Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Senior Class: Art as therapy at the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg.

Fae Morrison

Fae Morrison, 89, worked as a wedding planner for 45 years.

“I worked with young brides, designing and planning their perfect weddings,” she said. “It took a lot of creativity to make each wedding unique and different, reflecting the individuality of each bride and groom.”

Now, as a resident of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg, she uses her eye for design in the art studio.

“Painting makes me happy and allows me to explore my creative side,” Morrison said. “This is my therapy.”

Morrison paints nearly every day in the studio, which actually is the activities room at the senior living community outside of Linglestown The setting is fun, casual and social. Soft music plays in the background.

Teacher Lisa Koup helps the artists hone their craft. She’s taught drawing and painting for 30 years, mostly to children and teens, she said.  

“I see the same joy in every age group,” Koup said. “Art allows you to escape to a happy place.”

Escaping to that “happy place” brings notable gains, said Keona Carter of Jewish Home Social Services.

“For the seniors living at the residence, art therapy serves as a sense of creative expression and emotional exploration,” she said. “Art therapy can help increase self-esteem and can provide our seniors with a sense of self-worth and social belonging.”

The arts also improve the quality of life for the home’s 60 residents, Carter said. The personal-care apartment building offers an independent lifestyle for seniors looking to part from the responsibilities of home maintenance, cooking and cleaning.

“Art therapy is just one of the ways that we are working to enhance and embrace the uniqueness, creativity and talents of those who live here,” she said.

Morrison, who has lived in the residence since 2006, said pursuing the arts has helped her personally.

“Living in your own apartment, surrounded by precious, personal belongings including some of my paintings, makes an enormous difference in my ability to live a full, active life,” she said.

Other seniors agree. Art class is the residence’s most popular program, said Michael Stewart, assistant director of recreation. Some future artists, though, hesitate before embracing a creative side.

“Many of our residents are often reluctant about taking an art class, but they soon find themselves to be budding Rembrandts, unlocking a hidden passion,” he said.

He credited art teacher Koup for piquing students’ artistic interests, calling her “an expert in lighting that desire.”

“There is a special relationship between Lisa and her students,” he said. “It is therapy—it really is a beautiful thing!”

Morrison said Koup helped her transfer the creativity needed as a wedding planner into her paintings. “I credit my talent and perseverance to my teacher, Lisa,” she said.

The residence displays the artists’ work in a “gallery” for residents, family members and visitors to see, Morrison said proudly.

“You can take a walk down the halls of the skilled nursing facility and the residence any day and see the beautiful paintings of our artists on display,” she said.

Like museum-worthy painters, these budding creatives put their emotions, thoughts and personalities into the medium.

“Their feelings, emotions and joy transcend their painting,” Koup said.

Carter added that the art in these halls feels deeply personal.

“When you explore their work, it truly is telling a story,” Carter said. “It’s telling their story.”

For more information about the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg, visit jewishhomeharrisburg.com or call 717.441.8880

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