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article imageOp-Ed: Interior designer on quest to bring more art programs to seniors Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Aug 10, 2015 in Entertainment
Sonoma - Over a year ago, when some of the seniors at Vintage Sonoma Assisted Living Center wanted to do more art work, interior designer Bonnie Walner realized something.
“There is a lot of effort to raise money for art programs for kids in schools; why not raise money to provide art programs for seniors?”
At that moment, is when she realized she was onto something vital. “Sonoma is a wonderful place for families and children. But what about our senior population? So many of our seniors have little to do in the day-to-day routine of their sequestered lives. Having more art programs provides them with an outlet for creativity and more activity.”
Vintage Sonoma’s executive director, Colleen Kabeary, couldn’t agree more. She and her staff know how much an engaging activity such as art enhances the lives of seniors. Even with the best of care in one of the most caring, comfortable facilities, a daily routine of little to do equals to a life in retirement that is unfulfilled and squandered.
Residents of Vintage Sonoma gathered on Aug. 4 for a  splatter paint party  in honor of the assisted...
Residents of Vintage Sonoma gathered on Aug. 4 for a "splatter paint party" in honor of the assisted living facility's 10th anniversary. The state-of-the-art facility provides high-quality care for 100 residents, ranging in ages from 60 to 101.
The state-of-the-art assisted living facility on Napa Road in Sonoma does provide art activities. But Walner believes there should be more. “It is not enough, she exclaimed. Seniors should have the opportunity to become artists and work on art everyday if they wish to.” In addition to wine, cheese and olives, Sonoma is also known for its thriving art events. Walner wants seniors to be a part of that scene as participants, not just spectators.
Walner was very grateful to Grace Starr who serves as Business Development Director at Vintage Sonoma. Starr was instrumental in helping Walner get the "Art for Elders" program together at the facility.
“Seniors have so much to give, said Walner. “Aging is just another stage in life, it is not a death sentence.” Walner wants to challenge the outdated notions of retirement and elderly lifestyles.
Not far from the assisted living center is Studio 35 a community arts gallery and center that eagerly seeks to bring the entire community together through art. “We have artists of all ages, from every phase of life and from all backgrounds, said Gina Roman, artistic director. In addition to gallery showings and gatherings, Studio 35 offers classes and workshops, all designed to bring people together and promote art in the community. Roman likes Walner’s idea and hopes it flourishes.
With paint donated from Sonoma Paint Center and others  participants in the  splatter paint party  h...
With paint donated from Sonoma Paint Center and others, participants in the "splatter paint party" had a fun time creating a grand piece of art that was later divided up into various sizes and sold to raise money for the "Art for Elders" program at Vintage Sonoma.
Walner would like her efforts to expand beyond the residents at Vintage Sonoma.” I would like to bring this program to other facilities in Sonoma. We live in a very giving community, with 140 non-profits, and as you know, we all come together for a good cause.” The event she was referring to at that moment was the recent 10-year anniversary celebration of Vintage Sonoma, this past Aug. 4.
With a large canvas sprawled out in the parking lot, senior residents at the facility got to paint. The local Kelly-Moore and Sonoma Paint Center paint stores in town donated buckets of paint, along with other supplies. Fr. Bruno Segatta of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho was in town to help facilitate the participants. Very pleased that the event went well, manager of the Kelly-Moore paint store on Highway 12, Chris Ramirez said, "I'm glad my store and company could be apart of it. As for the amount of paint donated, it was about 21 gallons in total."
People eager to help and coming together is something that amazes and inspires. Walner explained that no sooner did she get the idea of an ‘Art for Elders program’ is when Fr. Bruno was in town to visit friends (Audrey and Ron Chapman of Sonoma) – “and it all went on and came together from there," she said.
Fr. Bruno without hesitation understood what Walner wanted to do. “I am an artist and I teach art or rather I help people to unleash the art inside of themselves,” said Fr. Bruno. An orphan after WWII in Florence, Italy, Bruno discovered art as a way to deal with life. Art not only helped him to express the sorrows but also the joy.
Serving as a Roman Catholic priest for over 40 years, Fr. Bruno’s greatest ministry has been not simply as a parish priest. It has been helping people young as well as old discover and express art. He spends part of the year in Boise at his parish and the other part, especially during summer, he travels teaching art. Usually, during summer he is in his native Florence, Italy. But with his talents in demand, Fr. Bruno has taught or helped organize art projects all over the world. And, it is these extra little outreaches helping to raise funds for art programs that amazes and inspires him. Last year, just as he met Walner, Fr. Bruno at the request of friends, helped Hanna Boys Center raise money for their Hanna art program in a similar way.
With a out-going personality and a zest for life  Fr. Bruno Segatta makes friends easily. At the 10-...
With a out-going personality and a zest for life, Fr. Bruno Segatta makes friends easily. At the 10-year anniversary celebration at Vintage Sonoma he met Rabbi Steve Finley of the Sonoma congregation of Shir Shalom. Fr. Bruno feels at home just about anywhere he goes in the world. His love of art has helped him to reach out to many. He helped conduct the group painting project that afternoon at Vintage Sonoma on Aug. 4
“People just gather together, get a canvas set out and paint,” he said. Just like the event with Hanna Boys Center. The canvas painted in the parking lot that day at Vintage Sonoma was sold to raise funds. Lesley Alkire, Marketing Director for Vintage Sonoma referred to it as a “splatter paint party.”
Along the lines of something like Jackson Pollack, in the drop cloth style of paint expression, after drying the canvas was then cut up into various sizes suitable for framing. Smaller pieces were made into place mats for a dinner table. All the pieces together sold in range from $20.00 over $100.00.
“Having been a special education teacher for 24 years, said Walner and now an interior designer; I know the importance of art in peoples' lives. Young or old,” she added.
Walner is not alone in her venture to promote art activities for seniors. The vitality of art especially as it impacts the elderly is something that art therapist and University of Ottawa, Arizona professor Dr. Barbara Bagan knows well. “making art helps cognitive functions as well as enhances the quality of life,” said Bagan. She praised Walner's efforts when she heard about the event. Dr. Bagan also noted that, "art and other expressive art activities serve as vital treatment modalities for older adults with dementias; these interventions can produce constructive changes, provide helpful transformations, and offer significant opportunities for socializing."
Bonnie Walner with husband Barry Walner and  splatter paint party  coordinator Fr. Bruno Segatta  at...
Bonnie Walner with husband Barry Walner and "splatter paint party" coordinator Fr. Bruno Segatta, attending the August 4 event from Boise, Idaho just to help promote the Art for Elder's program that Bonnie founded a year ago at Vintage Sonoma, an assisted living facility.
Over the past three decades Dr. Bagan has been teaching, writing, lecturing and coordinating art and therapy programs. With a wealth of study and experience, like that she acquired from the Jung Institute in Switzerland, Dr. Bagan continues to use knowledge and techniques. Her program experiences are not simply arts and crafts sessions but groundbreaking therapeutic art interventions based on the latest research. Bagan applauds the efforts Walner is making and encourages her to keep going.
According to the Social Leadership Institute, the National Endowment for The Arts and others the ability to provide greater access to the arts enhances life for all citizens. And as noted by the US Census, it is estimated that by 2050 the senior population of the United States will have increased to at least 25 percent. Seniors as a segment of the overall population is the fastest growing in the country today.
Marketing Director for Vintage Sonoma was ready to paint when she called out for the residents to co...
Marketing Director for Vintage Sonoma was ready to paint when she called out for the residents to come join in the fun. She was very pleased that Bonnie Walner of Re:Design in Sonoma was helpful in getting the Art for Elders program started at Vintage Sonoma.
Walner is not waiting for further data to emerge or another study to be done; her idea for more art programs for the elderly is happening now. I really do want to honor the elderly in this way, she said. “Because, like it or not, every one of us is going to be at that stage of life sooner or later.”
For more information about “Art for Elders” contact Bonnie Walner of Re:Design, an interior design firm in Sonoma at
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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