Center’s Art Lab Provides Safe, Creative Space for LGBT Seniors

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Sable Boruff doesn’t have to spend money on greeting cards because she spends a few hours creating her own at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s art lab each week.

“I make cards for all my friends, for their birthdays and all the holidays. They love my cards. Making them is very creative, peaceful, and fun,”

Boruff says, as she works alongside about a dozen other seniors on a recent Friday morning.

Participants can bring in their own projects from home or work or learn a new technique in drawing, painting, or sculpture during the lab, held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays at the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza.

The lab is for people of all different levels and skills. Students can learn new art techniques or reintroduce themselves to art.

“A lot of them have an art background but they just haven’t been connected to it,” says lab facilitator Josephine Gildersleeve. “Now they’re at a stage that they do have time to actually explore their creative outlets and do things that they couldn’t do when they were working full-time.”

“Even if you lose some of that dexterity in your hands are not able to do what you used to do, you still have that creativity and imagination inside,” she adds. “It’s about finding ways to express it, getting it out there, and expressing yourself in ways that words just can’t do.”

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Rodney Brown been coming to the space for about three years. As Boruff works on her greeting cards, Brown sits nearby working on an abstract acrylic painting.

“I wouldn’t be painting at home,” Brown admits. “It helps keep me motivated to come in, to have the group experience. The whole process is very meditative. It’s about creativity, relaxation, and the camaraderie amongst the folks. We all support each other with our creative process.”

It’s the camaraderie that also appeals to Brad Keistler, who comes to art lab to work on his stained-glass projects.

“It gets your mind out of your everyday problems,” Keistler says. “It’s sort of like a meditation. It stops your mind for a minute and lets you enjoy what you’re doing. When your hands are busy, your mouth can start going a little easier. We talk about different subjects and what’s going on in the world and just have a good time. We do our work and chat…it’s relaxing.”

Gildersleeve, a case manager with Senior Services, became facilitator of the lab last fall and has quickly elevated the long-running program.

“Typically, when people do art classes for seniors, they do arts and crafts,” Gildersleeve explains. “I have a background in art history and am an artist myself. I like to tie in whatever project we have to art history or different techniques.”

Gildersleeve, who also facilitates other support groups for seniors at the Center, quickly learned that the weekly lab is about a lot more than art.

“It’s the perfect place to work through barriers that exist when you can’t quite identify them,” she says. “Isolation is such a concern with this population. If you know for two hours a week you can be around people who are supportive and will give you good feedback and listen to you talk, that can do so much in so little time.”

“People want that feeling of validation, of feeling appreciated and that they’re relevant,” Gildersleeve adds. “This is their safe place; and for two hours they can just let it out.”

The Center’s Senior Services offers more than 100 different activities and events each month, including support groups, health and fitness classes, and various cultural workshops. To learn more, including upcoming activities and workshops, visit lalgbtcenter.org/seniors.

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