Creating a Legacy Piece by Piece

Avinity Mosaic.jpg

What do you do to cherish a memory? Maybe you scrapbook photos or reminisce the “good-times” with close friends over dinner. For some, using the power of creativity and art can spark beautiful memories, while creating new ones for years to come.

Earlier this year, COMPAS Teaching Artists Zoë Bird and Anne Krocak were able to work with residents from Avinity Senior Living communities thanks to an Arts Learning grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board. It was a very special collaboration that resulted in beautiful art pieces throughout every session.


Anne Krocak worked with residents from Mainstreet Village and Edendale to create both watercolor paintings and mosaics (small, individual ones and large-scale group ones). Memory tiles made from clay were another learning opportunity offered at Mainstreet Village. “This stimulated their minds and engaged their memories which allowed them to tell stories that would otherwise not be told,” says Gigi DesLauriers-Knop, the VP of Operations at Avinity Senior Living who also managed the execution of the grant and participated in many of the sessions.

The process was inter-generational, as students from Minnesota Life College (a college for young adults with different learning abilities) assisted in the mosaic making.

“The partners really bonded and on their last day they expressed how much they adored each other,” said Pat Samples in regard to the students and older adult participants. Pat has worked many years doing extensive work with COMPAS’ Artful Aging™ and was an integral part in the managing process of these workshops.

At the end of sessions, a large-scale mosaic was presented at Edendale for the whole community to see and admire — a piece that Pat says, “creates a legacy.”

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Zoë Bird also worked with members of day programs for people with dementia to create honest and powerful poetry. She conducted 12 one-hour poetry sessions at 3 different Avinity sites in Minneapolis, Golden Valley and Minnetonka.

“Older adults make amazing art. They speak in poetry that floors me. They are drawing on more experience, nuance, and emotional maturity. People with dementia, in particular, make all sorts of gorgeous leaps and intuitive creative connections that artists without dementia spend their lives struggling toward.”

For Zoë, one memorable moment came when a man with pronounced aphasia spoke up toward the end of a poetry session about trees.

The tree that was close

To where my parents were:

That’s a room.

Three simple lines created a beautiful connection between all of the community members and the people involved. Poetry gave him a voice.

Zoë was reminded of a quote her friend (who works with older adults with dementia) Sandra Menefee Taylor told her.

“I want to help people fall in love with themselves again.”

Made possible by the Minnesota State Arts Board “Arts Learning” grant

Made possible by the Minnesota State Arts Board “Arts Learning” grant

Zoë reflected on this quote and added, “At a time of life when people tend to lose a lot, why not offer an opportunity to gain new ways of expressing themselves, maybe even new identities as artists?”

No matter what age or time in your life… it’s never too late to create!