Students and rehab center residents connect through art

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA — Art students from Shelby County High School got to know residents of Columbiana Health and Rehabilitation on Thursday, Dec. 12 by painting together.

Members of the school’s Art Club brought finished paintings as examples to give the residents ideas to start from. Then, each resident was partnered with a student for a one-on-one painting session.

Smiles and friendly chatter were plentiful as each stroke of the brush and each streak of color combined to create original works of art.

“I had painting classes when I was real young,” said resident Fay Porter, a retired dispatcher with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. “I enjoyed doing what I did today but I would like to do some more later.”

Porter said during her days as a dispatcher, the job could get stressful and activities like painting seemed to help lessen the stress.

“When I got into painting class, my nerves got settled down,” she said.

Jo Tyler, another resident and a former registered nurse, said she had never painted before but described the experience as “very enjoyable.”

The school’s Art Club is a service-based club; i.e., members do not typically create art just for the sake of creating it. For example, if a set piece needs to be painted for a school play, the Art Club will provide the piece.

SCHS art teacher Michelle Branson said art served as a bridge in Thursday’s session that benefitted students and residents alike.

“This is a big part of what art actually is,” Branson said. “It’s more about the connection. The painting is really more secondary to what we were doing here. I’m one of those people that think art is bigger than what we see on museum walls. It helps us know ourselves, it helps us communicate with others and it’s about the act of creating, and it can be very therapeutic.”

Students also talked about how beneficial the experience was.

“The first resident I worked with was extremely antisocial,” said senior Sarah Sanchez. “It was especially emotional for them to see her open up to somebody and enjoy herself and smile.”

Added junior Cailyn Ingram, “I like how some people that didn’t usually participate in things or were sad enjoyed it more.”

Sophomore Bella Korby said it was good for the residents to get out of their rooms and mingle.

“They get to learn a new skill,” she said.