John Peterson took up painting late in life and had the first exhibit of his work in April. (photos courtesy Cindy Parker)

Seniors who may have gone a lifetime without expressing themselves artistically now have an encouraging place to create.

Purple Art, a senior art outreach program, was launched by Boulder-based creatives Abby Sivy and Cindy Parker. It’s offered under the auspices of Bohemia, an artist’s workshop they launched in north Boulder last year. Parker first started creating art programs with seniors about 13 years ago. “Everybody is a creative soul but so often people don’t tap into it, even though it’s so healing and therapeutic to do so,” says Parker.

Cindy Parker (left) and Abby Sivy run Purple Art, a senior outreach program. (photos courtesy Cindy Parker)

They offer Purple Art classes at senior living communities throughout Boulder County and hope to take the concept national. Sivy recalls one man in a class at Academy Senior Living who was moved by doing art, even though he was hesitant about participating at first. “He pulled me aside with tears in his eyes and was starting to talk about when he was born and his childhood,” says Sivy. The man, John Peterson, just had his first art show in April.

Purple Art has worked with Memory Cafe through the Alzheimer’s Association doing intuitive painting, which involves spontaneously moving paint on a giant canvas. An intergenerational program has seniors and youth creating a shadow box together and putting on an art show for family and friends. Another project involves collecting photographs to tell one’s life story.

The two say that creating art gives seniors a reason to start living again. “One of the biggest things of getting older is the loneliness and isolation,” says Parker. “So when we do our programs, it’s a one-on-one activity with people sitting around making art together and that’s beneficial.”

Adds Sivy: “When we did the Memory Cafe with seniors, they came in kind of serious, but once they started to paint, they would open up and light up.”

—Lori DeBoer