Artist Yolanda Gonzalez is arranging her students' artwork on a table for them to pick-up. Assorted ceramic bowls, dishes and Christmas ornaments, they’re ready just in time for the holidays.
“These are really beautiful,” exclaims Gonzalez as she admires the work. “They get some really nice texture in these bowls. Look at that.”
Not bad for a bunch of beginners and they’re also seniors. All enrolled in Gonzalez’s art class at AltaMed, they first started with watercolors, and are now practicing ceramics. This is a medical center; not a senior home, so these classes aren’t meant to just to pass the time.
“We’re going to make a meatball,” she instructs while molding some clay.
“Albondigas,” one senior joyfully repeats.
It’s all part of PACE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. Established by Medicare for independent seniors with complex medical needs; physical therapy might mean molding some clay.
"When you’re working with ceramics, your dexterity, your fingers get exercise. Even with their arms when they’re working on some of the bigger pieces and they’re rolling the coils. They’re working on slabs. Even their shoulders are involved," explains Gonzalez.
“Not only is it a work-out, practicing arts relieves stress and increases self-esteem and cognitive skills."
Gonzalez herself has been an artist her whole life. A fourth generation Mexican-American artist, she comes from a family of known creators and she’s been teaching for the last 15 years. With work shown at the Hammer Museum and MOCA, working with seniors gives her a lot of joy.
“I really feel it’s a form of meditation putting some good energy into the universe,” says Gonzalez.
And good energy does a body good.