc.) and failed to appreciate how useful it would be to compare and contrast storylines across different participants' interviews as a means o f discerning patterns in their narratives. After interviewing the first two individuals who agreed to participate i n the study (following the accelerated interview timeline that I had hoped to follow for all o f the participants), I learned that I needed a longer period o f time to work with the transcripts, to more deeply engage in a sensitive listening to, and appreciation o f the accounts that they had shared with me. Subsequent to this, I organized the interviews in successive waves. A t the beginning o f the first interview I reviewed the Letter o f Information, and obtained informed consent from each participant (see Appendix B ) . I elaborated on various details o f the study such as my role and intentions, the open-ended nature o f the inquiry, and outlined what would be involved in terms o f participation. I also responded to any concerns or questions they may have had. In general, I presented myself to all the participants as having great interest in the area o f art and aging, and also having some knowledge about the role o f the arts in society. The following offers an example: As I mentioned to yon earlier, on the phone, I've had a longstanding interest in art in general, how people become involved in art, and what it means to them. My own background is in psychology, and I've also worked in health and aging research. So I am sort of bringing all of that together. And, I also have an interest in art in my own life, not one that I've had a lot time to develop although I'm thinking about trying to do that, to realize my dream of getting involved in art myself sooner than later. That is also part of the reason I've chosen to do this. So that's a little bit about me. I've had the privilege now of interviewing several people already as part of this study, and now you today. I'm looking forward to learning about your experience of coming to art later in life. [PBM-Joyce (1,1)] I often related that although I had taken art classes earlier in m y adult life, I only had limited experience with art, per se, and shared that I was interested in immersing myself in the world o f art and art making when time and opportunity might permit. I also offered that I was interested in the opportunity that later life offers for becoming involved i n new or deferred interests. This beginning account follows the approach used by Mishler (1999) i n his study o f the lives and work o f craft artists to establish a provisional basis for understanding and trust (see pp. 26-27). In relation to leisure in later life, K e l l y (1993) has suggested that inquiry should be directed to contexts, barriers, and facilitating factors, as well as "the process o f activity, both  68  in the discrete experience and in the longer term line o f action" (p. 265). Following a general introduction to the inquiry, I invited the participants to share how they came to take up a serious art making practice i n later life, and the place or significance o f art making in their lives. I followed the stories the participants as they told them. I also had a list o f questions on hand to refer to as a guide (see Appendix C ) , but only posed a question as seemed appropriate as the participant and I "wandered together" within a space o f narrative storytelling, and attentive listening (Kvale, 1996). I followed an open-ended approach which allowed me to explore interesting and unexpected ideas and insights that emerged through the interview process. Most o f the interviews (which were audio-taped with permission) lasted from just over an hour to over two hours. A l l o f our conversations took place within the participants' homes, which also provided the space in which most o f them created and stored their art. Adrift in a Swirl of Stories The challenge o f holding onto the tension o f "knowing" and "not knowing", which defined the space o f this inquiry, was most pronounced when I first began interviewing the participants. Despite the relatively sure, solid outline suggested i n materials I had prepared to describe the study to participants (and implied i n the preceding paragraphs), I found myself adrift after completing interviews with the first two participants. I believe that the participants sensed my genuine interest in their experiences and my appreciation o f their art. I recall these initial interviews as being good-hearted, mutually-engaging, creative conversations. Still, I felt lost at times in the swirl o f all that the first two participants shared with me. They offered different reference points that I often didn't understand. While they trusted me to guide them through the interview process, I struggled to hold onto the objectives guiding the inquiry. I believe that they sensed this at times. A couple o f times through the course o f our conversation they wondered i f what they were sharing was helpful to me (also see Mishler, 1999, p. 30). A t times they asked me to prompt them with questions, seemingly to gain some assurance that they were providing me with helpful information. Feeling unsure o f my ability to responsively attend to all the participants had to share about their experiences o f coming to art in later life, I returned to explore new areas o f the literature, many o f which I covered in the previous chapter - retirement as a significant life  69  stage, art worlds, amateur artists, serious leisure, etc. In doing so, I hoped to achieve a more sensitive ability to understand the manifold meanings o f the participants' stories. A t this stage, I became increasingly aware that I was identifying the value o f my inquiry in relation to suggestive connections between artistic creativity and healing revealing an implicit grounding construction o f aging as a "problem." Recognizing this, I endeavoured to honour the participants' own focus on coming to art i n relation to creative excitement, being active and engaged, and the momentum that entailed. I was relieved that I had "built-in" an opportunity to explore significant aspects o f the participants' experience over the course o f successive interviews. Reflecting on the experience o f this early "pilot" stage o f the inquiry I also decided to modify my inquiry approach slightly. I had originally planned on sharing the audio-taped transcript o f our previous interview with each participant for review and discussion when we met for our next interview. Indeed, I did share transcripts o f my first interviews with the first two participants. However, what I quickly learned is that a transcript offers an awkward translation o f the original interview as one moves from speech to text, noting hesitations, repetitions, incomplete sentences, digressions, etc. (accepted features o f spoken language). A s such, my interview transcripts did not serve as a particularly useful tool for engaging participants i n the process o f reflecting on the stories they had related i n the previous interview (also see Kvale, 1996, pp. 163-165). Having reviewed his transcript, the first participant described feeling embarrassed by the documentation o f sounds and phrases such as "ah," "umm," "hmm," and "you know," etc. H i s self-consciousness made h i m question how valuable the information was that he had shared with me. Having reviewed a book chapter this participant had written about his academic life and accomplishments, I was aware that the transcript failed to reflect his usual standards o f written prose. I asked the second participant about her reaction to the transcript o f our first interview. She responded that she hadn't had time to closely review it, however, a quick glance had led her to wonder i f the interview had been helpful to me as she worried that she had rambled at different points. I suggested that it wasn't necessary to closely read the transcript (I hoped, in fact, that she wouldn't, and believe that her busy schedule precluded anything more than a cursory review o f it). I reassured the two participants that our conversations had been very helpful to me in beginning to appreciate the scope o f the  70  inquiry. I assured them that I was interested in the overall stories that they had to tell me, and emphasized that I was not particularly concerned about pauses, hesitations, or other extra-linguistic features embedded i n the transcripts. I promised that I would provide the interview excerpts I included in the final research text for them to consider in relation to both accuracy, and how well they felt the content portrayed them and their experience. I promised I would not include any material that they were not comfortable with in the final research text. Indeed at this final stage o f the inquiry the participants suggested additional changes that helped them to feel more comfortable with how I represented them i n the text. Ongoing Interviewing: Developing  Understandings  Having enhanced my awareness o f the range o f storylines and other thematic meaning dimensions that the first two participants had introduced me to, I continued on with the first wave o f interviews with an additional nine participants. Compared with my experience o f interviewing the first two participants, I was more confident about my ability to responsively attend to the participants' stories as they related these through our ongoing conversations. Recognizing that stories are often shared in fragments, and that the meaning o f an ongoing, developing story is situated in relation to the moment i n which it is told and the overall story coming into view, I became more comfortable with the different forms and rhythms o f the interviews. I attempted to respect the participants' own sensitivities and silences when asking them to elaborate on a particular storyline. Sometimes a participant would indicate interest in "moving along," suggesting that they had completed, or were tired o f exploring a particular story or question. When a participant asked me to clarify what I hoped to achieve, or otherwise asked for assurance that they were providing information that was helpful to me, I affirmed my open interest in their stories and experiences as these related to the broad objectives o f the inquiry. I reassured the participants that a l l that they had shared with me was helpful. The inquiry involved three phases o f "inviting and attending to stories." During the initial interviews, accounts about their early lives provided a context for understanding how the participants came to art in later life, and the place o f art in their lives. Questions during this phase were directed to gaining additional details about the participants' stories, rather than analyzing their stories. I presented a short, written summary o f our first interview to each participant during the second interview (which typically occurred about 10 to 13  71  months later), and invited each o f the participants to clarify or elaborate on my understanding o f the stories they had shared with me. In addition, I developed an early, tentative outline o f the storylines I had identified to that point o f the inquiry and asked the participants for their comments and feedback. I also began to focus on particular questions, such as how the participants' maintained a serious commitment to art making, identified themselves as an artist, etc. There were times that I worried that my questioning was too directive. Other times I regretted not having asked about particular aspects o f the participants' stories. What I was most concerned about was being responsive to what the participants had to say. I presented a final analytic model o f the significant storylines and meaning dimensions I had discerned within and across the interview transcripts to each o f the participants, including illustrative excerpts I had used from my interviews with them. I left this material with the participants to review, at which point we arranged to meet for a final interview, usually within a couple o f weeks. During our third interview, I asked each participant to comment on how well I had understood, and represented their stories, which sometimes resulted i n changes (primarily o f an editorial nature) being made i n the research text. I had used first and last initials to identify the participants in preliminary research texts. A t this point, I asked each participant i f they preferred to be personally identified i n the final text, or wanted to suggest a pseudonym that I would use to identify them. Other Empirical Materials: Field Notes, Artefacts,  Photographs  Sandelowski (2002) has suggested that researchers need to nurture the conditions that help them to "deeply engage the world. To read into, between and over the lines - and not just the surface o f words" (p. 107; also see Greene, 1978, p. 163). I wrote field notes immediately following each interview, and elaborated on them following my return home. These notes documented what had transpired during the interview that would not be apparent from the transcript, including different impressions and feelings that I was left with following the interview. In addition, I took photographs o f selected artworks chosen by the participants as being particularly significant to them, and collected artefacts as supplementary empirical materials. One o f my early intentions was to explore the experience o f coming to art i n later life through both oral and visual narratives o f older artists. I soon realized that this was too  72  ambitious an aim. Preoccupied by the complexity o f the interview process and the amount o f rich, in-depth information I obtained through successive interview waves, I became aware that achieving this two-fold objective would be an overly complex undertaking. I decided to focus primarily on the participants' stories and narratives regarding their involvement in art making. I did, however, collect artefacts that the participants shared with me (including life history materials, descriptions o f art programs and classes that they had attended, pamphlets describing their art shows, etc.) which was helpful in supporting and stimulating the interpretive work o f the inquiry. In addition, I explored local art worlds within the Edmonton area by attending workshops, galleries, and special exhibits, and striking up casual conversations with other amateur artists. I maintained an inquiry journal which over time helped me to become comfortable with the open-ended nature o f this inquiry, and helped me to slowly develop the understandings that I used to compose the research text. In the Midst/ Mist: Developing the Research Text A s I worked through the process o f developing a "final" research text, I returned again and again to the question o f what I hoped to accomplish as I attempted to discern storylines that were most relevant to this inquiry. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) describe the move from field texts to final research texts as being "layered i n complexity ... there is no smooth transition, no one gathering o f the field texts, sorting them through, and analyzing them. Field texts have a vast and rich potential" (p. 132). Mishler (1999) suggests that a "radical reduction o f available 'data' is an omnipresent feature o f narrative studies" (p. 153). There is always the challenge o f discerning and distilling a meaningful research story, and no one standard approach to analysis. In attempting to "make sense" o f all that the participants shared with me about their experience o f art making in later life, I began by considering the participants' interview transcripts individually, and then as a set. Similar to Freeman (1997), I found that I was inclined to "see actions together, as temporal patterns, configurations o f meaning, and to situate these configurations within larger wholes" (p. 175), while noting variation within the participants' accounts. I followed a thematic, or holistic-content  approach (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998) to reading the  interview transcripts. I considered both the overall life story o f an individual, and the "meaning o f the part i n light o f content that emerges from the rest o f the narrative, or in the context o f the story in its entirety" (p. 13). I also found that I was drawn to the stories and  73  experiences o f the participants who had developed a deep and abiding interest in, and commitment to, art making as a serious leisure pursuit. Perhaps because o f the depth o f their ongoing involvement and identification with art, these participants seemingly offered more "well-formed" narratives o f their experience. Following the initial interviews, I developed an overall impression o f each participant's story. I began by reading each transcript freely, jotting notes and questions as they occurred. During additional readings, I developed an overall sense o f the participants' narrative by noting starting points, transitions, and shifting storylines. I also noted ideas and phrases that caused me to think more deeply about the participants' stories. A s described earlier, I developed a brief synthesis o f each participant's overall story as well as common storylines I had tentatively identified across the participants' accounts which I presented to participants for their comments and feedback during the second interview. During the stage of "sustained analysis" (following the second interviews), I considered new ideas and stories shared by the participants. I reconsidered the storylines and themes I had initially proposed to the participants, through a process o f reading and re-reading transcripts and other narrative materials. I attempted to develop an interpretive account that would be both parsimonious and embracing o f the participants' stories, as well as offer a framework o f understanding that would be meaningful to both the participants and others beyond the scope o f the inquiry. I selected and analyzed excerpts from the interview transcripts with a view to identifying exemplar "text segments" that would serve to maintain the visibility o f individual stories and experience (see Thorne, Kirkham, & MacDonald-Emes, 1997). In truth, the preceding provides a more pre-determined sense o f the process than I actually experienced. I experienced more o f a sense o f moving forward, back, and sideways, sometimes slowly and other times more quickly, as I lived through the experience o f this inquiry. I constructed my understandings through the process o f reading and writing, and then re-reading and re-writing. I was aware o f parameters that set bounds on what I might include i n this account (such as conventions related to length, relevance, and potential contribution). Based on his inquiry o f craft artists' stories, Mishler (1999) offered that "just as respondents include only a small sample o f their life experiences, selecting what seems appropriate ... as the researcher, I followed a similar path . . . I am also trying to tell a coherent story. B u t . . .there is no specific set o f rules for this" (p. 110).  74  A n d so it went. The "final" research account is presented in Chapter 5.  Transition 3 ... The present inquiry was designed, redesigned, and lived over time. The foregoing offers some insight into the ways I approached, engaged, struggled along, and ultimately constructed the inquiry. In attempting to ensure confidence in the understandings that I developed, I repeatedly immersed myself i n the data as I worked to synthesize and abstract an analytic framework. I attempted to represent the participants' experience in a way that would feel "true" to them, at the same time as developing a text that would allow others to learn, see or feel something "that might have gone unnoticed or unexplicated" (Freeman, 1993, p. 222; also see Mishler, 1999, p. 157). I shared my narrative interpretations with the participants, and asked them to consider the degree to which my analysis framework "fit" with their understanding o f their experiences. Given this, I am hopeful that I have developed an interpretation o f the participants' stories that may be interesting and compelling, i f only because the participants have endorsed it. Excerpts from the interview transcripts have been included in the final text so that you, the reader, can also consider the narrative materials on which I based my interpretations. Having conducted the interviews which informed this inquiry, and having composed this research account -1 recognize that I am embedded in the text that follows. After reading this text, this "dissertation story" may also live on in your life as you consider some o f the ways that the participants and I made sense o f their stories through the course o f this inquiry... recognizing that we can never finally determine what things mean ... recognizing that there is no end to meaning.  75  CHAPTER 4 T H E PARTICIPANTS  The participants, eight women and three men, ranged i n age from 59 to 89 years o f age at the time o f our first interview in 2004. A l l o f the participants were Caucasian. Eight o f the participants were married (two were married to each other). Three were widowed. A l l lived independently in their own homes. The participants characterized themselves as being relatively healthy. Most o f the participants also appeared to enjoy a financially secure retirement, with the exception o f one woman who shared that she was facing some financial difficulties. Most o f the participants mentioned that they had children and grandchildren. Most had lived in Canada all o f their lives. During the time o f the study, all o f the participants lived within or near Edmonton, Alberta. Not selected to be representative o f the older adult population, the participants can best be characterized as having unique work, family, educational, and retirement experiences. With regard to the present inquiry, the participants were all involved i n the visual arts in some way. The majority painted. Although all became involved i n art following retirement, there was a diversity o f experience, skill, and commitment to art making among the participants. Seven could be characterized as being involved in art making as a "serious leisure" pursuit. They wanted to accomplish good work and devoted a great deal o f time to their art. They hoped that their work would be considered accomplished and successful - not only from the perspective o f family and friends, but also by their instructors and various public audiences that might view and buy their work. Their artwork was expressive, revealing considerable technical skill. M a n y o f the participants were engaged in different ways with various art worlds, both local and beyond. The following portrayals outline the participants' personal life histories and art making experiences. These are offered to provide a context for the storylines and themes that I describe i n the next chapter. When I asked how they wanted to be identified, eight participants chose to be identified by their real names. These included M a l c o l m McPhee, L i l l i a n Carleton, Bernard Wood, M a r y Topping, Helen Richards, Joyce Bjerke, G a i l Lane, and Lynda Barnhard. Three participants preferred to use a pseudonym: Terry Dean, and Madeline and W i l l i a m Litwin. In the following, I first introduce the seven participants who  76  described having a serious commitment to art making i n later life. I then introduce the participants who were involved in art making on a more "casual" basis. M a l c o l m McPhee A s neighbours, M a l c o l m McPhee and I had discussed his painting on several occasions. Born i n 1940, he had undertaken a serious course o f study in painting following his retirement. M a n y o f the walls o f his home, including those i n the vibrant art studio he had constructed in his basement, were used to exhibit many o f the 40 to 50 paintings he had created over the past 10 years. He recalled always having an interest i n art, sharing that "It's certainly always been in the background"  (2,52). When he was seven years old he was invited to j o i n a prominent  Anglican choir in Kingston, Ontario as a boy "treble." He continued with the choir until he was 17 years old, singing counter tenor and then bass. It was during this time that he learned to play the piano by ear. During a choir visit to Westminster Abbey an archdeacon noticed that M a l c o l m also had an interest in art, and introduced h i m to o i l painting. A r t was not his first choice for a career; rather, he had wanted to become a professional pilot. When he failed the Ishi Hari colour test due to red-green colour blindness he decided to go into medicine. He stated: I'm not even sure how that happened. I'm not sure why I decided on medicine, but I'm glad I did (2,194). A strong parental influence that may have encouraged or discouraged M a l c o l m from considering art or music as a career is not apparent in his story. M a l c o l m enjoyed a successful career as a surgeon in urological oncology. He initiated one o f the earliest laser technology programs for cancer treatment and palliation i n North America. In addition, he was committed to the human side o f medicine, including end of life care. H e openly cared for, and supported his patients throughout their lives. M a l c o l m emphasized his wife's contribution to his career. She managed his practice, took care o f their finances, and raised their three children. She was also a weaver. In addition to stories about his patients, some o f the most moving stories M a l c o l m shared were those that involved his first wife. He described the times when he would play the piano as she sat near  As noted earlier, I have used italics to indicate the voices of the participants that I extracted from interview transcripts. The paired numbers that appear in parenthesis indicate the interview (Interview 1 or 2), and the sequential number used to identify the location of the text segment from that interview transcript (numbering from 1 upward to 10,000). 7  77  him at her spinning wheel, listening and spinning, while he played a piece he had composed for her. A r t and music remained strong interests throughout his career. H e also enjoyed being a hobby pilot. Following his retirement, after he experienced several serious health challenges and the unexpected death o f his first wife, M a l c o l m began a formal study o f painting. A n excerpt from an artist's statement he prepared for one o f his early art classes follows: Mankind's greatest gift is the potential ability to transcend the structural reality of the world to experience and explore life more meaningfully through intellectual and emotional venues beyond our senses of sight and sound. Art to me is very much like my love of music and aviation because it allows me to escape some of my worldly confines to experience emotional (and sometimes philosophical) adventures where I can become part of the process. I want to learn more of the technique and philosophy of art so that I can more fully appreciate the works of others and facilitate my own efforts at creative expression. I want to learn to "feel" and "experience " art, which I now know is possible. M a l c o l m paints from sketches and photographs he has taken i n the countryside, wilderness and aerial vistas. In addition to painting, he enjoys travelling and spending time with his children and grandchildren. Classical piano also continues to be an important part o f his life. Following our second interview, I learned that M a l c o l m had remarried. H i s second wife, a dynamic woman and retired nurse, shares many o f his interests. L i l l i a n Carleton L i l l i a n Carleton was 84 years o f age when we first met. Although she experienced a number o f health ailments, what I was most struck by was her buoyant energy. L i l l i a n had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her early seventies, but was successfully treated at that time. She had also had cataracts removed from her eyes, and had arthritis i n both o f her hands. Her health concerns had, however, not swayed her from maintaining a strong connection to her art. When I arrived at her home for our first interview, she invited me to see her artwork and led me from room to room to show me all o f the work she had on hand. L i l l i a n frequently used the phrase "Oh, I love this one " (e.g., "I love this one of the poppies"  [1,2]) as she introduced me to a new painting. I was very impressed by her work,  and said so. Over a period o f about 35 years, she estimated that she had created over 800 paintings and drawings. I soon learned that L i l l i a n was recognized as one o f Alberta's finest community artists. Her paintings had been included in a multi-city tour o f the work o f the "best sketch artists in Alberta" that travelled to seven cities i n Alberta and British Columbia.  78  L i l l i a n described herself as being a landscape artist and a "colourist:" Oh, landscape is my thing. That's really what Hove doing. I love doing landscape (1,1222); I'm a colourist, see, I love colour (1,1346); / use a lot more colour than some people do. I love bright colours (2,1218). She worked primarily in oils and pastels. She completed the Fine Arts Certificate Program offered by the University o f Alberta's Faculty o f Extension when she was 82 years o f age. In the artist statement she prepared for her graduation exhibit she wrote: This exhibition is a small part of what there is to observe in the Alberta landscape. There is a lifetime of subject matter for the artist to choose from, only momentarily touching upon some of the highlights in the landscape that I am most familiar with. I have endeavoured to paint some of what I know best, that is central Alberta. Ifeel that through M'orking hard and by consistency of observation, I have developed good technical skills that have allowed me to give form to my vision. Please enjoy my view of the Alberta landscape. L i l l i a n attributed her appreciation o f landscape to the time she and her husband raised their two children on their farm i n the midst o f the beautiful vistas o f north-central Alberta. It was only after retiring from farming that she became involved i n a community art club. This signalled the beginning o f a significant new chapter i n L i l l i a n ' s life that centred on art making. I was struck by L i l l i a n ' s passion for art, the creative explorations that informed her art, and the luminous qualities o f her work. Her paintings helped me to enhance my appreciation o f the northern Alberta landscape. In addition to her painting, L i l l i a n enjoyed spending time with her family and friends. She was also a great fan o f the Toronto Blue Jays, and worked out at a fitness centre three times a week. Bernard W o o d When I first met Bernard W o o d he provided me with a tour o f the numerous paintings and sketches that he had on display throughout his home. He was 76 years old. Our conversation alternated between art making, his other current involvements, and his earlier life experiences. Bernard was born in 1928, in Sackville, N e w Brunswick as the youngest son o f a large family. H i s father died when he was nine years old. Seven years later when his mother was about to remarry, he recalled that she presented h i m with a long list o f career possibilities. K n o w i n g nothing about the profession, he decided on architecture which he came to view as a fortuitous career choice. He completed his degree i n 1950 at the  79  University o f Manitoba where he met his future wife. After visiting her family i n Edmonton, he shared "the next thing I knew, I had a job, and I stayed here" (1,730). In time, he established a successful architectural firm that specialized in the design and construction o f corporate and public buildings. Bernard made significant contributions to the profession o f architecture, serving in a number o f provincial and national offices, including President o f the Royal Architectural Institute o f Canada. He was also the Canadian representative for the Commonwealth Board o f Architectural Education. I asked h i m about other life interests he had at that time, and he said, "I never had time for interests. I worked very hard" (1,867). When he was 65, he passed his business on to his successors. Although he continued to work part-time for a few years to ensure a smooth transition, he experienced a sense o f loss, which he countered with a seeming characteristic positive coping response: / would have liked to have stayed on, but it was better for the firm not to. I didn't suffer over it. I got busy with other things that I enjoy. I started fly fishing a great deal. I got into art. I started playing golf when I turned 70. I played at it before then, but now I really play golf 0,951). Bernard estimated that he completes about 25 to 30 paintings a year. He primarily focuses on landscape and portraiture, working with both pastels and watercolours. H e works from sketches and from photographs he has taken. He also paints from memory. He has exhibited his work at different local venues. He used effusive language to describe his experience o f coming to art following retirement: It's all fun. I think it's really fun. Hove it (1,72); It's marvellous (1,808); It's just lovely (1,818). He associated his love o f art with his love for people and the interest he has always taken in life. M a r y Topping I met M a r y Topping by chance at the M c M u l l e n Gallery at the University o f Alberta Hospital. She was the guest instructor for the drop-in art session at the gallery that week and a number o f her works were on exhibit. When she learned about my project she offered to participate; I met with her at her home a few weeks later. M a r y had been born into a large farm family in 1915, in the hamlet o f Kennedy, Saskatchewan. She moved to Edmonton after graduating from high school to care for an invalid aunt, and a few years later began training to become a nurse. She met her husband soon after she started nursing and after the birth o f their son stayed home to raise him. She returned to nursing in 1962, and while she  80  enjoyed her work over time found the responsibilities o f being a nurse manager to be more than she wanted to handle: In those days you didn 't have help like you get today. There weren 't ward clerks or people like that. You had to do so much (1,297). She retired from nursing when she was about 57 years old. M a r y shared that she had been involved i n crafts and art classes in different ways throughout her life. Following her retirement, she was "looking forward to a slower pace, you know. Ijust followed different ideas of things to do" (1,303). She also looked forward to having more time to study art, hoping to take her interest i n art to another level. However, the realization o f her dream was delayed for close to two and half decades. A t 92 years o f age, Mary currently paints and exhibits, both on her own, and as part o f a collective comprised o f seven women artists who met as mature students when M a r y was enrolled in a fine arts degree at the University o f Alberta. Her paintings are primarily o i l on masonite, acrylics, and collage. She enjoys experimenting with mixed media such as twigs, barks, dried flowers, sand, and other natural forms and objects, along with glue, and paper mache. In an artist statement she wrote that working in collage "provides a three-dimensional  effect  that adds a sense of realism to her memory" and experience o f things. In terms o f subject matter, her work "focuses on the transient qualities of the natural world. " Her subject matter includes landscape, portraiture, and events across time, near and far. She often works from photographs, but sometimes works "on things just as I go, just from how I am thinking about it" (1,1019). M a r y described her health as excellent, having only a few aches and pains. She felt fortunate that she was "able to read and see enough to live comfortably"  (1,87) and was still  able to paint. M a r y was happy to attest to the fact that it is possible to realize a dream, even late in life. She said that people had been "so very kind" (1,190) to her throughout her life. From what I came to learn about her, I was confident that M a r y both through her o w n inimitable being and her powerful and evocative artwork had touched the hearts, minds, and spirits o f many. Helen Richards When I first met Helen Richards she was 76. Her husband, T o m Richards, was 88 years old. Although Helen described having an early interest in art, her first love was skating. She taught both ice dancing and artistic roller skating for many years. After  81  marrying and having a child she directed her energy to her home and family, as well as a number o f different community organizations and events. For example, from 1965 until 1983 she organized the Edmonton Federation o f Community Leagues "Ice Show." She initiated the idea o f the ice show and worked to ensure the participation o f any child who wanted to be involved. There were over 500 children in the largest o f the shows she organized. She had received a number o f awards in recognition o f her service to the community. When she was 55 years o f age she enrolled in art classes offered as part o f the Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association's ( E L L A ) 3-week "Spring Session for Seniors," in o  partnership with the Faculty o f Extension. A few years later, she founded the Laurier th  Heights Artists Society which, at the moment o f this writing, is holding its 16 annual art show. A t one point, her husband T o m joined our conversation. Following his retirement as Director o f Stocks for the Alberta Liquor Control Board, he taught courses, wrote a book, and prepared daily radio commentaries on wine for many years. In time, he became involved in the Laurier Heights Artists Society and soon came to share Helen's passion for painting. He attested to the value o f becoming involved i n the group, for the friends that he had made as well as all that he had learned and experienced. He was proud o f Helen's continuing role as organizer, promoter, and motivator o f the group. A t this point in her life, Helen's energy is mostly focused on her art. Although she said that she was not all that prolific, she completed upwards to 10 o i l paintings a year. In an artist statement she wrote: Although I have been going to the mountains since childhood, I have never tired of their majesty. Using a palette knife I try to bring out their rugged grandeur, and the flowing color of the rocks and foliage. I also enjoy the challenge of painting still life and flowers. M a n y o f her paintings are based on watercolour sketches she completes when she is i n the mountains, as well as scenes captured in photographs. She cited the Group o f Seven and her Latvian heritage as an influence on her work. After visiting her native Latvia in 1990, she "felt a need to illustrate and record my emotions. " She enjoyed learning about her Latvian heritage, and experimenting with the bold, stylistic ELLA, the Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association, in partnership with the Faculty of Extension, offers a Spring Session for Seniors that makes available a wide variety of non-credit courses in the fine arts, liberal arts, science and humanities, as well as those focused on well-being (see http://www3.extension,, retrieved on June 11, 2006).  8  82  approach o f noted Latvian artists. She often felt a sense o f surprise when she completes a work: / will look at something that I've done and I think, "Did I actually do that? " (1,308). She also experienced great satisfaction in having created a social world focused on art that is experienced and enjoyed by seniors and others within the community. Her motivation for doing what she does is to help others, to help to make things happen, and "have fun " (1,392). In addition to her painting and organizing efforts, Helen enjoys golf, curling, trips to the mountains, more distant travel, and visiting with her son and his family. When I asked Helen about when she had retired, she responded, "I don't think I'm retired yet. I don't feel retired, maybe when my body's starting to give out" (1,262). Joyce Bjerke Joyce Bjerke was 65 years old when I first met her. Joyce had been suggested as a potential participant by a senior staff person at the Strathcona Place Senior Centre. She had recently exhibited her work at the art gallery at the centre, and understood that I hoped to promote the benefits o f the arts for seniors through my research, which she wanted to support. After we spoke on the phone, she invited me to come to her home and meet with her over coffee. Joyce had been born into a large farming family i n Saskatchewan in 1939, the youngest o f 10 children. Although she had little early exposure, she felt that she had always been drawn to art. A s a young woman she completed specialty training in public health nursing. When she graduated she felt that she had "the world by the tail. " She described herself as being a young woman who was "full of energy and ideas" (1,94). She worked for many years on First Nations reserves, and then moved to Alberta after she met and married her husband. Together, they raised their daughter. Joyce worked as a community health nurse for the City o f Edmonton until she retired at 55 years o f age, and then continued to work part-time for a few more years. She said, "It takes about a year or two before you feel that you're really retired" (1,178). A t the time o f our interview, she described herself as being fully retired, but stated that she was "as busy now as I was when I was  working"  (1,190). Joyce's energy and interest was distributed across a number o f activities, many o f which she enjoyed with her husband: We are in a community choir. We rehearse every Monday evening. Tuesday and Friday mornings, I do pottery. Monday and Wednesday  83  mornings I go to the gym to power walk. Wednesday evenings I play my clarinet in the advanced community band. On Thursday, I'm in the intermediate band on flute. Saturday morning we go out for breakfast with the neighbours. Sunday morning we go to church. We sing in the church choir. And I also visit and spend time with family (1,190). She and her husband also curled in the winter, and were involved i n photography as a hobby. Joyce's account o f coming to art focused on chance, going with the flow, and committed determination. I was impressed by the evocative and compelling composition o f Joyce's artwork. She prepared the following "artist statement" for an exhibit at a local senior centre: Although she always had a keen interest in painting, it was not until the fall of 1994, after retiring from the nursing profession that she actually picked up a brush. Joyce received inspiration along the way from [a number o f well-known] Edmonton artists. Her watercolour paintings consist of a wide variety of subjects including old buildings, landscapes, animals, and flowers... Regardless o f her connection to art, she did not want to be solely focused on art. She was following a deeply held interest in art, but wanted to be free to experience it, not as a commitment or because she was following a plan, but just as she liked. She valued having self-directed free time, and a satisfactory balance o f different leisure options. She stated, "if I want to do it, I do it, that's by my choice " (1,202). For Joyce, this was her ideal. This is what retirement represented to her - freedom (see Gibson, Ashton-Shaeffer, Green, & Corbin, 2002, for more on the theme o f "retirement as freedom"). Terry Dean  Ah, but a man's (sl&) reach should tKued his grasp, or what's a heaven for? Robert Browning When I first met Terry Dean, I marvelled at how her home seemed to celebrate the beauty o f art and nature as a unity. Her loft art studio overlooked her living room, and expansive windows provided an unobstructed view o f a nearby forested ravine. I was surprised when she told me that she and her husband were planning to move to a new house in south Edmonton later that fall, only to find myself similarly impressed by the view o f the countryside that her new home offered. Following many delays and disruptions that she had experienced with moving to her new home, she was looking forward to enjoying the large art studio that had been specially constructed in the basement o f her new home, complete with a large window, full spectrum lighting, and storage space for completed artwork.  84  Terry was born i n London, England in 1936. She had an early, longstanding interest in art, but her father had discouraged her from pursuing a career as an artist. Instead she trained to become a teacher. After a few years she decided that there would not be much o f a future for her in England: I would be a classroom teacher all my life. Ijust couldn't face that, so I applied to Canada to get a teaching post here on the assumption that there would be more room for advancement (1,7). In 1961 she obtained a teaching position i n Calgary where she taught for several years. She sketched and painted during the summer. In addition, to fulfill the requirements o f her Bachelor o f Education program she completed painting and drawing courses, and a visual arts instruction course. In 1964, after finding that "Calgary was too controlled somehow " (1,9), she moved to Edmonton. Within a few years she accepted a position teaching art in a junior high school. She found the classes  "exhausting  but good, they were satisfying ... the kids enjoyed the art classes ... and I had great fun with zY" (1,13). In the early 1970s, she married her husband. Feeling a need for a career change she also completed a Library Science degree. Although she enjoyed working as a university librarian for the next 20 years, she found that she had little time or energy she could give to painting and drawing. Terry looked forward to retirement as a time she could immerse herself in her painting, and took early retirement at the age o f 55. A n excerpt from one o f her "artist statements" reads: / came to painting with enthusiasm, excitement and pent up desire, suddenly unleashed. So many years later, they are still in full flood. Originally, the subjects I chose appealed to me for their aesthetic qualities, especially rich colour, sensual shape, and the play of light and shadow. My paintings were realistic and 1 worked in several media including pastel and watercolour (sometimes in combination with ink), oil and acrylic. For some time now, I have been focused on abstract and non-objective painting in acrylic... My inspiration still comes mainly from nature's drama. I take hundreds ofphotographs, many of which I use as a starting point for sketches that I can develop into a painting. It is my goal to produce a series of truly original and beautiful paintings that will reach out and touch you. In addition to painting, she is interested i n photography, working with computers, and reading. She swims for exercise. She and her husband live in Arizona during the winter where she also paints. She also frequently visits with friends and family in England.  85  Gail Lane A neighbour o f mine had suggested that her mother-in-law would be a wonderful candidate to participate in my inquiry. After reading background materials about my study, G a i l Lane agreed to participate. A large bay window off o f her living room gave way to a forested front yard, offering a view that I imagined was similar to those she had enjoyed growing up as a child i n mining camps i n the interior o f British Columbia. Born in 1941, G a i l had completed training as a medical technologist at Vancouver General Hospital when she met her husband. They had one son, and spent a few years living in different cities before they finally settled i n St. Albert, just north o f Edmonton. Her engagement with art had ebbed and flowed over the years. She recalled that she had enjoyed drawing as a girl. In her thirties, she enrolled i n a few art classes and learned that she had a talent for drawing. When she moved to St. Albert, she considered joining a community art group, but found that those involved with the group were primarily focused on selling and exhibiting their artwork. Following this, she placed her interest in art aside at least temporarily. She became increasingly involved with raising her son, getting h i m to his various sports practices and school events. She also served as a volunteer and executive member o f different community organizations, including Meals on Wheels. Then, in the late 1980s when their health began to decline, she persuaded her parents to move to Alberta so she could support and care for them during their last years. It was only after her parents' death, when she was in her early 60s, that G a i l again became involved in art. She received a gift certificate for an art class as a Christmas gift, and subsequently enrolled in a few art classes with her daughter-in-law. G a i l enjoyed drawing on her own, and often created portraits o f her grandchildren. She preferred the immediacy o f sketching and drawing compared to painting, and described her art making efforts as "very satisfying"  (1,439). However, as we were finalizing a date to meet following her summer  holidays, I learned that her interest in art had been displaced by a new love for music that had recently taken hold o f her life. While drawing was an interest she had, the flute was a consuming passion that had enraptured her: It's taken over, it's just so delightful the joyous sound it makes (1,537). This was a surprising twist, which I thought offered a potentially interesting variation on the theme o f "coming to art" in later life. Over the course o f the study G a i l described a non-wavering enthusiasm for learning to play the flute.  86  Lynda Barnhard A t 59 years old when we met, Lynda Barnhard was the youngest study participant. A n art education program coordinator I had contacted at the A r t Gallery o f Alberta had passed on information about my study to Lynda, and she subsequently called me to say that she was interested in being interviewed. Lynda had experienced a somewhat difficult life. She had her first two children when she was quite young during a marriage that ended i n divorce. When she married her second husband a decade later, things became a bit easier for her financially. She had her third child at 39. She didn't know i f she would claim the label "retired." Although she had never held a long-term position, as a woman she felt that "you 're always cooking, you 're always cleaning... there is a lot on the financial  end I find  hard to deal with" (1,239). A t the same time, she wanted to "just kind of enjoy myself because now I have a life. My husband is in a nursing home, and my youngest can fend for himself for the most part" (1,321). Her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's 10 years earlier. The year before our first interview, he had fallen, broken his hip, and subsequently moved into a continuing care facility. Lynda visited h i m about once a week, travelling back and forth by city bus. She missed her husband, and often felt overwhelmed by maintaining her home and managing their finances. Her youngest son was unemployed. She hoped he would find a job to provide him with some direction, adding that the additional income would also be o f help. A t the time we first met, she was being treated for depression and anxiety. Although things had improved somewhat in her life when we met the second time (her son had just started a new job), she still occasionally attended a support group to help her deal with feelings o f depression. Her mother had taught her to knit as a young girl. However, she didn't recall being very interested i n art when she was younger, and only began to explore other crafts after marrying her second husband. A t this point in her life, she described art making as one o f her central interests. She began to take art classes at the A r t Gallery o f Alberta when she was 55 years old, after her youngest son had been awarded a series o f art lessons from a wellknown, professional cartoonist. It was at this point that Lynda learned about the weekly drop-in classes the gallery offered. The fee for each class was less than $10 a class (including all materials), which she felt was affordable. She said: The sessions are two hours long. I try to go every week. There are some classes that I miss because I'm not interested in  87  what they are covering, or something comes up that is more important, or sometimes Ijust feel tired and say, "Oh, I don't think I'll go tonight. " Different topics are covered over and over so if I miss a class I don't really miss too much, but it's not very often I actually don't go (2,490). Lynda sometimes worked on art projects at night, i f she had the energy: I try to paint about once a week outside of class. That's what one of the instructors says, if I paint once a week then I'll be able to keep my skills up, otherwise I won't. I know I'm a bit rusty right now because they 're doing some painting and Ifelt I was kind of awkward with the brush ... I was kind of struggling with it. I am thinking that I am going to have to start doing a little bit more painting (2,810). Although she had a consistent art practice, her work was not focused on a particular area or subject matter. She said, "I like to experiment, just putting things down and seeing what turns up, play around with it and then see that 'Oh, that doesn't look too bad, you know, having put things together like that'" (1,985). She had learned about a wide variety o f art media and techniques - acrylics, watercolours, gel transfer, collage, Chinese brush painting, printmaking, frottage rubbing, charcoals, pen and ink, sculpture, and clay. What she most enjoyed was o i l painting: With painting if you don't like it you can paint over it. It gives you more freedom of expression, so it's more relaxing actually to paint (1,813). Lynda showed me many o f the projects she had completed which she had signed and dated. She had also begun to explore the viability o f making cards, and selling them at her husband's long-term care facility. She planned on continuing with her art classes "as long as I can afford it. Right now, the price is right. It's $36 for six classes" (1,823). In addition to art, she also continued to enjoy such crafts as knitting, stamping, and plastic canvas. Madeline and W i l l i a m L i t w i n A t the time o f our first interview, Madeline L i t w i n was 72, and her husband, W i l l i a m , was 71 years old. They were suggested as participants by the director o f an "arts i n medicine" program at a local health care institution. Although they had no previous interest in art making prior to their involvement in the program, I was impressed by the power and beauty o f the soapstone sculpture they had on hand to show me. I asked i f others in their class had completed carvings o f the same calibre. They responded affirmatively, with W i l l i a m offering the sage insight that "il is quite amazing, what's inside of a person with a little bit of instruction " (1,1332).  88  Earlier in their lives they had been busy with work and raising their three sons. The challenge o f facing a number o f serious health issues had kept them busy later in life. After beginning to work part-time when he was 59, W i l l i a m fully retired at 66 years o f age after experiencing a heart attack. Madeline retired at 60 when she began to suffer from a debilitating neuralgia. She also suffered from a number o f other painful ailments and conditions, including plantar fasciitis. She recalled the anger she experienced as she struggled with the pain. A year long pain management course had been helpful to her. However, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 69 she "got angry all over again " (1,38). For many months she had worried that something was wrong. Repeated mammogram and ultrasound examinations failed to identify the underlying tumour. When she finally received a positive diagnosis, she had a mastectomy, lymph node surgery, and radiation. When depression later led her to contemplate suicide, she decided she needed additional help and was encouraged to participate i n the "arts in medicine" program. W i l l i a m , wanting to support Madeline during this difficult period, also enrolled in the arts program. O f the different options available, they chose to take the soapstone carving class together. They attended a 6-week session, a longer 6-month session a year and half later, and then a supplementary 3-week session several months after that. A professional soapstone sculptor provided instruction, and a psychologist facilitated the group. Following their first session, while on a waiting list for their second session, they attended a 3-day soapstone course offered i n the community that their son bought them as a Christmas present. Their story was less focused on art as a way o f life, but more so as a means o f coping with anxiety and uncertainty. W i l l i a m was glad to be supportive o f his wife, and learn more about her struggles. Working alongside others i n a similar situation, the art classes helped Madeline to cope with her feelings o f anger, depression and, at times, hopelessness. A s a cancer survivor for three and half years, the arts program has helped her to access the strength she needed to deal with the prospect o f recurrence, along with her other health problems. She has also gained insight into her husband's experience o f her illness. Together they have connected with a community o f others who are also coping with cancer. However, while others have continued on with soapstone carving on their own outside o f the "arts in medicine" program, W i l l i a m and Madeline were not interested in doing so. Madeline planned on taking some o f the other classes offered through the "arts in  89  medicine program," such as photography, life-sized doll making, and possibly, watercolour and acrylic painting, but these did not appeal to W i l l i a m . Rather, he listed health care appointments and funerals, family and friends as being the main activities that filled their lives. In addition, both Madeline and W i l l i a m enthusiastically described their regular "coffee club" outings that they enjoyed with friends. Twice-weekly they went to the local mall to enjoy morning coffee, good conversation, and have fun. Their stories put me in mind o f Cheang's (2002) study o f social interaction and "play" among seniors who also regularly gathered at a shopping centre food court.  Transition 4 ... A l l o f the participants who contributed to this inquiry were generous with their time, and appeared comfortable talking about their art making experiences. They thought my research topic was an important one. They appreciated my interest in their stories. Several o f the participants offered that they had developed new insights into their experience o f coming to art i n later life. A s for me, I was fascinated by the participants' stories. I was also impressed by the creative artistry and output o f the participants, and the pleasure they described i n creating their art. Although none o f the participants had been vaulted "into the limelight, illuminating (them as an icon) in the popular culture o f the day" (Stebbins, 1992, p. 68), aesthetic considerations were o f prime importance (see Dalley, 1984, p. xii). They were concerned about accomplishing "good work," and many o f the participants had acquired sufficient theoretical knowledge and attained levels o f ability that enabled them to successfully exhibit and sell their artwork. What the participants also had in common was that they did not depend on the remuneration they received from their involvement in art. For example, M a r y said: It's not a business with me, it's just my enjoyment (2,590). She also said that i f she had to do art for her living, "I might not be as happy about it as I am now, because mostly you don't feel pressured to do this for others, or because you have to (2,1018). Still, many o f the participants viewed their involvement as a serious commitment in their lives. I asked M a r y i f she considered her art to be a primary activity i n her life, and she replied, "It sure is " (2,596). G a i l , Madeline, W i l l i a m , and L y n d a described a less serious, ongoing commitment to art. G a i l , Madeline and W i l l i a m were ambivalent about developing their art making skills  90  much beyond what they had already achieved. L y n d a described a more casual and less sustained, or focused visual arts practice. A s noted earlier, Stebbins (1992) uses the term "serious leisure" to refer to activity that people find so substantially interesting that their involvement resembles a career " i n the acquisition and expression o f its special skills and knowledge" (p. 3). M y analysis focused primarily on the stories o f the seven participants who were involved in art making as a "serious leisure" pursuit. I did so as an analytic approach that assisted i n highlighting prominent meaning dimensions o f their narrative accounts. I also considered other significant aspects o f their experiences, and the experiences o f the remaining four participants.  91  CHAPTER 5 STORYLINES A N D R E L A T E D M E A N I N G DIMENSIONS Stories circulate, they are told again and again, changing over time, creating possibility, bringing things into being. In this inquiry, I derived three primary storylines as characterizing ways i n which the participants made sense o f their experience o f coming to art in later life: 1) "Coming to A r t ; " 2) "Flourishing through A r t ; " and 3) " A r t as Identity." The first two o f these address the meaning o f engaging i n art in relation to the participants' initial and emergent motivation, or how they experienced art making as rewarding. The third storyline considers the conditional and relational aspects o f the participants' identity constructions i n relation to their involvement in art making. The participant descriptions i n the previous chapter touched on these storylines. In this chapter I offer a more detailed description. Excerpts from the transcripts were chosen to illuminate relevant thematic content. Following Katz (1996), I am aware that the "meanings o f aging and old age are scattered, plural, contradictory and enigmatic" (p. 1). In the final section o f this chapter, I consider some additional thematic aspects o f the participants' narratives, and offer reflections on the significance o f art making as a casual leisure pursuit, and music as a form o f serious leisure. Coming To A r t A s is often the way with narrative, the participants and I found ourselves focused on "beginnings" at some point during our conversations. Typically, I asked the participants how they had come to art in later life, whether they had been involved i n art at different times in their life before retirement, and what inspired them to pursue an interest i n art around the time or after they retired. Meaning dimensions that I came to identify with the "Coming to A r t " storyline included: emergence of interest, early learning experiences, and art as life structure. Early  Beginnings  Beginning points in the participants' stories o f "coming to art" included: 1) early, intrinsic interest; 2) encouraged by others to explore art as an interest later i n life; and 3) otherwise becoming interested in art in later life. In relation to the first developmental pattern, several o f the participants recalled having an interest in art from early childhood. Different life experiences, however, had discouraged or thwarted them from making a firm  92  commitment to art earlier in their lives. For example, Terry and Mary emphasized their early interest i n art, and their ongoing hope or intention o f seriously exploring their interest in a committed way in later life. Early, Intrinsic Interest Terry: "This had been in my mind all through my life." In relation to her "coming to art" story, Terry described having an interest in art from the time she was young: My mother told me once that when I first went to school the teacher told her that I had a talent for art. I would have been five then. So it's always been there. It 'sjust that it's been frustrated  for  many years (1,504); Ijust liked to paint. I drew and painted a lot in my teenage years. Art was always my favourite lesson of the week (2,330). She described her interest in art as originating in childhood, and also as being embedded within a larger family context. She said, "I think it came from both parents" (2,358). She recalled: My mother did beautiful embroidery. And from the little I remember of her drawings and paintings, she knew what she was doing. I mean she knew how to suggest flowers without having to go through every single one and so on (2,304); I can remember my mother showing me how to draw a cup and saucer when I was quite young (1,75). She believed that her skill at drawing came from her father: He had this more technical approach (2,310). Still, a sense o f regret threaded through much o f her otherwise spirited and energetic narrative. She shared: This had been in my mind all through my life (1,75); It's just been one thing after another that has diverted me. When I was in secondary school, which would be like junior high here, there was an opportunity to transfer to a technical college where I could have studied art. My father worried that I would never make a living at art. So that was the end of that. It was a pity, you know. I wish I had had a bit more gumption. But when you are 12 you are not going to argue too much with your dad, are you? I mean, not really. He wanted me to be a teacher and pushed me in that direction (1,77). Her narrative encompassed repeated movement toward and then away from art as a career. She stated: It has been the story of my life. There have been several opportunities for me to get into art and each time there's been a reason why I've said no (2,262). In attempting to honour her deep and enduring interest i n art, she explored various compromise options, which at different points were interesting and agreeable enough, but none o f which she found wholly satisfying. Although Terry had taken art classes from time to time, and  93  taught art in junior high school for a few years, she focused on retirement as that period i n her life when she would have the time, energy and means to devote to art. She said: I knew I was going to paint...  A lot ofpeople say, "Oh, I don't want to retire, I don't know what I'll  do, " but I knew what I was going to do. I looked forward to doing my own thing - painting, drawing, and studying (1,400). A t the end o f our first interview I invited Terry to share any additional thoughts or information she might have. She offered the following to ensure that I understood the primary storyline o f her narrative: I'm coming to art in later life only in a sense because I've always loved to paint and draw for as long as I can remember. It's just that my desire has been frustrated for many years (1,504). Mary: "Art was an ongoing thing, all my life. " Mary emphasized the "always," ongoing nature o f her interest in art. She felt that she "must have had something of an idea about wanting to do art, probably from the time I was a child, because of how I enjoyed it" (1,309). She stated: I have always been interested in art, painting, drawing and things like that (1,55); It has been there all through my life (2,438). But having grown up during the Depression, she hadn't been able to consider pursuing her interest. Her interest i n art had not been encouraged when she was young. She said that she was "lucky to just have crayons or a piece of paper to draw on" (1,152). After she married, she became involved in such "everyday arts" as sewing and quilting, and had taken courses i n millinery, copper tooling, and other crafts. She talked about "taking these little community courses. You know, the ones they offer in community halls and places like that" (1,67); Art was an ongoing thing, all my life (2,464). After retiring, M a r y looked forward to pursuing her interest in art more seriously. She stated, "For years I had it in my mind that I would do art after I retired. When you 're nursing and looking after your house, you just haven't got much time for art" (2,1069). However, her intention to explore art more seriously was delayed for another 25 years. Following her retirement, M a r y provided her mother-in-law with caregiving until she was admitted to a nursing home. After her husband's death (a year following the death o f her mother-in-law), she continued to quilt, and take various courses with a friend who was interested in crafts. M a r y also enrolled in drawing and painting courses offered by the Faculty o f Extension at that time. She enjoyed these courses, but felt that she required a more sustained course o f study to progress with her art.  94  Ten years after her husband died, and a few years following the death o f her friend, M a r y decided to enrol in a visual arts degree program at the University o f Alberta as a parttime student. She was 80 years old. O f the many pre-beginnings, beginnings, short-stops and delays suggested i n her narrative, this was a particularly important event. In retrospect, she reflected, "I must have wanted to do U badly, to be brave enough to ask at my age to get in " (2,988). She was delighted to be accepted into the program: I was just thrilled, you know. I enjoyed eveiy day of my university studies (1,103); Zf was just such a great thing that that happened to me, my painting, and my studies, and everything (1,111). M a r y ' s decision to enrol i n this program led to the realization o f a long-held dream to attend university, and to devote her time to the study o f art: My parents weren 't able to give us that opportunity. We didn 't have the money (1,142); Going to university after being away from everything so long meant quite a bit to me (1,127); That they admitted me was a big thing (1,265). When I asked about what was different about the university program compared to the community courses she had taken, she emphasized the ongoing, sustained nature o f study that was afforded by taking a degree program: Having these professors teaching you and showing you different things, you learn and you improve greatly. You know, just doing crafts, you do your best but it isn't ongoing like your university studies. You don't improve ... it's just a part-time thing. But in university, you are always working to improve. You are always working towards that (1,311). I suggested that it sounded as i f she really wanted understand where she was going with her art. She responded: Well, I think, I got a lot out of it for my age, you know (laughter). I got enough out of it to make it a real pleasure (1,319). Through her studies, she learnt "more about perspective, and colour, and texture, and space, and all that" (1,618). Being involved with the same learning cohort was also important: Being there with the same people for six months, or for a year, you learn a lot from the other students as well as the instructor, too (2,506). Given macular degeneration she began to experience i n her first year, she did not formally graduate with her visual arts degree (she was not able to complete essays required for her art history courses). However she did "graduate as far as my painting  was  concerned. My paintings appeared in the grad show" (1,59). She exhibited her work with the graduating class upon the insistence o f the other students. This was another o f the many highlights she associated with her university studies: They didn't have to bother ... I didn't  95  complete my degree. But the class all insisted that I show my art, too. So that was nice. It was nice to know they wanted me (1,451). Since that time, her work has been exhibited i n different museums, galleries, and other locations. She is also a member o f several artist associations. M a r y ' s story highlights not only what might be achieved when one embraces an opportunity to become an artist, but also the possibilities that may otherwise be missed. Early Orientation, and Encouraged by Others Two o f the participants, L i l l i a n and Bernard, described having an early  orientation  to, but not an abiding interest in art. Rather, their involvement in art later i n life was facilitated by others, and motivated by emergent conditions. Lillian:  "What on earth am I going to do with all my time? " I asked L i l l i a n i f she  recalled having an interest i n painting when she was young, and she responded: Oh, I had some interest when I was a kid going to school. But I'm an old girl. I grew up in the "Dirty 30s " when everybody was poor, including us. ...I did do a bit of water colour at school but there was no way you could ask for paper and watercolours, because if there was any money you bought food with it (1,230). She recalled winning a prize for drawing i n elementary school. After completing high school, she married and began farming with her husband. She described this period in the following way: It was back in the old thrashing days when you had these 14 men you had to feed when they were pitching bundles, you know. And I had two little kids, and a great big garden. 1 enjoyed what I saw around me. That's when I learned my appreciation of the landscape. But I had no time to paint. When I lived on a farm I didn't paint. I was busy. I never painted until I moved off the farm. I didn't even know that I wanted to paint (1,226). L i l l i a n offered the following account: I'll tell you how I got started. When we moved into town, after giving the farm to our son, I thought, "What on earth am I going to do with all my time? " I was talking to one of my friends one day and she said, "Why don 'tyou join the art club? If you 're looking for something to do, we 're looking for students. All we 're doing this fall is drawing. You 11 only have to buy some pencils and paper, and if you don't like it you haven't got much money tied up in it. " She said, "Why don 'tyou come down and try it? " (1,709). L i l l i a n said, "I didn't know where to put the first mark down. A blank piece of white paper just scared me to death" (1,939). But she "tried it, and never looked back. It was immediately exciting to me" (1,713). She was 52 years old. She attributed much o f her  96  early growth as a painter to becoming a member o f the Studio 71 A r t Club. In the 1970s, the government o f Alberta made funding available to community art clubs for art classes and workshops. This was a period some have described as "Alberta's Camelot" (Fraser, 2003). L i l l i a n related, with some pride, that: We organized all this, we got instructors from the Faculty of Extension, we recruited all the students, we applied for grants which cut the cost for each student, cut it right down. Everyone was spoiled rotten because they got it cheap (1,779); Back in those days we had 10 classes before Christmas, and then 10 classes after Christmas and that's when you really learned something (1,823). She also enrolled i n art courses from the university through the Faculty o f Extension: I've got a whole list of courses I've taken. I've got pages of the stuff. I own the place (1,869). She was surprised by how involved she became in art making: I had no idea I would keep it up. When you first start out you don't know. I mean I was over the age of 50. You don't think you 're going to get a job doing something like this at that age, you know (1,851); I never really thought about it being serious. All I knew at first was that I liked it (1,1077). Although she recalled that her mother painted china, she didn't feel that she inherited her talent from her family. N o r did she place much stock on having an inherent talent for art making. Rather, she suggested all one needed was to have an interest i n art: Fve had people ... say "Oh, you must have a lot of talent. " And I said, "Well, I'm not sure that it takes a lot of talent. I don't think it needs to be in your genes. I think all you need is to want to do it. If you want to you will. If you have the interest, you '11findthat out. " I think that applies to anything. If it happens to excite you so much the better (1,975). Bernard: "My daughters ... asked me what I was going to do." Bernard did not recall having a defined early interest i n art. H e said: We never even called it "art" when I went to school. We called it "drawing. " ... I think I didfairly well in that sort of thing. My older sister who is an artist always felt I was good at sketching people for some reason. I don't remember that, but that's what she tells me (1,762). Born i n 1917, his sister had been a successful painter who had specialized in portraiture and landscape. She had participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and was a member o f the Society o f Canadian Artists. I asked i f he had ever imagined pursuing art as a career, or as an interest in later in life, and he said "No, I never thought that I would pursue it as diligently as I do now " (1,766).  97  Rather, Bernard's interest in art was mediated by his daughters' concern for how he would cope with all the extra time he would have after retirement. Bernard said: My daughters knew how involved I was with my firm, and this one time asked me what I was going to do when I retired. I said, "I don't know, draw or take piano lessons or guitar lessons or something like that. " Well, then they enrolled me in a watercolour course in the Faculty of Extension, at the university for my birthday. I thought Fd try it. ...It went well, and I was kind of hooked, but it was quite preliminary because I was still working. I'd come home at about 5:30, have a quick supper, and then I had to be over there at 7:00 until 9:00 or 9:30 and I was exhausted. So after that course ended, Ijust left it (1,58). In this, Bernard suggests a need for sufficient time before being able to commit to art as a serious life interest. He started taking courses again several years later when he retired: / thought to do it properly I had better take drawing lessons first. So I started taking drawing lessons (1,62). He offered the following reflection: You know, I think architects are the closest thing to artists. That's the way I see it. And when they retire, if they are financially  secure, well I  think it's just wonderful to take up art (1,861). He also described his "coming to art" story i n relation to luck. H e felt that somehow things had always come easily to h i m : Everything has been that way for me, all through my life. Things have happened for me, more than me being someone who was dedicated and determined (1,730); Everything has gone well for me. I adore my family. They've all been very good to me. It was their idea that I get interested in art I thought "Well, I will try it and see, " and I was lucky (1,742). An Element of Happenstance Three participants shared that they had an early interest in art, but did not intend to take up art i n later life. N o r did others encourage them to try art making as had occurred for L i l l i a n and Bernard. Rather, the "coming to art" narratives shared by Helen, Joyce, and M a l c o l m suggested an element of chance or  happenstance.  Helen: "I think it all happened because I want to help people." Distinctive strands i n Helen's "coming to art" story included art as an underlying interest, having a busy life, an interest in helping others, and having fun. Helen described herself as being "good at art in school" (1,111). A s a young woman, she took art courses offered by the Y W C A and through the art gallery. In her thirties, she organized an art show that profiled the work o f several emerging artists in Edmonton, to help two o f the artists in particular, a married  98  couple with three children who had emigrated to Canada after W o r l d War II and were struggling to make ends meet. But she did not do much more than that, at least at that time. When I asked why, she responded: I got married. I was working, curling, and taking ice dance tests, and I was also teaching skating, looking after our home and everything. I had a child. I got involved in the community. You get busy doing all kinds of activities. While teaching ice skating I conceived the idea of reviving a city-wide children's ice show. We involved all 18 of the community leagues in Edmonton. I directed and produced the show. I oversaw the choreography, music, costume design, and all the arrangements! (1,336). I asked i f she planned on focusing on art later in her life, and she replied: No, skating, that M'as always my first priority I'd say. Then all of a sudden you can't skate any more, so I had to find something to do. It just sort of happened more than anything, really (1,340). She described how she "came to art" i n the following story: Let's see, in 1973 when I was about 55, we had a neighbour who was a veterinarian. He had severed his spine and had to sell his practice because he couldn't operate any more. I used to have coffee with his wife, and I knew he was very depressed. I also knew he liked art and had gone to university and taken painting. So I said, "Ed, let's go to Spring Session at the university offered by the Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association. " It was a 3-week course. You painted every morning for three weeks. The fees were low then. But then I went every year after that even, because Ijust enjoyed it so much ... that's how I started to paint every summer (1,157). A number o f years after this she brought together a group o f people who would be willing to pay for a series o f lessons offered by "a wonderful artist" (1,175) who was in need o f additional income: She agreed to give us eight weeks of lessons at the Laurier Heights Community Hall. We had to get at least 10 or 12 people to pay her (1,175). A t that time there was a group o f doctors who were taking art classes at a local artist's home: They were called the "Sunday Morning Doctors Group. " They were all retired, or getting ready to retire, and they had to find a new place when his [their instructor's] health  startedfailing.  They formed the nucleus of the group (1,181); That's how the group started, the Laurier Heights Artists Society. She taught us for about eight weeks, and then we painted on our own. And we just all kept painting, you know. (1,175). In existence for over 15 years, the Laurier Heights Artists Society has grown to include upward to 30 people. Helen shared that "lots ofpeople would like to join, but we just can't handle any more " (1,224). I asked i f it  99  surprised her that she had become as involved as she had with art in later life. She replied: No, I never really felt that I was going to, but how I can say it? I've always had a lot of confidence in my ability to do things, and I've never taken no for an answer (1,370). She summarized her "coming to art" story by saying: It just happened. You know, it just happened ... I think it all happened because I want to help people (1,404). Joyce: "I had an interest in art and I decided to explore it. " Joyce had not been exposed to much art as a child: There were a few crayons and I liked to color, but that's as far as it went (1,2). However, she recalled when her daughter was young they would "sit in the backyard, and paint watercolour pictures together. That's the beginning" (1,4) - or a beginning. She also shared that she had signed up for watercolour classes at a senior citizen's centre when she was 55 years old. I asked i f she had planned to become involved i n art when she retired. She repeated at different points in our conversation "I go with the flow" (1,198). She said: I take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. When I was working, I had routines, schedules, and deadlines. Now freedom is important to me. I do things only when I want to do them. I like to keep my antennas up and go with my intuition. If something feels right, I do it. If Ifeel like this might be the time to try something, I'll do it. I'm not afraid to take on a challenge. I don't have a long range plan (1,200). She didn't feel that she had a natural talent for art. She said: It was hard to go to that first series of classes. They were directed to seniors and I didn't feel like a senior. Ihadn't retired yet. But then, it was also advertised as being for people 55 years or over, so I decided to try it (1,244). Even with these details, I still found myself grappling for the "beginning point" o f Joyce's "coming to art" narrative. During our second interview, I asked about how she came to art, the moment she found herself drawn to enrol i n her first course. I asked, " D o you remember telling me about the art class you had signed up for, I think you had signed up for it with a friend?" She responded: Yes, that was Georgie. That's how it all started, too. It was my brother-in-law's  birthday and he had asked us if we would pick Georgie and Ernie up  because they 're older, they 're 80 now, and we said "Oh, sure. " So we picked them up and as we were driving along that time, Georgie was looking at the sky and said, "Look at those clouds, they are just so beautiful. Oh, that would be so nice to paint. " I looked at her and asked, "Are you an artist? " She said, "I work at it. " We talked about the clouds a while longer, and then she asked, "Why don 'tyou come to this class?, " and that's how it  100  happened (2,90). Joyce explained: I had an interest and I decided to explore it (2,116); It is no use just thinking about it. You either do something about it, or forget it. (2,122). Malcolm:  "Art helped me get through the horror of Barb's sudden death. " M a l c o l m  described his interest in art as having been present from an early period: It started way back when I was young (1,2); Il seems I always, always had this in the background (1,6). A s noted i n the previous chapter, M a l c o l m ' s early interest in art was recognized and encouraged by an archdeacon when his choir visited Westminster Abbey on one o f its tours. He showed me the painting he completed i n the archdeacon's studio, sharing "That was in 1953, I was 13 years of age, that's sort of when it started" (1,8). Later when he started his medical practice, he recalled a colleague who advised him to "take a course in anything you like, but the rules are that it can't have anything to do with medicine " (1,18). He continued, "You just can't be focused entirely on medicine. You have to have a broader outlook to keep your mind alive " (1,32). Given this advice, M a l c o l m took two watercolour courses and a life drawing course at the Faculty o f Extension which helped h i m to learn "some perspective and technical understanding"  (1,26). Very quickly, however, he became very busy in his  career: I was doing all this surgery and I was doing research, teaching, all these things, so I didn't have time to do much (1,18). He attempted some painting during his holidays, but shared: I only had a few holidays and when I tried to paint, well I wasn't very good, and I got sort offrustrated,  but Ijust didn't have any more time (2,285). M a l c o l m described his  connection to art during this period as a continuing interest, but not a consuming passion - at least not until later life. He found an outlet for his creative expression by doodling during meetings and drawing on patient charts: I used to draw on patient charts a lot... these big fancy operations, you know, I'd draw all the cancer and what I was planning on doing. I would draw it very artistically and some of the nurses would tease me about this. They would take the chart and show it to the patient, and the patient would say, "Oh gee, I want to take that home and frame it"... it was a fun thing; I was teased about it all the time. ...So the art was always there (1,178). In the 1990s, a number o f events conspired to shift the focus o f his life. In the fall o f 1992 he suffered a cardiac arrest, and received an emergency angioplasty and later underwent a triple bypass operation. When he returned to work he faced multi-million dollar cutbacks to the Alberta healthcare system introduced by the K l e i n government which he  101  strongly and publicly protested. In early 1995, when he was 55 years old, M a l c o l m faced the unexpected, traumatic loss o f his wife as a result o f an apparent major event related to sleep apnea. A few months after returning to work, he experienced a recurrence o f his cardiac problems, and in the fall o f 1995 was also diagnosed with a brain aneurysm (both were successfully treated). It was at this point that M a l c o l m elected to take early retirement. Ten months after his wife's death, and two months after he officially retired, he enrolled i n painting classes. He explained that "art helped me get through the horror of Barb's sudden death" (1,42). M a l c o l m ' s account offers an example o f a longstanding peripheral life interest that became a central life interest. What is unclear is whether he would have become committed to art i n later life, except for the role that it played i n helping h i m cope with the challenges that he faced around the time o f his retirement, including the unexpected death o f his first wife. Trajectories of Chance, and Influencing  Conditions  The participants' "coming to art" narratives demonstrate both continuities and discontinuities across lives and time. Although most o f the participants recalled having an early interest in art, they became committed to other careers: being a doctor (Malcolm), a farmer (Lillian), architect (Bernard), nurse (Mary and Joyce), a teacher, and then a librarian (Terry), a skating instructor and community volunteer (Helen). None o f the participants described themselves as being artists who also had to make a living. Most o f the participants enjoyed successful and personally satisfying careers. For example, Mary said: When I was nursing, I really put myself into it. I enjoyed it (2,1093). Helen said that she "always loved skating. Oh, Ijust loved skating" (1,336). The participants also described other significant commitments, for example, to their family. Terry and Mary, who had an ongoing desire to become involved in art throughout their lives, cited competing responsibilities and concerns as inhibiting factors. Committing themselves to art remained a deferred dream. For L i l l i a n and Mary, their interest i n art had been muted in part by the historical context o f growing up during the Depression. To consider art making as a career would have been beyond their family means. Terry and M a r y also referred to conventional gender role expectations as having constrained the range of career options available to them to consider. Terry was encouraged to become a teacher, and M a r y chose nursing. Still, while Terry and M a r y described feeling compelled to explore  102  their interest in art (and looked forward to their retirement as a time they could do so), the other participants' interest in art emerged and evolved over time. M a l c o l m turned to art after the unexpected death o f his wife, and his own early retirement. L i l l i a n and Bernard also became involved in art making, in part, because o f concern they would have too much time on their hands when they retired. L i l l i a n completed her Fine Arts Certificate only after the program was reinstated, and following the death o f her husband. She said: As long as he was living, well, I wouldn't enrol in the certificate program because I couldn't spend that much time. I would have ignored the poor man and I couldn't do that. He needed me. ...I never regretted anything I did for the man though, because he was such a good man (2,1206). It was only after her friend died that M a r y felt free to finally explore her interest i n art by enrolling in a university-based visual arts degree program. A n additional schematic aspect that appeared to influence the progression o f this storyline included acquiring skills and knowledge about painting. M a n y o f the participants invested a significant amount o f time, effort, and other resources to acquire skills in painting and drawing. Most o f the participants followed formal and progressive, or at least reasonably systematic forms o f art education, with the aim o f mastering different artistic media and techniques. Their interest influenced the effort they expended i n learning skills and techniques. In addition, there were rewards they experienced through this process. A s Mary noted, becoming skilled at art making helped to make it "a real pleasure"  (1,321).  Likewise, M a l c o l m attributed his enjoyment o f painting to the quality o f instruction and lessons he received: / wasn't very good until I got lessons (2,100). He took classes with a "wonderful teacher " who had exhibited her work in art shows i n Europe and N e w Y o r k : She took me 'under her wing.' I had five years of classes from her, starting with a beginner's class, and after five years I was in a critique class with professional  artists.  ...It  was quite a wonderful time (1,42). After he retired, Bernard applied himself to the study o f art techniques: I took three or four courses in drawing, Drawing I, Drawing II, Advanced Drawing, something like that. The same for pastels, and certainly the same for watercolours. So lots of courses (2,145). L i l l i a n had participated in many art-related workshops and courses. She attested to the benefits o f receiving instruction i n drawing and painting techniques: You might learn from trial and error, but you would probably spoil an awful lot of stuff and waste a lot of paint, so  103  it's better to take a course ... so you can practice the right way straight off the bat (2,951). After retiring, Terry also "took loads of courses " (1,87) and studied with many well-known local artists. Helen has participated in art courses offered as part o f the 3-week "Spring Session for Seniors" for over 30 years. She shared, "I do it just because I enjoy it so much " (1,169). Joyce had taken art classes with friends at senior citizen's centres and community centres from time to time which had helped her to learn "about watercolour techniques and colour theory, which has contributed to my knowledge, skills, and confidence"  (1,14). She  benefited from critiques that the instructors offered: Sometimes instructors can see things that you can't. Their suggestions often just make the image "pop" (2,191). She also acknowledged the value o f working alongside other students: They see your work, and you see how they are progressing,  and somehow that helps you to understand what works and  what doesn't work. Working alongside others can create a real sense of excitement and awe when you see all that can be accomplished (2,482). Being pleased with their work, or having their early efforts recognized in some way, also featured as an important aspect i n many o f the participants' "coming to art" stories. Joyce presented an exception to this. I asked i f she found that watercolours came easily to her when she first started. She said: No, but I am not a quitter. I always find that things get easier with practice. As I have learned more and improved, my love for painting has grown. I find that I enjoy it more and more (1,270). She allowed that had she made little progress over time, she would likely not have remained committed to watercolour painting. W i t h respect to the other participants, L i l l i a n recognized early on that she "had a natural ability for composition, " (2,941). What she "had to work on was colour" (2,947). I asked L i l l i a n when it was that she began to create paintings that were o f such a quality that she considered exhibiting her work. She replied, "I would say almost immediately because a year after I started, ... one of my pictures got juried into an Alberta Community Arts Club  Association  exhibit. ... When that happened, I thought that maybe I had something. My painting  looked  as good as anybody else's that was there, and I was just starting out after all" (2,923). When I asked Bernard how long it took before he was pleased with his art such that he felt comfortable exhibiting his work, he responded: Drawing? Immediate. Pastels? Immediate. Watercolours? A year, a year and a half of trying (2,538). He also suggested that his continued involvement in art was predicated on his early success at it: When I signed up for  104  that first course in pastels, I thought, well, I am going to try it and see if I like it. If I am at all successful, I'll stay with it for a little while, otherwise this will be the last day I'll be here (1,293). The encouragement o f art instructors mattered to the participants and often provided powerful motivation for staying involved in art. The reputation o f these noted professional artists served to legitimize and strengthen the encouragement they gave to the participants. L i l l i a n made mention o f a local artist known for his work with pastels who "really liked" what she "did with pastels " (1,893). One well-known artist and art instructor said about one o f Bernard's works, "Boy, that painting really sparkles" (1,518). Reflecting on this, Bernard said: You know, having an instructor looking at the work of a rank beginner and having them see some promise in it, Ifound that encouraging (2,544); When they are  encouraging,  it certainly keeps you going (2,442). Bernard took as many courses as he could from instructors who were the most encouraging o f his efforts. Helen said: I really think any success I have had is due to the guidance I received from this one instructor. She is really the one who pushed me on, and encouraged me (1,576). A noted Edmonton artist also became Terry's mentor after she took a course with her. She described this event as "a turning point... she recognized that there was potential in what I was doing and that she could push me farther .... We worked together for many years" (1,253). Several o f the participants shared stories o f how their instructors influenced not only their commitment to art, but the direction they followed in their work. Although M a l c o l m had planned to work with watercolours, his art teacher suggested that she would teach h i m to work in acrylics "because it would mean that I would be able to move between watercolours and acrylics, back andforth,  and it's true. I do quick sketches with watercolours, and I paint over them  with acrylics. It really works well for me " (2,287). Bernard said: I had been drawing for about a year, when this instructor came up to me and suggested that I might want to try pastels. He helped me get into pastels, and I love pastels. Pastels are one of my favourite mediums (1,68). Terry's mentor advised her to focus on acrylics'. She said, "Don't get into all the mediums, stick with one. " I ignored her advice for the longest time but am now working with acrylics (1,253). Many o f the participants experienced early, substantive recognition for their work. Soon after she enrolled i n her fine arts program, Mary completed a series o f eight o i l and  105  collage paintings mounted i n old window frames that commemorated the experience o f those who lived through the Depression. A fellow student suggested the series should be exhibited at the Royal Alberta Museum: She phoned the museum and they interviewed me, and I had my Great Depression series exhibited there for a month (1,457). The series was subsequently moved and continues to be on display at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald i n downtown Edmonton. Helen sold her first palette knife painting o f the Three Sister mountain range in Banff to the wife o f the president o f the University o f Alberta. Helen said, "That was at our first show, 15 years ago" (2,1053), adding "sometimes you're just lucky, somebody just likes your paintings"  (2,1061). During one o f his early courses, an instructor  that taught Bernard liked one o f his pastels "so much that they hung it in a little gallery they have in the Faculty of Extension building" (1,125). Art/ Learning as Life Structure In the foregoing, I have described some o f the ways the participants "came to art, " covering such aspects as how and when their interest originated, pathways leading to, and factors that influenced their commitment to art i n later life. The participants' commitment to art was also supported by what they hoped to achieve. Formal instruction often just provided a starting point as the participants continued on their own "learning path" to develop their artistic vision and stylistic approaches. A r t offered an ever-expanding domain for learning that deepened their knowledge of, and interest in art making. The participants' commitment to art was also supported by how they structured their life. Supporting routines and goalsetting helped to sustain their focus on their art. Their involvement in learning communities also provided an important sense o f connection and support for developing their art making skills and abilities. For example, L i l l i a n described her involvement in the Studio 71 A r t Club as being integral to beginning and continuing with her painting over the past 30 years. Although she said, "There are just us older grey haired ladies now " (1,791), they continue to meet monthly at each other's homes. They try to bring a new painting each time: If we don't take a painting we get fined 10 cents. ... We have lunch and then we have a critique, and we tell each other what we think might be wrong with a painting, how it could be fixed, or whatever. Sometimes I don 'I pay any attention to what they might say. If I like it the way it is, I'll leave it alone, but sometimes other people see something that you don't see (2,264).  106  She maintained that they weren't "mean or miserable about the critique" (1,1136). Rather, L i l l i a n said they had fun. They also shared information about opportunities for promoting their work and participating in different art-related "happenings" i n the local art world. For example, L i l l i a n along with several other members o f her art group had created panels for the Buffalo Twins: Alberta/ Saskatchewan  Centennial Mural Mosaic that commemorated the  centenary o f both Alberta and Saskatchewan. The members o f her art club also organized 9  group exhibits together from time to time. Three members had completed fine arts certificates through the Faculty o f Extension, and another member was working on her certificate. L i l l i a n said that she was always noticing things, even when she wasn't working on a specific project: / think about my art almost all the time, even when I am not working on something, I think about it. I do. I think about things I might start working on. Ijust notice things, and think about it (2,1186). She tried to paint at least once a week. She painted at her kitchen table: I've got two plastic table cloths that I put over this table. Sometimes it doesn 7 see the light of day for three months if I get really busy (1,987). She visited art galleries as often as she can, noting that "there's nothing like going to an art show. Just go to a gallery and look at everything. You know you just get so inspired you want to come home and paint right away" (1,1140). She was also in the habit o f taking her camera with her when she went places: A few weeks ago, when I was at the cemetery and I was waiting for the others to arrive I thought, "Well, OK, I'll just drive around here and see if I can find some nice trees " (1,1268). She acknowledged that the "most difficult thing sometimes is motivating myself. It can be a challenge, no matter who you are or what age you are, sometimes you need to get yourself motivated" (2,560). Still, she maintained "once you get the first brush wet then you 're not too bad, you get going" (2,580). Setting different goals often worked to provide her with the motivation she sometimes needed. She sometimes challenged herself by restricting herself to a "limited palette:" You can't do just anything with a limited palette. Like, you can't do a spring picture, because you can't get bright green with it. It was a challenge to even try and paint a July scene but I wanted to see what I could do with three colours and white (1,164). Another time she painted what she envisioned when she read a Robert Frost poem: It talked about a 9  This massive mural was unveiled in Edmonton in 2005 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. 107  house with a light on, with the smoke coming out the chimney, and other buildings, and a church... and there was a lake, a frozen lake, but I'll be dashed if I was going to paint a frozen lake - most uninteresting. And I put a little more light in the sky than what the poem suggested (1,284). The goal o f completing her Fine Arts Certificate contributed to one o f the most artistically productive periods o f L i l l i a n ' s life. She began the program i n 1974, but after a year or so the program was suspended due to funding cutbacks. When it was reinstated many years later she submitted her portfolio, and worked hard on the remaining requirements she needed to complete. During her last year, when she was 82, she completed 26 pastel paintings and drawings in 10 months for her solo, graduation exhibit: I don't know how I did it. I don't know if I could do it now. That was two years ago. I don't know if I could do it now, or not. I really worked hard. Everybody thought I'd died (1,441); ...and my house went to pot, you know how that goes (2,1210). When we met the second time, she described needing to somehow feel compelled by the subject matter before she started to work on a painting. She recalled how she had planned to paint a Sturgeon River scene. She even "had the picture picked out" but perhaps because she "had painted a lot of pictures of the Sturgeon River" couldn't seem to make herself do the painting. She decided instead to do a series o f flower paintings. She had started exercising regularly again: It's making me feel more alive, and has helped my art in that way. It's helped a lot of things, except that it's taking time away (2,874). However, going to her fitness centre often meant that she would not paint that day: / might go to the grocery store, not every time, but there's always some other little thing that you can do when you 're out that you might as well do, like go to the post office, that sort of thing (2,76). A s described earlier, Helen attended "Spring Session" every year for three weeks o f intensive art instruction. Her involvement in the Laurier Heights Artists Society also provided a supportive, non-judgmental forum for developing her painting skills and abilities. Sessions are held twice a week at the community league hall located near her home, with about 15 people attending each o f the two days. T w o to three 8-week long workshops are organized each year with "good artists" brought in to offer instruction. These opportunities are held on Mondays for those who are interested. Thursdays are reserved for simply painting as some o f the members have "already had their fill of lessons and just want a place to paint "(1,183). Helen encouraged her husband to become involved i n the Laurier  108  Heights Artists Society, and otherwise organized her life so that she could regularly paint on a twice-weekly basis. She asserted the importance o f the art group in maintaining her involvement in painting: I don't think I would paint if I didn't have this group because something always takes your time, like housework. Or, if you 're having somebody for dinner, you feel that you can't paint because you've got to do this and that (1,187). She reiterated this point when we met the second time: I wouldn 't paint if I didn't go to our Monday and Thursday session. I would find it hard to find the time (2,487); A lot of people in the group say they wouldn't be painting if they didn't have the group (2,495); The group motivates you (2,521). Helen's goal was to create paintings that were not just competently executed, but inspired a visceral response and reflection on the part o f those who viewed her work. She said, "I think that what most artists are trying to accomplish is creating a feeling in the viewer. If an observer can sense the emotion you have attempted to create in a painting, if you can do that, then you are a very, very good artist" (1,416). Terry also described wanting to create a "painting that expresses my feeling, and evokes feeling, and has aesthetic qualities" (1,271). L i l l i a n described how she hoped to "put some of how Ifeel about things into my art. ... so someone else might feel it too " (2,1043). Helen's goal was to create paintings that were more than just "a pretty picture " (2,1221), referring to attempts at realistically reproducing a scene that in the end are dull and lifeless. She continued: I want to create something that makes you want to really look at it (2,1491). She also wanted "to create paintings that are good enough to put in our show " (2,1477). Helen described her work in relation to different phases. When we first spoke, she shared: I'm in my Latvian period right now (1,692). When we met the second time, she noted that: This year our show's going to be entitled "Our Alberta " so we 're trying to get everybody to do a painting of something that relates to Alberta as part of the Centennial celebrations (2,447). In addition to attending "Spring Session" and her twice-weekly art club sessions, she also attended critique sessions that the Edmonton A r t Club organized once a month. Helen said, "It keeps you sharp, it keeps you on your toes " (1,322). She continued, "They are sensitive to people's feelings, you know, they talk about positive aspects of your painting. But they also give you good feedback on your composition, use of colour, and things like that. You learn every time you go to the Edmonton Art Club. I do anyway. Every  109  time I go I learn something. ... I think you have to go and experience lots of critiques, to be able to learn to assess the quality of your work (1,510). She emphasized this point by stating: I think you have to keep learning all the time. Especially in art, oh gosh. You just, just have to keep learning (1,518). Shortly after he began to take art classes again, following his retirement, Bernard joined the Laurier Heights Artists Society (organized by Helen). He was careful to divert requests "from friends to meet them, or dental or medical appointments, or anything. " Rather Bernard would reply, " 'No, let's try for Friday morning,' that sort of thing, to protect that Thursday afternoon " (2,277). He added: It's great because it's a discipline.  It's  a weekly thing. You can't say, "Oh, I'll do it next week, " you can't (2,434). He also works on his art at home in his basement art studio: I have a habit, which is quite different from other artists, of cleaning up completely when I'm finished that if Ifeel like painting  ...  there's no preparation time. I go to my drafting table and all my equipment's laid out and ready to go. It helps me to get at it (2,283). He described the summer months as being "pretty slack" (2,275). He said: I must admit in the summer time I spend more time thinking about golf than I do about art. But in the winter time, different story (2,522). While his drafting and illustration experience had been helpful to him, he felt that the greatest challenge he had faced was to move beyond a technical, architectural approach to art and develop his own unique style. When he was talking about his artwork one day, his friend said "All my life I have never been able to draw a straight line, " to which Bernard replied "I have been drawing straight lines all my life, and now I am trying to learn how to undo that, " an interchange that led to good-humoured laughter. Bernard reflected, "It was really sort of fun" (1,804). Bernard's artwork was inspired by whatever he found "intriguing and that draws me to it. You know, whether it's a still life of a bunch of leaves, or weeds, or a fence post, or whether it's a panoramic scene, if the composition is there, and the colour is there, and the interest is there, if it attracts me in some way to paint it" (2,299). He started doing portraits as an experiment. He had never heard o f watercolour portraits before, and was interested i n the challenge: I didn't really care too much for doing portraits in pastel chiefly because I think they become laboured. With watercolours, though, you've got to be fast; lightening fast, and that has worked for me (2,211). H e observed that there's "a lot ofpersonality  110  in  faces. Ifind a lot of character in each one. That is what attracts my attention. The fact that they're all very different from each other" (2,210). He had recently also become interested in certain colours: There are just certain colours that appeal to me. I see them, I don't see shapes or forms. I see these colours and I'd like to start experimenting with that (2,458); I can sort of see a transparent emerald green, and a translucent lavender colour, and aqua. All these colours, they sort of intrigue me (2,470). This led him to take a number o f courses with a noted Edmonton artist known for "the brilliance of colour in her paintings " (2,442). He has continued to enrol in art courses from time to time. After five years o f taking art courses, M a l c o l m had not taken any additional classes. He said: I like being by myself now, and just exploring things, and reading, and studying on my own (2,287). He sustained a passionate interest in art by exploring new technical and aesthetic challenges following his own learning journey: I've just taught myself largely how to deal with the water. I can now paint things on the water, in the water, reflections from the water, and things under the water (1,208). He continued: I'm at the stage where I know I can paint a barn ... but I don't want to just paint a barn. I want to paint a special barn. It's got to have something more to it. (1,210). When we met the second time, he described that he had been "trying to paint three dimensional spaces that you can sort of live in, so, for example, when the light is fixed on the painting you have a feeling of being drawn into it, getting you to feel that you could go right in there " (2,453). He had searched the Internet to learn more about using "chiaroscuro" as a technique to achieve a heightened illusion o f form and depth i n his paintings: This is what has been driving me of late. I've been trying to bring images out of the darkness (2,218). He continued: Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rembrandt, they all used chiaroscuro. It's a matter of under painting to get the values down. You quickly just get these movements here, and paint the negative values, and then you just go all around. Then you gradually develop the subject matter (2,225); It's sort of magical when at one point the space begins to emerge (2,469). He had a strong commitment to developing his painting skills, but wanted to follow his o w n pace in doing so: Ijust want to take my time. I like this feeling of being able to experiment. I like to go to art galleries, and read about, and research things ... and not feel that I am under any pressure to create a canvas for next week's lesson, or something like that ... Ijust want to enjoy it, and be relaxed about it (2,636). In relation to other supporting routines, he said: I'm always looking for what I am  111  going to work on next. But I find it much better not to start a painting until I have a fire in my belly. I have a section in my computer where I have all these pictures that I've  purposely  taken thinking that I might paint them at some point. I go though and keep thinking about it, and when I come to think, "Yeah, that's what I'd like to work on, " then I start the process. ...Of course, there are downtimes, and I find the best thing to do then is just to draw. You can 7 draw too much (2,437). After completing her university studies, M a r y had not taken any additional art classes or workshops, or participated i n critique sessions organized by local art organizations. She had given up her driver's license, when she began to experience impaired vision due to macular degeneration, and found it difficult to get around the city. In response to this constraint, she created an art studio in her garage: / am really happy about having my studio close at hand. I can go out there and work whenever I choose (1,441); I have a good stove that heats up, so it is only on very cold days that I can't work there (1,975). M a r y had also approached a gallery that was located close to her home about exhibiting her work several years earlier. After showing them her portfolio o f work she was invited to exhibit her work once a year as a guest artist. Just a few weeks before our second interview, at 89 years o f age, M a r y had an exhibit at the Centre D ' A r t s Visuells de L ' A l b e r t a that commemorated Alberta's centennial. Her work included 34 acrylic and mixed media paintings, and several pieces o f sculpture which she had created over the winter months. She shared: I worked on the project pretty well every day unless I was going somewhere, so pretty well every day. That was in the winter. But in the summer, of course, it's a little different...  you 're a bit  busier (2,668). M a r y said that she enjoyed "painting and working with art, experimenting,  trying  different things "(1,113). She identified colour and texturing as important elements i n her art. Although she was "always reaching for betterment" (1,321), she said that "right now with my art, Ijust go as Hike when I have time or when Ifeel like it. You know, some days you just don't do it. You've got something else to do, like your housework" (2,588). M a r y liked "to work from a theme. I work at it, and then I try to perfect it. You know, have all the parts work together" (1,1090). She went to the library for ideas, and to research whatever theme she has chosen. In addition to her own exhibits and art projects, she has continued on as a member o f a collective o f women artists: There are seven of us. We've had two shows  112  together and hope to do more. (1,196). She described being a member o f this collective and participating in their exhibits as "one of the highlights" (1,822) o f her career in art. Joyce enrolled in watercolour classes and workshops from time to time on her own, or with one or another o f her artist friends. I asked Joyce how she structured her life to support her involvement with watercolours. She referred again to her need to experience a sense o f "freedom" in retirement, stating: If I have some spare time and the desire to do it, then it is just free flow. I want to stay away from being tied to commitments and routines. That was my life for a long time, but I'm not there anymore. If Ifeel like it, and I have the time, I will do it (2,518). She described being "really driven " when she was first learning different watercolour techniques, but was "more relaxed about it now. " In part, this was because she had achieved a certain skill level. She didn't "need to spend as much time trying to figure things out, like what's wet and what isn't, and colour mixing. Now, Ijust kind of know " (2,26). In her paintings she hoped to tell a story; she would begin a new painting when "something calls out" (1,477) to her. Sometimes her husband suggested an image that she would decide to work on. Terry believed it was "important to have a structure supporting your work" (2,114). Although she intended "topaint every morning" she found that she wasn't able to "because things come up which I cannot control. Under normal circumstances, I paint four or five times a week" (1,179). Terry enrolled in many art classes, including intensive, residential workshops: I've taken courses from many of the better known artists in Alberta (1,340); I've taken courses and workshops through the University of Alberta's Faculty of Extension, Red Deer College, the Arizona Artists School, and Central Arizona College. All of these have contributed to my education (2,270). Although she was happy to work alone for the most part (I don't want to be completely isolated of course but I'm quite happy to work alone; 2,521), she was also a member o f a small, informal art group called the Oakwood Studio, and had joined a number o f art organizations as a way o f learning more about, and becoming connected to the local art scene. She also exhibited her work. She wanted to find out just "how far she could go " with her painting (1,239). A t this stage o f her life, she was focused on creating a body o f abstract paintings that she considered to be successful according to her own artistic vision as well as professional art world standards. She wanted to "achieve the status as an artist" (1,241).  113  Nininger (2002) has observed that the flow o f much o f our life is achievement oriented. W e work toward achieving goals. H e states, " y o u develop a rhythm for this type o f life, and when you stop working you need to develop a new rhythm" (p. 6). In addition, Newman and Holzman (1997a, 1997b) have described the importance o f communities that are filled with play and foster and support development. They also observed that few adults experience environments which support per-form-ative  development (see p. 182). The  community art groups that the participants described in this inquiry appear to provide an important exception to this general observation. Still, many o f the participants worked on their art at home on their own, at least part o f the time. Our conversations often took place near the dedicated spaces that they had created in their homes, with pencils, brushes, sheaves o f paper, and paint neatly arranged on their art tables. In addition, their homes were also used as a gallery setting to display their work, reminding them o f what they had done, and other projects they wanted to begin working on. Although the participants spent considerable time on their art, they tended to be less focused on art i n the summer compared to the winter months. While the warm summer weather offered an opportunity to paint out o f doors, other attractions impeded the participants from maintaining the level o f engagement they described during the winter months. For example, L i l l i a n shared that between watching baseball games on television and going out and about, there was simply less time she could give to painting in the summer. Flourishing through A r t The participants' enjoyment o f art making varied i n relation to their unique interests, but they also described ways in which art contributed to how they enjoyed their lives. In relation to the storyline "Flourishing through Art", I identified two primary meaning dimensions: 1) creative engagement (or experience o f creative aliveness); and 2) expanding worlds o f experience. In relation to the first dimension, many o f the participants described having enhanced perceptual awareness and "flow" experiences which contributed to a sense o f creative excitement and satisfaction. A r t making also involved them i n "new worlds" o f experience that encouraged them to explore local and other art worlds, which i n turn also supported the development o f new social connections and relationships.  114  Creative Enhanced  Engagement  Perception one is quite astonished to find how manij t h i n g s there are I n the landscape .... This is a tremendous new pleasure and interest which Invests every walte or drive with an added object, s o m a n y colours on the hillside, each different in shadow a n d in sunlight; such brilliant reflections I n the pool, each a feey lower t h a n what they repeat; such lovely lights gilding or silvering surface or outline, all tinted exquisitely with pale colour, rose, orange, green or violet.... i thlntethls heightened sense of Nature Is one of the chief delights that have  come to me through trying to paint. Winston Churchill, 1^32, p. 310 M a n y o f the participants referred to always being on the lookout for an image that might inspire their next project. The participants made direct and indirect reference to the ways in which art making fostered an awareness o f the visual world i n relation to its particularity. They described an enhanced awareness o f colour, light, lines, and form. Terry offered the following story i n relation to this: When I was in Arizona this last spring, I looked up at the sky. It was evening and the clouds were scatting by, and there was a brilliant moon. The colours were just gorgeous. I stopped and said, "Just look at that, isn't that beautiful?" And one of the other people, who as it turned out, also paints said, "Oh, you must be an artist, too, to notice that." It was really beautiful. Icouldn't  believe that other  people just said, "Oh, yeah," and walked on (1,291). One o f L i l l i a n ' s art instructors suggested that she would start looking at clouds all the time, even when she was driving: He said, "You 11 be turning your head to look at something, when you should be looking at the road. " I find I do that (2,1188). M a r y said: When you start studying art you start to appreciate things, nature, I mean you start to see things in a different light. Like the old tree stump in the backyard, I would just love to drag it in here, and work on painting it. That wouldn't have appealed to me before. But now, 1just see things differently (1,1201). Helen made a similar observation: Oh, you look at things so differently. You have no idea how differently you look at things when you start to paint, trees especially. Painting really makes you look closely at things. You see things you otherwise might not see. It's loads offun (1,341); Your perception just seems to get better the more you paint (2,899). Bernard also felt that he had learned to be more perceptive since he began to paint: I study things a little more thoroughly. If I see a fence  115  post, I really look at it. I see colour, I see shapes, this sort of a thing .... I think I am more perceptive than I used to be even as an architect (1,919). Joyce shared, "I appreciate everything around me in a different way. I am more aware of colour, shapes, movement, just the whole world. I notice things more " (2,748). She described how her heightened appreciation o f the visual world sometimes inspired her to paint: I might be looking out the window and see a beautiful flower and I'll sit down and paint it (2,532). Nature offered a perennial tapestry o f possibilities for painting and sketching. Some of Terry's paintings were based on photographs she had taken o f the natural landscape. She sometimes also made use o f computer magnification in developing her abstract compositions. In addition to his watercolour portraits, Bernard also painted landscapes. Most of the paintings that Helen, Joyce, and M a l c o l m created were based on photographs they had taken o f the natural environment. Almost all o f L i l l i a n ' s paintings are inspired by what she has seen in nature. She offered keen observations o f the natural world as she described her paintings: You know old poplars are not the most beautiful things. They are old gnarly looking things. The leaves don't even turn nice in the fall. They turn kind of a dirty yellow. But they have huge roots that are fairly close to the surface, and there's a little nub. This is how they have their babies. They don't have cones or seeds. That is how they have their babies. And if you go walking among them you have to be careful not to trip on their roots because they're so close to the surface (1,148); This sky has a slightly green cast to it. You often see that in a winter sky. When you look north you see green (1,240); All the coniferous trees this past summer were absolutely loaded with cones to the point where some of the limbs had tipped like this, and some had even broken off And that has to tell you that they 're suffering. So what nature does is have the trees work twice as hard to reproduce themselves because they might die yet before the year is out. So they 're reproducing themselves, this is what they 're doing (1,1248). London (1984) has characterized art as a means o f recording one's aesthetic experience i n the moment o f perceiving. Indeed, many o f the participants created paintings that depicted memorable moments o f perception that they had experienced. Describing one o f his paintings, M a l c o l m explained that it had "happened just because we were driving along and these rain clouds came through. ... It was dark right where we were. It was the middle of the afternoon and the sky was dark, and there was this special moment when the  116  sun came out and Uluminated the water splashing on the rocks. We stopped and I took a photograph just to capture that moment, and then I painted it" (2,235). Bernard recalled how he had been inspired to create one o f his paintings: I was out hunting with a neighbour. We had great success earlier in the day and were heading back to our car. We came to this spot where some other people we knew had set up, and so we decided to wait there for awhile. Suddenly the sky went black. The sun was behind us and it illuminated the low-lying grain stubble of the field we were in, in a brilliant gold. Then, this cloud formation came rolling in, and there was a blizzard of hail. It was absolutely astounding. We all got soaking wet. When I came home I did this painting, just from memory (1,451). Creative Excitement/ Flow  Experiences  Jackson (1998) has noted that "the artist at work is more keenly attentive than usual to the emerging sense o f an enveloping whole that guides the artistic process (often appreciating a background o f . . . conventions and customs associated with an artistic genre)" (p. 37). The process o f working with materials, attending to such elements as shape, shadow, colour, and texture, working toward a sense o f Tightness with the emerging form, was an inherently absorbing activity. M a n y o f the participants described experiencing a state o f "flow" as awareness merged with the action o f creating the artwork. For example, Terry said: You really need to be able to just block everything else out and think, and then it's a joy. You just get lost in it (1,275); Ijust find myself deeply absorbed in it. When I'm  painting  I'm not thinking about the rest of the world at all (2,707). L i l l i a n remarked that when she is painting "hours can go by and you won't even know it" (2,240). M a r y said: I sometimes just get lost in a project. Time passes and I'm enjoying it (2,64); I go out to my studio and spend hours there. You know, I find it very relaxing (2,76); Ijust stay and stay. Ijust don't want to leave it. Hours pass and I'm still sitting there, the time just goes. Ijust can't explain what a wonderful feeling it is. Ijust get wrapped up in it (2,934). Noting as an aside that he "probably shouldn't say this, " Bernard shared that he often completes his work quickly, i n "anywhere from an hour and a half to three to four hours, and then I may touch them up afterwards...  but I have done most of them  in one fell swoop" (1,325). Other times he has found himself working "half way through the night, like we used to when we were students and then as young architects " (1,965). H e recalled finishing one painting at about quarter to four in the morning: I really got into it  117  (1,969). Joyce also sometimes found herself working on a painting "until 2:00 in the morning ...Ijust get absorbed in it and lose all sense of time " (2,20). She added: I'll work all day and just take breaks to eat (2,46); It doesn 't take long for me to complete a painting; often it's just a day. ... I just get totally absorbed (2,556). She described the experience o f losing herself in "time and space " as a "joy " (2,604). Intrinsic  Satisfaction J u s t to paint Is great f u n . The colours, are Lovely to Loote at and delicious, to squeeze out. M a t c h i n g them, however crudely, with what y o u see Is f a s c i n a t i n g a n d absolutely absorbing. W i n s t o n Churchill, 1^32, p. 36^  In addition to offering creative excitement and flow experiences, art making was also described as being inherently rewarding. They described experiencing great enjoyment and pleasure in creating their art. The participants used emphatic and figurative terms to convey their excitement and satisfaction. They repeated words and phrases to emphasize how they experienced art as being both pleasurable and deeply satisfying. They described their experience o f art making as "thrilling, " "exciting, " "fun, " "amazing, " a "joy. " They "loved it. " Creating art made them "happy. " The participants described feelings o f accomplishment as they successfully exploited their medium o f expression. For example, M a l c o l m described art making as imbuing his life with energy and excitement: I really get a thrill out of the painting when it's finished and I've  accomplished  what I set out to do. ... I love painting in this new way where I develop the value rhythms and the negative spaces first... It really gives you a freedom that is quite  extraordinary  because you can do it very quickly, just the values, never mind the colour or anything like that. You do it quickly, and there's an energy when you 're doing that. ... it's much freer. You 're not drawing trees, you 're just drawing directions and values and it's exciting to see it come together quickly and even though it's only one, mono-colour you can really see the painting the way you want it to go at that stage (1,204); It excites me. It is really a fun thing. I did that in about an hour, and you can see how the light and the dark colours organize the whole thing. And then, here, you can see the development of a three dimensional  quality  which is fun to explore. It's been so thrilling for me to do these (2,220); It's exciting to me because I really feel very confident about painting this way (2,267); My paintings have much more life to them because of this, and so Ifeel happy (2,287); There is no question, if  118  everything goes right with the painting it's a wonderful feeling. ... If I can get it to a point where I can see it working, it's very exciting (2,325). When I asked Terry what she most enjoyed about the experience o f painting, she replied: It's the involvement, the tactile pleasure ofpaint on canvas ... the actual involvement with the painting, trying to make the painting work, trying to stay with the abstracts but not abandon the basic principles of painting. There's just a pleasure in working with colours and paint. There is the feeling of satisfaction when you've completed a painting. Quite often it is not finished, but at that point you are happy. The painting is coming together. Later, I may see flaws and make changes. Then, there is the pleasure of somebody else saying that the painting is good (2,703). L i l l i a n described her experience o f painting as both "calming " and "satisfying. " She said: There's a feeling of achievement especially if it goes quickly and you don't struggle with it. It gives you a feeling of euphoria, you feel really happy (2,1144); You know, I even looked at a couple of things this morning that I had done, and I was kind of amazed. I thought "Gee, that's good!" (2,993). Helen had begun to work more with a palette knife, because o f the "nice, loose, easy feeling"  that it  provided. She said, "Just squishing around all that wonderful colour and paint. Oh, it is just so neat! You know, putting it on it just takes on such wonderful shapes, and just seems to work" (2,1515). Mary shared: You know how it feels when you work to achieve  something,  and it works? Doesn't it give you a sense of satisfaction and happiness? "I've got it!, " you think. You know, that's the way it affects me. Sometimes it can be frustrating. Sometimes you throw your paintings aside because you can 7 make them work. But then you go back. There is something inside you that makes you want it to work. And then when you do get it to work, when I have got it just the way I want it, it "pops, " it just gives you a great feeling, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction (1,401). Expanding Worlds of Experience A sense o f openness to possibility as occasioned through enhanced perception appeared to influence the participants' "way o f being in the world." They seemed to open up to "new lines o f action" not previously conceived o f (Shorter, 1999, p. 125). The participants described new worlds o f experience that opened to them, and that they participated in, as they became more and more involved with art. These new experiential spheres were  119  described primarily in relation to travel, appreciation o f art and art worlds, and social connections. Travel ... on p a i n t i n g as a spur to travel. There Is really nothing llfee It. Everyday and a l l d a y Is provided with Its expedition a n d Its occupation - cheap, attainable, Innocent, absorbing, recuperative. The v a i n racket of the tourist gives place to the c a l m enjoyment of the philosopher... The painter wanders and loiters contentedly from place to place, always on the loofe out for some brilliant butterfly of a -picture which c a n be caught a n d set up a n d carried safely home. - W i n s t o n Churchill, 1^32, p. 31j) A s described earlier, many o f the artworks the participants completed were inspired by the natural landscape. The participants frequently drove to the mountains, and otherwise looked out for images they could use i n their painting. M a l c o l m said: I think you have to look for inspiration sometimes. So I go to the mountains, Hove being in the mountains (2,439); I've got the Eurovan here and if I want to go and paint on site then I have an opportunity to do that. I'm looking forward to getting back to the mountains soon (2,138). Helen, along with other members o f the Laurier Heights Artists Society, also planned painting trips: We get to the mountains maybe two or three times a year to sketch and take photographs (2,453). Specific paintings they were working on also inspired the participants to explore locations somewhat closer to home. L i l l i a n went to the Ukrainian Village to find sheaves o f wheat that she could photograph: That's the only place I could find any. I went there looking for sheaves (1,543). Joyce related the following story: I wanted to paint cattle, so we drove into the countryside, and found this herd of cows. The cows watched my husband as he approached them. But then, just as he got close, they took off! Away they went. My husband started chasing them. I wish I had a video camera, it was so funny! When they finally stopped to take a look at this character running after them, he managed to take this photograph, and I developed this painting from it (1,493). A number o f participants traveled out o f town to take in art shows, art courses, and other arts-related activities. L i l l i a n shared the following story: About four or five of us went together to Hinton to see this art show. We got a motel room and stayed overnight. We played cards all night and that kind of stuff. We had a lot offun. Anyway, one of the ladies' daughters was living in the area, and she said to us, "Have you been to the Indian cemetery? " There was an Indian cemetery in that area and also a place nearby where they  120  have their pow wows, you know, and their sweat lodges, and they leave these poles and everything up all the time. There were all these ribbons hanging on the trees. I don't know what it all means, but we went to the cemetery and it was an interesting thing to see and I took quite a few photographs. photographs  I started working on this painting based on some of the  I took (1,1166). She was planning a trip with her friends to see the Buffalo  Twins: Alberta/Saskatchewan  Centennial Mural Mosaic when it was finally installed: It's  two stories tall, and is supposed to be in Lloydminster by the middle of September, that's going to be its final home. A bunch of us are going to go and stay a couple of days. We are going to bring our cameras and our drawing pads and go and see it (2,620). Terry described a week-long art course at Red Deer College she had taken with other members o f her art club. They had also made several trips to Canmore to paint "en plein air." Appreciation  of Art and Involvement in Art Worlds Then the galleries of Europe tafce on a new - a n d to m.e at least a severely practical - Interest. ... y o u loote at the masterpieces of art with a n a n a l y s i n g a n d comprehending eye. The whole world Is open with a l l Its treasures. The simplest objects have their beauty. ...arm.ed with a paint-box, one oaviv^ot be bored, one ca^i^ot be left at a loose end .... c^ood gracious! w h a t there Is to admire a n d how little time there Is to see It In! W i n s t o n Churchill, 1^32, p. 311  The various learning communities in which the participants were involved provided a conduit to local and other art worlds. Conversation among members often focused on local art organizations, opportunities for participating in or attending arts-related events, festivals, workshops and courses, exhibits and gallery showings. The participants also came to appreciate art and various art worlds by reading books and magazines. Some also became involved in local and regional art organizations. A s suggested in the following, these learning communities fostered an increasing appreciation o f art which also served to sustain the participants' interest and continuing involvement in art: One of my friends has some of her work on exhibit at the new art gallery in St. Albert so we went to her show the other day (Lillian; 2,1027); I go to exhibits whenever I can. This past June I went to an Art Gallery of Alberta exhibit, and I went to one at McMullen Gallery called "Under the Dress. " I really liked that exhibit! A member of our Drawing Breath group was in that exhibit (Mary; 2,870). Joyce and her husband often visited art galleries when they travelled. Terry also often visited major art galleries in London when she visited her family i n England. Helen also said that  121  when she and her husband traveled in Europe they "always visited the art galleries " (2,1603). She shared: It just gives you such a good feeling when you go to a gallery. You see a lot of really nice work because there are some wonderful painters. And because you do it, you know what it takes to get to that level, to be in a gallery in Jasper, or one of the galleries downtown. I have certainly come to appreciate the skill it takes. You know, you work at it, and so you appreciate it (2,1555). Not only did their involvement in art serve to increase their expanding appreciation o f art, but it also involved them in contributing to, as well creating different art worlds. For example, with the help o f a friend, Helen invited and selected work from artists in Edmonton to exhibit at a local hospital: We exhibit work in two hallways at the Misericordia  Hospital.  We 're in our fourth year. It's called the "Art Enrichment Program, " which profiles emerging artists. We have different exhibits every month (1,268). Their program had received accolades from patients, staff and visitors to the hospital. Helen also held the position o f workshop director for the Society o f Western Canadian Artists for several years: I brought in different artists from all over (1,282). After her exhibit, Joyce was invited to j o i n the A r t Committee at Strathcona Place Senior Centre. Social  Connections  M y French friend ... after looking at some of my daubs., took me rou.iA.ol the galleries of Paris, pausing  here and there, whenever he paused, I found  myself  before a picture which I particularly admired. Winston Churchill, 1^32, p. 316 Through their connection to art they met others who also had an intimate understanding o f the attractions o f art. L i l l i a n said: One of the bonuses is all the interesting people you meet. I've met so many other artists. They look at life, they look at the world, they look at the sky, they look at everything differently than everybody else (1,721); I find the conversation when I go to a meeting with a bunch of artists is just great! (2,1236). She offered the following: It's very nice to visit an art gallery with somebody who's another artist. ...No matter their age you can talk about what you see in a painting. It's the interaction with other people who think the same way as you do. You come away feeling good because you were with this person. I think that's good for you at any age, isn 't it? That's good for you at any age! (2,540).  122  M a n y o f the participants described similar thoughts and experiences. Joyce shared: Through the art courses I have taken, I have met a lot of nice people that have similar interests (1,16); There's bonding, support, and fellowship (1,282); The people I meet are upbeat and interested in learning. They are the kind of people I want to be around. They give you energy (2,148). She attributed this energy to experiencing a sense o f freedom that comes with creative expression (2,152). She also suggested that a sense o f bonding can occur between people as they are working on their art: You can sit next to another person painting for an hour, and be totally absorbed in what you are doing, but then when you look at what they are doing you are often drawn to some aspect of their work and so might say, "Wow, I like that! Could you teach me how to do that? " You can develop a strong bond through your common interest in, and love for painting (2,156). Helen said: Everyone is so interesting. This is what you find in art. You meet interesting people (1,406). Terry offered the following: One of the joys of being involved with the arts is that you get to know new people, make new friends with people you have something in common with (1,322). Various "learning communities" featured as being significant in this regard for at least some o f the participants. For example, M a r y described being involved with her art group "as quite a highlight, going and having meetings, and having people to work with on projects, you know" (1,439). She had also met "lots of friends at university, some very nice friends"  (2,580). A s noted earlier, some o f the  participants described how they went on trips with their artist friends to sketch and paint, visit a gallery exhibit, or take a course. They also valued the friends they had met, and social interaction that featured as a key aspect o f their involvement in various art groups. The following offers a sampling: Lillian: You know, the social part of it is what we like (1,1132); It's gotten to be a social thing with us, once a month (2,270). Terry: We keep the Oakwood Studio group going, in part, because we enjoy the social aspect of it (2,402); It has been six or seven years now that we have been getting together on Wednesdays. In addition to seeing other people's work and getting some feedback on my paintings, what I really enjoy about the group is the social aspect. It's pleasant. We 're friends (2,479); If you 're beginning you '11 meet lots of other people who are also in that stage. So you have something in common. You sketch and paint, and then that leads to other things. You have lunches, there are Christmas parties - there is lots of social interaction (2,713). Helen: I think it's just such a good outing for everybody. You 're doing something, creating something, and the sociability is there. The conversation sometimes  123  focuses on a good book that somebody's read, or somebody's seen a good movie. You know, you just keep up with things. And then you have coffee, and somebody brings good cinnamon buns. It's just a wonderful atmosphere (2,1763). Bernard: / love the social aspect, working with people who are all interested in art. We are all as different as can be. We are a small group, and we are all very good friends (1,812); Maybe it's the social aspect of it, I don't know, but over the years I've missed very few Thursdays (2,277). M a l c o l m did not offer stories or observations regarding how art had contributed to new social connections i n his life. Art as Identity A t the end o f my initial conversation with Terry, I happened to share that many o f the participants had shown me their studio or work space, and invited me to tour their home to view their artwork. She responded with a knowing grin, "Oh, artists will always do that. That's who they are. " I developed the final storyline, " A r t as Identity" to recognize the high biographical relevance o f coming to art for the participants, and the centrality o f art making in their lives. The participants' "artist identity" claims, as such, were often ambivalent. Their shifting identity claims seemed to reflect the lack o f "hard-and-fast definitions" regarding what may be taken as art (see Mishler, 1999, p. 102), and for some, their own uncertainty regarding what constitutes an artist. For example, Bernard found the idea o f calling himself an artist humorous. Laughing, he said, " When you talk about 'my work,' I am rather amused because I am not very serious, I am just having fun " (1,544). For M a l c o l m , five years o f intense instruction culminated in his participation i n "a professional  critique class with professional  artists "  (1,42). W i t h a light sense o f irony, he said "lam supposed to be an artist now, and I'm not supposed to be able to see red and green " (1,70). He tended to play with the idea o f being an artist, rather than claim an identity as an artist. He referred to himself primarily as being an "old retired plumber"  (2,711). Mary wasn't sure she would call herself an artist: I don't  know. I really don't know whether I am an artist. Well, I guess anybody that pursues art can call themselves an artist, but I don't believe that I am a good artist. I have got a long way to go, let's say, before I achieve what I want to achieve (1,419). Helen was also somewhat hesitant about claiming an artist identity: I don't feel I'm, maybe I'm too hard on myself but I don't feel I, well maybe the last five years Ifeel I've, I'm an artist (1,298). I asked Joyce how she would describe herself as an artist, i f she felt comfortable with the term. She replied  124  that she'd rather be known as watercolourist than an artist: To me an "artist" is an individual who is highly accomplished in most or all aspects of painting. I am good, and I will get better, but I'm not there yet. I don't know, artist to me is too formal, too, hmm... I'd rather just be me. I don't need the title "artist, " I'm not comfortable with it (2,219). When I asked i f she viewed her art "seriously," as I searched to clarify the meanings she associated with being called an artist, she replied, "Oh yes, I'm engaged and involved in art, I interact with art. I guess that is one definition of an artist. Perhaps I am an artist in the making" (2,231). Terry "had visions of making this a third career" (2,551). She wanted to be a recognized and culturally relevant artist. She was working on developing her own original abstract style and was "looking for an entree to the professional world. 1 feel that I'm on the edge of everything. I haven't got into the real art world yet, but I'm on the edge" (2,741). L i l l i a n did consider herself to be an artist: Ifeel that I am now, but if you had asked me that a few years ago I may not have called myself an artist. You always think that you haven 7 done enough, or you could be better. But I don 7 feel like that now (2,492). She added: I called myself an artist a couple of times among some of my friends, and they said "Gee, I don 7 call myself an artist. " I said, "You should because you 're very good. " They didn 7 do it, but I do. So I think that told me something about how Ifeel about myself (2,1085). The foregoing suggests the variable, sometimes tentative, self-conceptions that the participants held in relation to their involvement in art. In part, this can be attributed to the fact that their livelihood did not wholly depend on their art making. Their selfcharacterizations were also often referenced i n relation to technical competency and proficiency. For example, L i l l i a n felt that she had achieved a level o f competence where she doesn't "have the same struggle when I begin something, like all the technical things, I think I know now" (2,498). Mary suggested that she felt that "a real artist" not only has achieved a certain level o f competency, but also has knowledge o f contemporary currents i n art: I don 7 know. I'm not acquainted with some of the modern art, the modern type of art (2,820). She also shared: Sometimes getting your art to work is difficult. That's why I wonder if I am an artist, really an artist (2,928). Helen suggested a distinction between being an artist, and being a professional artist i n the following: I'd never quit my job as a housewife, because I wouldn 7 make enough money. No, it's really hard for an artist now. You have to be very,  125  very good (1,292). Many o f the participants compared themselves with other recognized artists, and also described various forms o f recognition that they had received for their work, which served to condition or temper their identity conceptions in relation to art. A s I explored the participants' self-conceptions and identification with art, I came to recognize that I perceived them as being "artists" i n relation to the artworks they had created (which provided evidence o f their art making skills and abilities), and also given the matrix o f "professional" art making activities in which they were involved. I consider these "spaces" of experience and identity construction in the following sections. Identity Space I: Art Making  Practices  I came to recognize the participants' knowledge, activity, and involvement i n various art worlds as a space within which they could be considered to be artists. M a n y o f the participants wrote artist statements, and maintained a practice o f cataloguing their work. I incorporated material from many o f the artist statements the participants had prepared at various points in their "art careers" in the participant descriptions i n the previous chapter. Although Bernard did not believe in writing an artist statement, he did maintain a complete catalogue o f photographs o f all his completed artwork. Helen had completed an artist statement that appeared on her member webpage on the Edmonton A r t Society's website, but had never catalogued her work: I've never made a portfolio of my work. Ijust do it (2,1035). Both Terry and L i l l i a n were vigilant in maintaining a complete catalogue o f their work. L i l l i a n catalogued her work, and recorded her art sales: I write it down where, how, and what I sold it for, who got it, and when, so that I know. I have to do that for income tax (2,776). Terry also photographed her art, "so I have a record" (1,530), and had created a website to promote her work. They were also members of different art clubs and associations. L i l l i a n listed the following associations she was involved with: I am a member of Studio 71 Art Club, and the ACACA,  the Alberta Community Arts Club Association. I belong to some galleries. I belong  to VAA, Visual Arts Alberta, and submit work to some of their juried exhibits, and I also submit work to the Profiles Gallery in St. Albert (2,798). In addition to organizing the Laurier Heights Arts Society, Helen was also a member o f the Society o f Western Canadian Artists and a member o f the Edmonton A r t Club. Terry was also a member o f the Edmonton Art Club, and had considered applying for membership i n the Alberta Society o f Artists as  126  she felt that being a member o f this association would help to confirm her artist status. In addition to opportunities for networking that membership i n clubs and associations offered, these organizations also provided information about opportunities to exhibit their artwork. For example, L i l l i a n said that the " VAA sends out a really good newsletter that lists different places that are accepting submissions for work all across the province " (2,848). Likewise, the Edmonton A r t Club offered its members an opportunity to promote their work on its' website. M a n y organizations also offered professional critiques o f members' artwork at their meetings. However, not all o f the participants were members o f these associations. For example, Bernard had been encouraged to j o i n a number o f local art associations, but after learning that a primary activity o f many o f these associations was to offer a monthly meeting he declined to become involved: All the societies here in Edmonton that I have been invited to join, I always ask them what do you do? Well, we have meetings. Well meetings are the last things I want. I have had a lifetime of meetings. You know as an architect, I bet you fifty percent of my time was taken up in meetings. Uhhhl Never again. I am not interested in meetings (1,820). A l l o f these practices, creating and cataloguing their work, belonging to various arts organizations, receiving monthly newsletters and attending meetings, provided the material conditions for constructing a sense o f their self-identity in relation to art. Their knowledge o f art techniques also contributed to how others would view the participants i n relation to art. For example, during our second interview, M a l c o l m patiently described how he developed colour values to achieve a greater sense o f depth, touching on different teaching points: It's properly pronounced  "Cheeroskure. " The word comes from Latin, and it's spelled  c-h-i-a-r-  o-s-c-u-r-o. You just don't worry about anything except the value of a colour. ...I have done a lot of demonstration canvases, I have taken pictures of it to show you how it develops, how you get the values and the depth in the canvas (2,2). Terry described acrylics as being "a really complex medium. You can treat acrylics like oils, you can treat it like watercolour, you can treat it in its own way as an acrylic" (1,255). She elaborated on this, adding: It's really a plastic. I mean, you can use it as an impasto. You can also put glazes one on top of the other and get incredibly subtle, interesting colours (1,334); There must be a million ways you can do acrylic. I think I'm just scraping the surface really at the moment (2,693). L i l l i a n offered the following advice: You 're better if you make your own green, or make  127  your own black. I never use black paint out of a tube. I make it myself with two colours. If you use a red and a green together you can get a very, very vibrant black. If you put a little more red in it, it's warm. Put a little more green with it, and it's a cool black (1,955). The participants' also described great affection for their art materials. Bernard showed me some of the art materials he works with: That is a soft pastel pencil. All these boxes are full of stuff. This Ijust couldn 7 resist, it is all just lovely stuff (1,648); Now watch [fans the brush], isn 't that nice? All of these are sable brushes, and most of them are Winston Newton. These great big ones are by a German company. That is a #201 think. There is a #24, and I think there is a #16 in there somewhere (1,662). Many o f the participants had donated their work to support various causes. For example, M a l c o l m had donated two o f his paintings to the Royal Alexandra Hospital: The first major canvas that I did hangs on the wall by the operating room on the 3 floor, and rd  there's another one in the boardroom that I did of Lake Superior (1,222). Helen and L i l l i a n had also donated their artwork to different charitable organizations. A l l o f the participants had exhibited their work. With the exception o f M a l c o l m , all o f the participants had sold at least a few o f their paintings. M a l c o l m offered that: I'll probably have to start selling some of them, I've been under a bit ofpressure  to do that (2,536); I'm not in a big rush about it. I  mean, I guess my big problem is that I'm not a starving artist. Maybe I'd be a little more anxious to get started in that but, partly, I like living with them (2,640). Bernard also had a relaxed attitude about exhibiting and selling his work. He participated i n the annual Laurier Heights Artists Society exhibit as well as exhibits Helen organized at a local hospital. He responded to opportunities that came his way, but was not looking to create other opportunities. The other participants were more active in responding to, and creating opportunities to exhibit and sell their work. Identity Space II: Spheres and Forms of Recognition Sharing one's art as part o f an exhibit and having it positively received contributed the participants' experience and sense o f being "an artist." For example, when I asked Helen to recall a particularly significant highlight i n relation to her involvement i n art, she replied, "The times when you get recognition for what you've done " (2,1403). She recalled when a millionaire bought one o f her paintings at a silent auction for $400 "which now hangs in his house, beside the paintings of other famous artists" (2,1393). Helen began to feel she was  128  an artist when she reached a level o f competence that was valued by others: I don't think I became an artist until I started to sell more of my work (1,286). Helen said: If people like your work and you sell it, that lets you know you 're on the right track. To me, there is a validation in it, that somebody else likes your work (1,430). She related the following story about an early Laurier Heights A r t Society exhibit: When I think back now, some of our work was not really what we 're doing now, but we had the guts to say, "Come and look at our work. " I can remember there was this terrible snowstorm, but the caretaker came and cleared the whole parking lot for us. You'd be amazed at how many people came. I bet there were 125, maybe 150people that came. It was really great! (1,208). She estimated that she had sold over 30 paintings "to friends and at art shows " (2,799), but at this point was not all that interested i n selling her work: I'm not really painting to sell. I've gotten to the point that I don't worry whether I sell or not (2,809). Joyce described her first exhibit as being a significant highlight. She recalled: I had 80 paintings that I had stored under the beds upstairs when my friend had an exhibit that I attended. She encouraged me to have an exhibit as well. She said, "Even if you don't sell any paintings, it doesn 't matter, people will appreciate what you have done. They '11 look at your paintings, and you 11 make somebody happy by having your paintings hanging there. " Then one of the ladies at the Strathcona Place Senior Centre had an exhibit, which provided me with another opportunity to learn what was involved. Soon after that, the Centre asked me if I would exhibit my artwork. Although I was concerned that my paintings might not be good enough, I agreed to have an exhibit. It was very exciting. It was a real highlight of my life (1,334); Before my exhibit, when I was picking up some of my paintings from my framer, he said, "Don't be surprised if you don 1 sell very many, because I am aware of a wellknown artist who only sold two paintings when she had an exhibit. " Well, there were about a 100 people that came to my exhibit (1,354); I sold 17 paintings ranging in price from $85 to $285 (1,370). Joyce has continued to exhibit and sell her work, primarily at seniors' centres and local hospitals. When we first met she told me that she had sold 52 paintings the previous year. She had also given her paintings away to family members and in support o f different fundraising efforts. L i l l i a n had sold, given away and donated over a hundred o f her works. Her work has appeared in group and touring exhibits. She has also had a few solo exhibits: It's very hard  129  to get a solo show anywhere, you know (1,1340). Several o f her paintings had been included in public collections, including those maintained by the City o f St. Albert, the Extension Gallery at the University o f Alberta, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. The following suggests some o f the ways in which she positioned herself in relation to opportunities to exhibit her work: The Alberta Community Arts Club Association has been aroundfor  along  time: It's a very grass roots thing. You can paint for three months and still show in an ACACA  art show (2,842); If you 're a member of the Profiles Gallery for a couple of years  they '11 include your work in one of the gallery shows. They might hang two of your paintings, but they 11 guarantee that they '11 hang one of them for sure. It's juried. I usually have one painting in that exhibit, and sometimes they pick two of my paintings (2,848). Terry "spent quite a bit of time chasing around to galleries, taking the paintings, and picking them up" (1,314) - time she would have preferred to devote to her painting. Still, the following suggests the seriousness o f her commitment to promoting her work: I've shown my work at the Edmonton Art Club's annual show at City Hall. I've also exhibited with the EAC in other places, and with the Society of Western Canadian Artists. I've shown my work with the Allied Arts Council in Spruce Grove, and when I was a member, with the Art Society of Strathcona County. I also showed my work in various offices for a while, but nothing sold and I gave that up. It just seemed to be a bit pointless. A lot of work for nothing. ... I showed my work at the Sussex Gallery, but they are no longer in existence. I've shown my work at the Art Beat Gallery in St. Albert, The Little Church Gallery in Spruce Grove, and have shown several times at the Johnson Gallery in Edmonton. There are exhibits at the Misericordia  Hospital, and I'll probably show there again this year (1,460).  She had not yet developed a continuing relationship with a professional art gallery. She estimated that she had sold about 10% o f her paintings, although she had not sold as much of her work since she began to create abstract paintings. M a r y had "given a lot of work away, " and had "sold a few paintings, too " (1,552). From time to time, she exhibited her work with her women artists collective. In addition, she has had an annual exhibit at a local community gallery as a guest artist for the past four or five years. I asked how this came about. She said, "At first I thought it would be kind of nice, seeing that this art place was close by, to see if they would take some of my art on consignment, but she told me I would have to be a member, and have to be French, or have  130  a French connection, to be a member. But then after. I showed her my portfolio she said, 'Well, we 're having this opening and we '11 have a guest artist and you '11 be the guest artist.' So that's how I started with the gallery, and then she said that I could have a show as a guest artist every year " (2,136). Exhibits appeared to provide a "performative" experience that validated an expanding sense o f artist identity among some o f the participants. In addition to selling their work, and having their work appreciated those who viewed it, some o f the participants had also received special commendations and awards which served to further validate their work and sense o f identity as an artist. L i l l i a n had received a number o f awards and scholarships that she has used to further her art through the Alberta Community A r t Clubs Association and the Faculty o f Extension, for demonstrated excellence as a visual artist. One o f Helen's paintings had been selected for the cover o f the Society o f Western Canadian Artists' newsletter: My painting  "A Winter in Old Riga " was one of the six that were chosen (2,320).  Terry was awarded second place in a Golden Brush competition organized by the Edmonton Art Club, among other awards. The degrees and certificates that some o f the participants had achieved also contributed to their sense o f being an artist. For example, although L i l l i a n felt that she was an artist before she completed her certificate, her story o f being involved i n the fine arts program served to augment her identity claim: I've got my certificate from the university in art, you know. ...Igot that two years ago at the age of82 (1,433). A t 80 years o f age M a r y enrolled in a credential-oriented university-degree program to finally realize her dream o f really learning art. She distinguished between the short community-based arts courses she had taken earlier in her life, and the sustained course o f study that the degree program offered. Terry described the challenges she faced i n "trying to achieve the status of being an artist. " She noted that: There's politics involved. If you don't have a fine arts degree, that's a major barrier to overcome. Other practising artists don't accept you because you don't have a degree and you haven't spent your life at it (1,241); I've come to realize what a barrier it is not having professional qualifications.  You 're not going to be taken seriously  without credentials, I think. Being accepted within the art community as a qualified artist is important in the sense of being recognized and achieving sales and publicity. A few make it, but most don't (2,551). Terry was considering going back to university to complete a  131  Bachelor o f Fine Arts. She was also hopeful (and fearful) about the outcomes o f applying to become a member o f the Alberta Society o f Artists. The jury selection process that was followed to select new members considered evidence o f high level competence and the assessed "professionalism" o f potential applicants. N o t all o f the participants were interested in completing certificates or degrees,- or receiving awards and commendations, or being recognizes as "an artist." For example, Joyce said: I'm not interested in climbing a "social ladder " in the art world. I don't want or need that pressure. I paint for the love of it (2,432). Identity Space III: Cultural and Relational  Understandings  The participants' identity constructions were described in relation to different cultural understandings and relational comparisons regarding what can be taken to be "art," and who can claim to be "an artist" (also see Mishler, 1999, p. 135). Their art instructors contributed to their knowledge o f good art, and many o f the participants referenced their work in relation to these various role models as they attempted to articulate their own sense o f self as an artist. When I asked L i l l i a n i f she considered her various instructors as her peers at this point in her career, she replied, "Oh, absolutely! I've even had paintings in shows with them. Ifigured I was in awful good company" (1,1099). She had decided against taking further art classes a few years ago when her mentor said, " Why are you spending the money? Why don 'tyou just paint? " (1,839). Helen said: "Honestly, sometimes when I talk about painting I think, 'Oh, my god! I'm talking like they talk, 'you know, other artists, like the instructors we've had" (1,414). Bernard argued against being considered an artist by contrasting his skills and knowledge with that o f art instructors he had worked with: There are instructors I have had who have studied the difference between the qualities of the paints. ... For example, this one instructor can say that 005-2 by Daniel Smith is slightly different from the 9074 Windsor Newton, you know, this sort of thing. Well, when people get into it that far it leaves me a little cold. That's the science of it, or the technology part. But boy, when he takes a brush and paints, he knows what he's doing. ... That to me is an artist. I'm not an artist (2,488). Although he did not feel that he was "an artist," Bernard shared that he felt more secure about his commitment to art when one o f his art instructors told him: You may not realize it, but you have developed a style all of your own. It is very distinctive. I could look at any one of your drawings and know they are Bernard Wood drawings" (1,806).  132  Bernard said, "Ifelt a little bit more confident in everything I did after that, he was so complimentary  about my progress " (1,806).  In addition to their instructors (local, contemporary artists who had received recognition for their work), the participants' valued the contributions, skills, and abilities o f historical and cultural icons. For example, M a r y said: I don't know whether I could call myself an artist, a real artist. You know, those artists that are really well known, I will never be that (1,427); You know, I started seriously at 80 and I am 89. So, I mean I don't profess to be famous, let's say (1,431). In attempting to respond to my question about her sense o f identity as an artist, Joyce stated: It depends on how the word is defined (2,237). A s she continued on, she clarified: I can do some of the things that famous artists can do. Like Vincent van Gogh, I can do some things that are similar to what he did, but I'd see him as a real artist, and see myself as a watercolour painter. I don't know, maybe it's a status thing. You know, when you 're well known and are very good, you 're on a pedestal (2,239). W h e n I asked Terry i f she would call herself an artist, she said, "You have to be a little careful with that. You know, to say that you are 'an artist' implies a great deal of ability and having achieved a great deal. For example, Rembrandt was an artist. I am working on becoming an artist. I'm on the path but I've a long way to go " (2,539). The participants' identity constructions were also embedded within, and distributed across, their social relationships. Their involvement in art was often recognized by their family and friends. M a l c o l m said: My whole life is now, I mean, sort of everybody's  asking  me, " Well, how's the painting going? " So I sort of end up always carrying around some pictures in my pocket (2,295). Mary also had people who asked her "Are you still painting? " and "What are you doing now? " (2,896). One o f her friends had approached her. for art lessons: I don't know if lam much of a teacher but we 're painting all the same (2,708). Her church had commissioned her to complete an interpretive work o f art for an upcoming retreat. L i l l i a n ' s family and friends also inquired about her art: They often ask, "Are you still painting?  What are you painting? " (1,1128). People also asked her i f they could come over  to her house to "learn how to paint? " (1,1093). One o f Joyce's friends who worked with oils had phoned her to ask her for a quick lesson i n watercolours: She said, "I've got this course coming up and I don't know very much about watercolour. " ... When she left she said, "You know, I learned so much. I was  133  going to ask someone I know who is a professional  artist to give me a lesson but I'm glad I  didn't because I learned so much from you tonight" - not putting the artist down, of course (2,2); That was exciting, and then my other friend, the lady that inspired me to do my art exhibit, phoned me a couple of times saying "I need another pair of eyes, I want to finish this painting, can I come over?" (2,12). I asked Joyce i f she felt comfortable describing herself as being an artist. She replied, "Sometimes, but I don't say it, other people say it" (2,255). She presented her involvement in art in different ways depending on how receptive, or interested she felt the recipient was. She didn't talk about her art a lot with her family members: I don't bring it up because there are so many other things to talk about. Still, some will ask "Are you painting? family andfriends  What have you painted recently? " (2,345); It's not that my  aren't interested, they 're not involved (2,347); I try not bring it up too  often because they might get tired of it. Nobody's actually said "There she goes again!" but I don't want them to say that either (2,359). Joyce's involvement in art was recognized more explicitly by her "artist friends" and those who attended her exhibits. Although Terry's family and friends all viewed her as "an artist," she felt that different art instructors, albeit supportive, still considered her to be primarily a student. She said: My teacher last week said I was the most accomplished painter in the group. So, I'm thinking, "This is great! Maybe I should push a bit further" (2,601). I asked i f she had ever experienced a condescending attitude on the part o f her art instructors. She said, "No, not really. Most of the time I'm ahead of the majority of the class. The teachers like to have somebody in the class who can do what they want them to do " (2,669). I asked i f they accepted her as a peer. When she replied, ' W o " (2,671), I asked i f she felt that her instructors viewed her primarily as an art student, she responded affirmatively, "Yes, as a student" (2,675). A s noted earlier, Terry considered credentials to be an important social "marker" in being recognized as an artist. Giving Form to Experience: A Gift of Self A significant way in which I came to view the participants' as being "identified" with art included the ways in which art offered a means o f making their personality, interests, and experience visible. For example, Helen described herself as a colourist: I like intense colour. That's me, that's my personality (1,442). She said: I really think you see how people are. It's funny how people's personalities  come out, in a group, especially. You can learn something  134  about someone's personality by their paintings. There's this one gal. She does watercolours, and she paints lovely, beautiful flowers. But that's the kind of a person she is. She's a lovely person and she loves doing flowers. See how the personalities come out (1,564); It just comes from within you, you know (2,174); We get some really good people in to give workshops. You always learn something al their workshops, don't get me wrong, you always learn something, but people lend to go back to their own style within a couple of months. It's just what comes out of you. That is what is so interesting about art (2,292). L i l l i a n cautioned, "You should never let anybody tell you that your method of doing something isn't good, because everybody puts marks on a piece of paper differently. It's like your fingerprints. They 're unique to you. How you put your marks down, whether it's with a paint brush, or whether it's with a pencil, it's unique to you. Not that there aren't some basic rules that you should learn" (1,949). M a r y said: I think that art kind of brings out your personality. I think it brings out what Ifeel about something (1,775). Others have also described ways in which art helps to "develop" the self. Eisner (2002) has suggested that "the works we create speak back to us, and we become in their presence a part o f a conversation that enables us 'to see what we have said.' ... and discover what it is that we are capable o f experiencing" (p. 11). Dissanayake (2000) has similarly observed that "when we make or do something ... it mirrors us back" (p. 196). In a similar vein, Bernard shared: I think that art makes people. ... I don't know how to describe that, but I really do (1,746). I asked how he thought that happened. He replied, "Well, there has to be first of all some quality in the person to make them sensitive to art and I think it's that sensitivity that allows the real person comes out. I mean there are people who like to sit down and express themselves through art. Art is a form of communication.  The person may  not be trying to say something specific in their art, but something always comes out, and you understand what you like about the person through their art. I don't know how else to describe it" (1,748). Wanting to explore this idea, I asked, "Is it that they are communicating something to you about what they are seeing, and what they value about what they see?" Bernard suggested that something more was involved: I think the thing about art is that you see the best in people. Whether they are thinking about themselves that way may be unimportant. It's just that you can gather something about what a person appreciates, or understands, or is sensitive to, I think that's what I mean. It brings the person out (1,756).  135  Sense impressions, memories, and feelings are often fleeting. A r t not only enhanced an attending to aesthetic and perceptual experience, but also provided a means o f "giving form" to special memories. In addition to depicting special moments i n which the participants were struck by the beauty o f the phenomenal world (described earlier), they also created paintings o f significant moments they had experienced often based on their travels, and other special experiences. For example, Helen said: You know, like that painting. I was there. I was in that big dome in Riga. I've heard the wonderful music they played on the organ in that cathedral: It is one of the largest organs in the world. That painting reminds me of that... (2,412). Bernard shared the following: This reminds me of this place we visited in Italy, quite far north, up the west coast. These five villages are all built on the side of this cliff. It's just amazing. They've built all these buildings such that you can enter on a level down here, and then walk up five stories, and go out the door at the back, and you are still at street level. It's a fascinating place, and so isolated from the rest of the world. When we were there it was pouring rain. I loved the feeling of the rain and the brightness of the umbrellas. It just caught me, I loved it. Every time Alta comes in here she looks at it, and says, "Let's go again!" (2,587). M a l c o l m ' s passion for flying gliders and other small motorized vehicles had inspired a number o f his larger artworks. The following provides an example: I was telling you that I've been to 30,000feet in a motor glider. So here we are landing the motor glider. This is a rocky mountain wave cloud, and they say if you get your glider right on a leading edge of that wave cloud you might get a 2,000 or 3,000feet a minute lift. That 'show you get way up so high. That is pretty advanced soaring, you know. This is the rocky mountain wave, and there are certain areas in here which are really turbulent... and so you make sure you avoid those. And these little lens-shaped clouds are working when the wave is working. You see, the wet air from British Columbia comes over the Livingston mountain range, falls off, hits the prairies, and then goes into a wave pattern with the air mass continuing on for 80 or 90 miles eastward. And so you get the primary wave, this is the primary wave cloud, and here is the secondary wave. And it goes on, and on, and on (1,108); So there's a big story associated with that painting. ... You have to get your oxygen going as you 're going through 10,000feet. At one point I was 20,000feet above the mountains, and this is in a motorless airplane. It was a very exciting thing to do, and that's why I wanted to paint it (1,118);  136  Bernard shared the following story about a pastel he had completed: My younger daughter was taking her Bachelor of Arts and she got the whole thing except for her first year English and that held her up for years. I kept after her to go back and finish it. Finally she did, but when it came to completing her final essay she would just stare at the wall. I don't know what the heck was going on in her head. I had no idea. So, one day I said, "Look, you sit down and work on this essay, and I'll work on a drawing and then I'll paint it. " So I did this painting in the same room that she was working on her essay, and we both finished at the same time. It was marvellous! And after that she got her degree, and that was it. But everybody likes that painting. Everybody wants to buy it. I have made it very clear that it's not for sale. It's just that it has such an interesting story behind it (1,106). M a r y also described having an enduring connection to some o f her artwork. For example, she had declined offers to sell the Depression paintings that she had on permanent exhibit at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald: A lot of times you don't like to sell your paintings because you just have a special feeling for them. They asked me if I wanted to sell them, and I said no. I didn't want to part with them, because it was part of my history. It was part of my growing up. It was part of my life as a child (1,782). I suggested that the series o f paintings were also important i n terms o f her "coming to art story," as they had been exhibited at the Royal Alberta Museum when she was i n her first year o f her visual arts degree program, and she agreed. However the participants viewed themselves i n relation to their art, their involvement i n art can be considered a gift o f self. M a n y o f the participants shared their work with friends and family as gifts. A story that Bernard shared illustrates this: I received this card from a friend of ours. A couple of years ago she was at one of our exhibitions and I had a painting of a water lily which she obviously liked. She came in, looked at it, and when she saw the "Sold" sign on it, she turned on her heel andjust left, and that was it. She never came back. So I happened to do another painting of the same water lily, but a different painting, and when I heard that her daughter had cancer, I thought, "Gee whiz, I have got to do something. "So I thought, " What about that painting? " So I packed it up and took it over lo her house and she was thrilled. I thought that was the end of it, and then the day before yesterday this card and a case of wine was sent to the house. I couldn't believe it  137  (1,119). I read the card aloud, "Thank you for the beautiful painting. Y o u are so generous and thoughtful. Thank y o u . " Bernard said, "Yeah, I couldn't believe it" (1,121). Joyce valued having "others appreciate my paintings, enjoy the beauty of them, or identify with them " (1,439). A t her solo exhibit a lot o f the seniors at the seniors' center came to view the paintings: Not very many bought my paintings, but I could see them looking at them, and talking to each other about them, saying "Oh, this reminds me of..." this or that. And then a gentleman came up to me and said, "You know that painting of the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon? When I got married I wanted to take my bride to the Bessborough Hotel, so I sold my bicycle for $40, and I still couldn't afford to stay there. " He said, "I'm thinking about buying that painting. " Later when I was off in the distance straightening a painting, I heard him tell the same story to another friend as he continued to look at it. In my guestbook he wrote, "Thank you for the memories. " I gave this gentleman a card with a print of my Bessborough Hotel painting. He was surprised. He thanked me and said he was going to frame the card. So what my friend had said about other people being able to enjoy and appreciate something in my work was true " (1,445). Joyce assigned l o w prices to her work to make them affordable, and sold cards with print reproductions o f her paintings with the thought that they might "give somebody a little bit of joy" (2,874). Enduring  Commitment  Just as the participants described having a special connection to particular artworks, they also described an enduring commitment to art. Periods o f creative stagnation were sometimes experienced by the participants, but none considered not painting. They were not able to conceive o f retiring from art - they had retired to art! Retirement was viewed as a significant beginning point in what they viewed as a long-term, and life-changing, commitment to art. When I spoke with Mary, she said: I haven't retired from art. I don't think I ever will. I hope I die with a paintbrush  in my hand (1,281). When I repeated her words to clarify  her statement, saying "so you retired from nursing i n your mid-fifties, but you are not going to retire from art," she clearly confirmed, "Never!" (1,291), and we both laughed. Helen also confirmed that she could "not imagine not painting, I'll always do it" (2,1077). She said: I have never thought of giving it up because it gives me something to do, so why quit? We 're having fun! (2,1071). I asked Joyce i f she envisioned herself continuing on with art  138  for a long time. She confirmed that she would continue with art "probably as long as I live, a long time. It's part of me " (2,450). She said: Ifound a part of me that I didn't know I had before. So now I can claim it (2,456). She could not imagine never painting again: I'll paint with my feet if my hands go. Some people do (2,464). L i l l i a n also described art as being a core part o f her being. When I asked how much she would miss art i f she was no longer involved in art, she replied: I would think half my life was gone. Half my reason for living would be gone, I think. I'd feel half my life was gone, I really would (2,1220). She planned on continuing with her art career as long as her health and stamina supported her work, declaring that "nothing will ever stop me from painting, I don't care what happens " (1,1043). I asked Bernard i f he could ever imagine himself not painting. He said: No, I can't imagine doing anything else, or enjoying  anything  more than painting. Hove it (2,532). He continued: I think art means more to me than it does to the average person. I am very comfortable in the world of art (2,642). The participants' enduring commitment to art making underscored the significance of their involvement in art as part o f their identity. Just as art making worked to effect a change in how they experienced and appreciated the world, their involvement i n art also changed their world, and also changed how they viewed themselves. Connected to this discussion o f identity, their artwork can be considered as a contribution to the "social life" o f the community and the larger culture. Their artwork can be considered a "gift o f s e l f to the world, both directly i n terms o f the artwork they have created, and also because their art makes the creative energy and artistic visions o f older people visible. O n C o m i n g to A r t i n Later Life: Other Variations and Themes Before ending this chapter, I offer a few additional reflections on coming to art in later life. The storylines and meaning-making dimensions I have described i n the foregoing sections were based on the "coming to art" narratives shared by those participants who described a serious, sustained involvement in art patterned, i n part, on models offered by professional arts practitioners. The participants that I have focused on i n this inquiry participated in arts organizations. They exhibited and sold their work. They identified strongly with their art making pursuits. Some even identified themselves as being artists, or hoped to become recognized as an "artist." Compared to their stories, somewhat less depth and narrative detail was provided by Lynda, Madeline, W i l l i a m , and - at least in relation to  139  the visual arts - G a i l . These participants described a less focused or sustained connection to art than the other participants. Additional thematic aspects that I touch on in this final section consider their narratives and stories, and thematic content common across all o f the participants. These include: the significance o f art making as a casual leisure pursuit; music as a form o f serious leisure; arts involvement in the midst o f difficulty; agelessness and vital aliveness; and advantages and constraints o f coming to art i n later life. Art Making As Casual Leisure in Later Life A s described earlier, Stebbins (1997) associates casual leisure with relatively shortlived pleasurable activity that requires little or no special training. Although he suggests that the greatest benefits o f arts-based leisure w i l l be enjoyed only i f "considerable skill and knowledge ... is approached and maintained" (p. 55), benefits are also associated with more casual involvement. For example, Lynda still enjoyed significant benefits from her somewhat more casual engagement in art. She saw "the potential for art in everything" (2,482). She viewed the world differently since she became involved in art making. She said: The sky is not one shade of blue. It's different shades of blue (2,194); When you look at a tree, you see there's a shadow. It's not just a tree standing in the middle of nowhere. You look at where the light is, and where the shadoM>s are (2,874). Her involvement in art inspired new learning and ideas. She described a collage project she had worked on: The whole thing is about power, there is the power of the atom bomb, and Napoleon had power, and a car has power. A cello has a lot of power; music has power. So basically the whole thing is about power. I have written that here in these letters I stuck on (1,433). I asked how she had decided to explore the idea o f "power" for her collage. She replied, "Well, actually I was thinking about it for weeks ahead of time .... It was interesting working on this, planning it out and making a statement. I got a book on collage, and so I knew that I needed to have a theme for it" (1,435). Creating artwork was a central, and much valued activity in Lynda's life: There's always a feeling of being drawn into the feeling of it, of creating, and thinking what else can I make (2,808). A r t making offered her something to be involved i n , "something to do." She said: I enjoy being busy with my hands. I don't like when I'm just not doing anything.  I'm  more tired if I do nothing (2,626). She sometimes stayed up "until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning" (1,988).She said: You know, when Ifinish painting I usually just go to bed or  140  whatever, but Ifeel like I have completed my day. Ifeel like I've done something (2,924). A r t making provided Lynda with a sense o f accomplishment in another way as well: My artwork is actually improving quite a bit (2,190); I've been doing more detailed work of late. It's not so much straight lines and such. I've actually got more shading in it now (2,196); That painting was quite significant for me because it was actually the first time I had ever worked on a canvas (2,694); I think that was my best. I was really surprised at that one, when I did that (2,726). Lynda spoke with excitement about her art. A r t making provided a way o f being connected to the larger culture, and being with other people who were also interested in art. She shared: / enjoy making art. The classes at the art gallery are really  interesting  because, first of all, you get to see the art gallery, and secondly, you get to learn about art. ... You learn about famous artists, when they painted, how they painted and why they changed their way of doing things. You get to study art, as well as create it. The material is presented in a very interesting way, and it's only two hours long. ... They actually give you all the materials that you need, and you can bring everything home (1,877). She also strongly identified with her involvement i n art. When I asked L y n d a how she would describe herself as an artist, she replied: I would probably be considered an art student because I'm only actually learning art, but I do know that I think of my art in serious terms, because it really upset me when I told someone I was an artist, and she said, "Oh, you 're an artist are you?, " like "Oh, you are just playing around with it. " Well, I don't really play around with it. ...I am really very serious about it. I'm a very serious-minded person. She continued: I would say that I'm an art student, but I don't think of art as a hobby. My painting isn 't really a hobby. I take my painting seriously. I'm not that great an artist, but I'd say I'm an artist that's a very serious person (2,638). Lynda's art making contributed significantly to her sense o f identity: / think as a wife you 're thought of as being connected to your husband, like you 're "Mr. and Mrs. " And then when a husband dies, or say is separated from the family, a wife becomes an individual once more. She becomes a person in her own right. You know, my husband is in a nursing home, he's being taken care of but I still have my life to live, and maybe I don't want to be known as Mrs. Raymond Barnhard. Maybe I want to be known as Lynda Barnhard, the painter, or somebody with qualities or talents of my own (2,342). She added: When you 're a regular person and decide that you want to do something later in life, these are your accomplishments,  141  not his. It's  something you're doing for you. ... You are making your own mark in life.... Although  it's  nice to have a husband and be married, there comes a point in time when you just kind of want to have time to be yourself  (2,354).  For Lynda, art making offered a means o f developing her own sense o f self-identity. She said, "You know, when you do art you feel like you've made something special because no one else can make it quite like you. They can do what you do, but it wouldn't be the same because everybody's art turns out different. So it's your own personal work" (2,938). A s noted by Stebbins (1982), casual leisure may be as serious as "serious leisure," especially i n relation to the "earnestness, sincerity, importance" and care given to the activity (p. 258). Lynda's narrative supports this, and underscores the need to recognize that "seriousness and casualness as personal approaches to leisure are merely the poles o f a [more] complicated dimension" (p. 255). Music as a "Serious Leisure " Pursuit Although we had originally connected in relation to her interest in art, much o f the conversation that G a i l and I enjoyed was focused on her experience o f playing the flute. She said: I have a talent for art, I do, but since the flute came along, I haven't made time for art (1,439). She has always been attracted to the "happy" sound o f the flute, and approached a flautist one night at a restaurant to ask i f he thought she might "ever be able to learn to play the flute? " When he encouraged her to try, she resolved to "just grab the chance and do it!" (1,98). G a i l looked in a weekly community paper, found an advertisement for flute lessons that included the line "All ages welcome, " and thought, "that's me!" (1,471). G a i l spoke with great excitement about the flute. She described the immediacy and simple j o y o f creating beautiful music. She devoted at least an hour a day to practicing the flute i n preparation for her weekly tutoring session. She wanted to play recognizable selections o f music, and "play them with the feeling that belongs to the piece " (1,166). Her capacity to learn amazed her: It's just fantastic. I want to learn how to play properly and Sarah is a wonderful teacher. She is very encouraging, very positive, and very patient. I want to play stuff, and lately I have been going through music books of the 50s, 60s, and the 70s. I can play them and Ijust love it (1,475); I keep saying to Sarah, "Do you think you can poke any more information into this head of mine? " After the first two or three months, I thought, "We are going too fast. I can't do this. We are going to have to slow  142  down. " But I didn't say that out loud, and we didn't slow down. And I don't feel that way anymore (1,489). She elaborated on this: /just get kind of lost in it and everything else gets out. ... It's a very happy feeling, letting all the other stuff out trying to reach, maybe not perfection, but just to know I am doing my best, and that I am trying to get better. It makes me so happy. It just makes me feel happy (2,132); When I've done well, Ifeel really, really wonderful (2,198). Gail said: My friends and family think it's really, really cool that I'm doing this. They ask me about it, and if they don't ask, I tell them. It gives me self confidence really. There are a lot of things I have in common with everyone, the things I do with my family, and other friends, but nobody else plays the flute. It's my special thing. Don't get me wrong, its not that I think highly of myself, but it's given me such delight and pride in myself and my ability to learn all that stuff (2,224). A new world had opened up to her, one that Gail enjoyed i n a deep and satisfying way, and felt a part of: I was watching a concert on television the other night, and you know Ifelt a kinship with the musicians. Ifelt, "I can do that too, we belong together, I understand you " (1,234). She takes her flute everywhere. She played it at a memorial service that commemorated her mother-in-law's life. She takes it on camping trips, enjoying its light and happy trilling sounds set against the sounds o f nature. She described a passionate commitment to playing the flute: Ijust can't imagine not playing the flute.  ...It  would be a big, big hole in life. 1 would even miss cleaning my flute, you know. I would miss everything about it (2,270); ...It's just completed something for me, I'm not sure what, but it has (2,286). Gail viewed music as being more than a hobby, both because o f the seriousness o f her commitment and because o f how it contributed to her enjoyment o f life i n retirement. G a i l ' s story suggests that various spheres o f engagement exist in which we may realize our interests and talents. Arts Involvement in the Midst of Difficult  Experiences  Although my focus was not on the use o f art as a means o f psychosocial support or therapy per se, several o f the participants offered insights into therapeutic aspects that may sometimes be associated with art making. Madeline and W i l l i a m experienced art making as a means o f coping with difficult challenges they faced i n later life related to cancer and other illnesses. They became involved in an "arts i n medicine" program when it was suggested as an adjunctive component o f Madeline's cancer treatment. A r t making helped Madeline and  143  W i l l i a m connect with others whose lives had been touched by cancer, for support, meaningmaking, and creating a sense o f well-being i n the midst o f their illness experience. A r t making also helped them to connect to one another. They shared the following to provide some insights into their experience: Madeline (1,1254): We have cookies. We have tea time and cookies. I don't know what it is, but you just get in that room and start your recovery. W i l l i a m (1,1255): Yeah, I think to some degree it's done two things. You know there are the other people who are also involved in this, and you get a chance to cry and laugh, and vent your anger, and then things settle down and you do your carving. And the whole thing, everything changes. It's utterly amazing. I'm always amazed at how it turns ... Madeline (1,1262): There 's laughter. W i l l i a m (1,1263): You know, I don't know for what period of time, but everybody's kind of very sad and sombre and crying. Then all of a sudden you get to this point, where it's over, and now we 're going to do the soapstone. And the whole thing just changes one hundred percent - everyone is laughing and giggling. They 're happy. It's quite amazing, actually, quite amazing. When the carving starts, holy smokes'. You 'd think it was Christmas, and everybody got presents! ... W i l l i a m (1,1316): It's just utterly amazing. I can't explain it. It amazes me every time this happens. We have this book, they call it a journal, and what you 're supposed to do each day that you go to this class is write down how you felt during the week, or how you felt during the class, or whatever. And I don't how many times I wrote in that Ijust found it unbelievable how the mood changes. And it's just like that - it's instant. As soon as the time comes to start carving, everyone is smiling and talking. Madeline (1,1323): We get involved in what we 're doing, and we laugh at our carvings, and we look at each other's carvings, and say " What's that going to be? " You know? Of course, we laugh away at it, and eventually we 're all praising each other because, hey, we've done this great job. Excerpts taken from short essays they had written about their carvings suggest that W i l l i a m found a sense o f peace creating his polar bear carvings: Whenever I look at Amah (Friend) I feel a sense of peacefulness and know that whatever the future may hold he will always be there to assist and guide me. Madeline also described her carving as an object that had protective powers: Bringing my bear, Elunun (Hope), to life made me realize that I had put so much of myself into this carving. The time for anger, grieving, and depression must be laid to rest. I began to read and sew again, picking up where I had left off so many months ago. There may be days when I become lost again, but I know if I reach out there is a hand waiting to help me find my way back. Madeline felt strongly about the benefits o f the "arts i n medicine" program. She made soapstone carvings for one o f her physicians: I made two  144  brown bears for him. I took them to his office, and he said, "Do you want me to take them home?, " and I said, "No, I want you to have them in your office so when you have other cancer patients who are not familiar  with the 'arts in medicine' program you can show them  the carvings " (2,58). Some other participants also shared stories about how art helped them to adapt to difficult life transitions. For example, having just lost his wife, and having to retire from a busy and successful career as a surgeon due to health problems, M a l c o l m found that art helped h i m to regain a sense o f coherence: Art helped me get through the horror of Barb's sudden death. ...It was just horrible. I was very depressed. And I was fighting with Ralph Klein and the cutbacks he was introducing to the health system ...He was destroying just about everything he touched. ... My art helped to keep me focused on something that was very enjoyable to me (1,42). A r t making sustained M a l c o l m as he struggled to find ground to stand on through an emotionally devastating time: I went through a phase where I was doing a lot of black canvasses. I was in a depressive mode. ... I really enjoyed the thrill of bringing an image out of the darkness. It's a whole reversal of your thinking process. I went through a phase where I was really concentrating on this technique. It was very therapeutic, and although I don'tpaint particularly,  that way now, I've certainly been building on it. ... The art  and my flying buddies also, helped tremendously to get me out of the  depression (1,56). Likewise, Lynda described the sense o f relief that art making offered her from worrying about her problems. She found art relaxing in that it helped her to forget her everyday worries and concerns, and immerse herself in the release and satisfaction o f creating something. She said, "It makes me feel kind of happy because when I paint I'm just actually not thinking about what's bothering me. I'm just painting"  (1,977). She described  the meaning o f art for her in the following way: Art to me is a lot like butterflies. You know how butterflies are free? Well Ifeel that art somehow frees you, from your frustrations  or  whatever. You kind of lose yourself, you know, and are free just like the butterflies to fly around exploring (1,593). Helen also described relief from worry and concern, and an enveloping sense o f comfort and well-being as important aspects o f being involved i n the Laurier Heights A r t Society: Everybody just seems to fit in. I don't know, it's just a nice comfortable  145  group  (1,193). Some members o f the group had died over the years, others had lost their spouse, and several members had health problems. Still, she said: Even though you have worries and problems, you go there and your problems just seem to float away when you paint. It's wonderful. You just don't think about anything else (1,195); You forget everything. You just focus on your painting and what's going on (1,362). Helen described the benefits o f art making i n terms o f respite from worry. Although she and her husband both enjoyed good health during the time o f our interviews, Helen had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year prior to our first meeting. During that period, radiation treatment had dampened her enthusiasm for painting: / didn't have as much enthusiasm for painting, but I still went twice a week (1,584). She found the group helpful in taking her mind off o f her worries, and providing support: If I didn't feel like painting, I'd still go and have a coffee, and somebody would have a joke to share in the coffee room, or we'd just catch up on what's going on. That was group therapy for me (1,578). Art making as respite did not feature as a strong aspect o f L i l l i a n ' s experience when her daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour (shortly after L i l l i a n ' s graduation exhibit). During this period L i l l i a n dedicated much o f her time to caring for her daughter, and also her son-in-law who had been sick for a long time. Then, following her daughter's death, and then her son-in-law's death (19 days after her daughter died), L i l l i a n found that she wasn't able to commit the same energy to her art for a long while. Somewhat earlier when she had been diagnosed with breast cancer she had continued to paint but at a slower rate: I painted some. I wouldn't call those paintings the best I have ever done, because I was doctoring more than I was painting. That was 16 years ago (2,454). The remaining participants made no mention o f art functioning as a respite for worries and concerns. Their narratives were focused more on an ongoing expansion o f experience, and identification with art as they learned more about, and became more involved in art. Agelessness and Vital Engagement I was impressed by the sense o f "agelessness" I experienced i n relation to the participants. The participants only rarely characterized themselves as being older, or being limited by age. I found myself appreciating them more in relation to the keen sense o f aliveness they effused, which was suggested by references they made to having a sense o f purpose and ongoing learning. The participants described art making as involving a  146  continuing learning process which sometimes included enrolling i n more formalized programs o f study. For example, L i l l i a n is known as the oldest student to ever graduate from the Fine Arts Certificate program. When it was reintroduced, L i l l i a n thought, "OK, why don't I do it? ...I could have used it more to my advantage when I was younger. But I thought, 'It's an achievement! At 82, that is an achievement! It's something that I did that I was successful at, and why not? " (2,1069). In addition, she shared: You 're never too old to learn something. It makes your life more interesting, you know, it makes your life more interesting (1,394); The idea that I've been doing this for over 30 years ... what a wonderful, wonderful journey it's been. I have found it a really lovely journey, just a very exciting journey (1,721); I don't think too much about age. I never thought much about age until I reached the age of 80, and then for a little while nobody would let me forget that I was 80. ...So 1 think about age a little bit more than I used to, but... (2,552); I think for me it's been a very good thing. I think it's helped to keep me young (2,588). The participants' accounts suggested that they were oriented to the present and future, more so than the past. Mary said: The idea that I am getting old, that I am just about at the end of it all, doesn 't bother me a bit. I don't know what it is. Is it something  spiritual  you 're given or that you connect with, with art? I don't know. I can't explain it, but I can say that art certainly helped me to age. I don't know if I had been the same person if I hadn't taken art. I don't think I would, I don't think I would be as happy (1,365); When you retire, I think you have to have an interest. If I hadn't had an interest, I think I would have just been an old grouchy lady complaining about this, that, and the other thing. And now I don \t have time to complain, you don't, do you? (1,1195). She elaborated on how art contributed to a sense o f youthfulness: I think it gives you a young attitude, a young feeling (2,2); Health-wise I think it makes you forget that you 're becoming old. ... You mix with a lot of younger people and that helps too. They have so much that they can contribute to you, ... Ifeel when you are with younger people and share interests with them, you feel more involved in what's going on today (2,10); I think if you are involved in things and achieve things too, life is interesting (2,28). Helen made similar statements: I think it really keeps us young. It really does. I think it keeps me on my toes, you know, you 're still kind of with it. You 're still connected to everything that's going on around you (1,314); We have a very interesting lif