Art for the ages

Art teacher Lori Brackett always tells her students that a good way to capture life in a portrait is to draw someone with a lifetime in their countenance.

Students at Idaho Falls High School had the chance to put Brackett’s words into action Thursday, when they presented their own portraits of current residents at Turtle and Crane Assisted Living.

It was all part of an assignment that Bracket and fellow art teacher Krista Mayes thought of earlier this year.

“We were discussing ways for the kids to do portraits that tell a story,” Mayes said, “and Ms. Brackett suggested that students sketch the faces of some of the elderly here in Idaho Falls.”

Several Turtle and Crane residents were wheeled into the reception area during the display, where they viewed the portraits lining the wall for the first time—reflections of themselves in pastels.

As part of the assignment, students were encouraged to get to know their senior counterparts.

“Doing all this is so valuable because we got to learn about what life was like for some of them a long time ago,” said junior Alexis Plum. “The person I drew was the only person in her family to ever go to college because all her siblings had to stay home and work on a farm in those days.”

One student spent time with a resident who said she rode a horse named Pat to high school everyday. Another heard from a man who felt fortunate to have lived through the horrors of World War II.

Mayes said the assignment also enabled senior citizens to capture a glimpse into the lives of their younger counterparts.

“One of our students had a hard time breaking the ice with an elderly gentleman who didn’t communicate very well,” Mayes said, “so she used Snapchat to communicate with him. He loved it.”

Students could either keep their art or donate it to the resident they sketched.

Though resident Ruth Johnson, 93, had a hard time hearing and seeing what took place during the event, she called the art assignment very meaningful.

“It’s nice,” she said. “The pictures will surely outlive us here.” She paused. “At least we’ll be thought of when we’re gone.”

Despite being the first time Idaho Falls students sketched senior citizens at Turtle and Crane, Brackett and Mayes said it was something they hope to continue doing.

“We’ll do this either every year or every other year,” said Mayes. “It has been such a good experience for all of us here today.”