May 21-June 18, 2011

Golden Treasures exhibit 2011Welcome to Golden Treasures! This exhibit, our fourth annual, is composed of over 150 works of art produced over the past year by our treasured Bihl Haus “Goldens,” senior residents of Primrose and surrounding communities enrolled in the GO! Arts Program. It is accompanied by a biannual catalog that includes selections of poetry and prose written by the Goldens.

The GO! Arts Program provides professionally taught art, creative writing, craft, and yoga classes to the Goldens. Classes are taught in the Bihl Haus gallery, which also offers special art and literary workshops, and regular gallery exhibits and events. The Goldens are stimulated by this environment of changing exhibitions that feature well-known local and international artists. They have opportunities to engage not only with the work, but with the artists themselves through guest artist lectures, field trips, and other activities.

The Program began in 2007 as a response to a request from a Primrose resident, who was also a Bihl Haus Docent. She felt that too many residents were leading isolated lives locked in their apartments. The initial class proved so popular that by the end of the year, three classes were being offered. This year, for the first time, the catalog also includes poetry and prose produced in the new creative writing class, titled The Golden Life, taught by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez, author of Golondrina, why did you leave me? Included, too, are artworks produced in our Special Projects classes, including the 15-foot portable mural by the Goldens facilitated by mural artist Adriana Garcia in spring 2010, and fiber food sculptures made by the Goldens with textile artist Suchil Coffman-Guerra in spring 2011.

Many residents move to Primrose after suffering a traumatic event in their lives—loss of a spouse, job, or home, and in some cases the onset of disease and chronic health problems. Some can no longer drive, which results in extreme isolation. These factors can lead to loneliness, depression, and failing health. Our experience shows that community-based senior arts programs run by professional artists promote health and prevent disease.  They also have a positive impact on seniors maintaining independence and on reducing dependence, and therefore appears to reduce risk factors that drive the need for long-term care.

To demonstrate this observation, in early 2008 Drs. Adelita Cantu, from the UTHSCSA School of Nursing, and Jill Fleuriet, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UTSA, began an 18-month research project with the Bihl Haus Goldens. Titled Arts and Aging in an Urban Environment, the project documented the Goldens’ experiences in the GO! Arts program, particularly as they relate to arts, aging, and health. Drs. Fleuriet and Cantu and their students actively participated in and observed the painting classes and interviewed Golden students. The Goldens kept diaries on their medications, doctor’s visits, and social activities for the duration of the research project. The results overwhelmingly support our belief that this program significantly improves the lives of Golden participants.

One of the highlights of the GO! Arts program is when a Golden completes her or his first literary or visual work of art. It shows that they have been able to let their imaginations experience images and memories long lost to time and, in many cases, to pain. Many families respond more positively to the Golden artists because they no longer dwell on the negative or health issues and other problems.  Now, through the Golden Treasures exhibit and catalog, you, too, have the opportunity to see how the literary and visual arts can enrich our lives regardless of age. We hope you enjoy the show as much as we enjoyed producing it. Celebrate the experience with us!