OWOSSO — The idea behind the new Shiawassee Mobile ARTS for Seniors (SMARTS) program is to help seniors meet new friends, express their creativity and get involved in the community.

The SMARTS program, administered through the Shiawassee Council on Aging, provides hands-on experience in art for dozens of Shiawassee County seniors each month.

Monday, a group of 12 women gathered at the Shiawassee Arts Center for a clay slab fairy house class, led by SAC Arts Education Director Linda Ruehle, Linda Harris and Natalie Park.

“They are so excited,” Ruehle said. “It gives them something to look forward to, it’s affordable. Some of these people were either busy in their careers or being homemakers that they never had time for this in their life.”

Women who had never met talked and laughed with each other Monday afternoon, bonding over their shared interest in the arts.

“I think this is a really good idea,” Jean Cline said while working on a fairy house. “I do oil painting classes (at the SAC) and love to learn new things so I thought this was a new way to learn new crafts.”

Pilot program classes kicked off in the fall, funded by a grant from the Cook Family Foundation. The program’s regular classes began in November, funded by a $23,040 grant from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), and the Cook Family Foundation.

Multimedia classes are offered weekly at the SAC and Owosso senior center, and bi-weekly at the Durand and Morrice senior centers.

“It gives people an outlet, who are not getting out, a chance to socialize, meet new friends and feel good about what they’re doing,” Ruehle said. “We found from research that it helps with all sorts of areas in seniors with learning something new. It’s good for their brains to learn something new. Art helps with so many different things.”

Clay artist Carol Sadler agreed.

“This is very enjoyable,” Sadler said. “It’s such a relaxing class and a very great healer.”

“I was excited to do this because I love fairies,” Shelah Hockman said. “It’s wonderful to have this (program) available.”

After each class, artists fill out an evaluation form.

“It helps us have ideas for other classes and almost all of the (evaluations) say, ‘Keep this going,’” Ruehle said.

All classes are $3 for Shiawassee County senior citizens and $5 for family or friends under the age of 60 who are accompanying a senior.

Classes are open to both men and women and are offered through September.

For more information about the SMARTS program and a schedule of classes, call the SAC at (989) 723-8354.

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