Learning art at any age

Teresa Cameron (left) and Brittany Murphy help each other prepare grids for their artwork. Photo: Nikki Sacuta

Teresa Cameron takes an Intermediate Drawing: Portrait class once a week this semester. She works with children with special needs and also has children of her own — taking the class is something she does for herself.

Patrick Rapati, an instructor at NSCAD for 10 years, says his favourite thing about teaching classes like this for the School of Extended Studies is “seeing what the students can do and how they improve during the course.”

During an Intermediate Drawing: Portrait class, seeing what the students can do is remarkable. Six students worked on a portrait based on a photograph, using a grid. They were making art, square by square.

It was quiet until Rapati played a tape of CBC’s “This is Art,” a program in which host Art Levine plays different genres of music that go together surprisingly well.

“If it’s too distracting I’ll just put on some Mozart,” Rapati says. It turns out it was just right.

NSCAD, as part of its School of Extended Studies, has courses for children, teens, young adults and adults. People from ages 5 to 90 are enrolled. Their courses don’t go towards a degree and are for people with any level of artistic experience.

Hossein Faridi (left), Teresa Cameron, Victoria Macaskill, Brittany Murphy, Yunong Lou, and Stephanie Olvera show off their portraits in progress. Behind them is their instructor Patrick Rapati. Photo: Nikki Sacuta

University classes aren’t just for those pursuing degrees. Learning throughout one’s lifetime provides benefits — the British newspaper The Guardian, reports that taking classes and learning as a part of a group brings companionship and happiness to people’s lives, especially as they age.

As part of its lifelong learners program, NSCAD offers a 20 per cent seniors discount.

The variety of ages in the Intermediate Drawing class didn’t stop the students from helping one another and chatting during breaks. And the diversity of people enrolled in the class was reflected in the reasons for enrolling.

Cameron says taking the class was stepping out of her comfort zone.

“I was holding back from doing the class and it was my kids who said, ‘You’re always saying for us to step out of our comfort zones,’” she said. Following their advice, she enrolled and loves learning all the strategies for making art she is learning.

This isn’t the first class she has taken at the School of Extended Studies. She previously took Introductory Drawing, and on making crafts with glass beads.

Brittany Murphy, a history and philosophy student, says the class helps her release tension and gives her a break. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something good.”

The classes benefit those who take them and the school itself. It’s a revenue source for the university.

The Canada Revenue Agency offers a Lifelong Learning plan. It allows people to take money from their registered retirement savings plans to finance their education or a partner’s.

Rapati says art is a skill, and anyone who wants to learn can learn.

“Want,” he says, “assists in the learning process.”