This summer, MCH hosted Kristine Tarmann as our first ever Artist-In-Residence. Kristine has lived in community with us and offered our residents numerous opportunities to grow and learn through artistic experiences.

The artist-in-residence model and other intergenerational living programs have grown in popularity at senior communities all over the world.  In exchange for housing and professional development, the resident artist contributes to the seniors’ health and well-being through artistic programming and social engagement.  The program decreases feelings of isolation in older adults and leads to the development of meaningful friendship and a sense of connectedness to the larger community.

Kristine was the perfect match as a resident artist at Milwaukee Catholic Home.  Her interest in art therapy began after a mission trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua her sophomore year at Valparaiso University, when she became convinced of the healing power of the arts.  She began pursuing her interest in art therapy through an internship at a senior day center, teaching art classes and helping to facilitate the painting of two large murals in their activity room.  She also focused on research about the impact of art therapy on those with Alzheimer’s disease.

After completing her undergraduate degree at Valparaiso, Kristine moved to Milwaukee to start a Masters of Art Therapy program at Mount Mary University. She has finished her first year of studies, as well as an internship in Nicaragua doing community-based art therapy.

During the past months of her residence with us, Kristine has led a community art class, facilitated story-telling sessions, hosted discussions of theatre productions, and led small and large group music programs in the Health and Rehab Center.  She has also served as a “Good Samaritan On Call,” providing support for daily resident needs and welcoming new residents to the community.

Kristine reflected on her time with us and shared a few thoughts:

“Having worked at MCH before, I knew the transition into living in this community would be pretty smooth. However, I was not prepared with how fast I would feel a part of this community. I was immediately met with smiles, excited eyes, warm welcomes, intrigued questions, and the occasional, ‘Don’t you know you’re too young to live here?’ And I have loved every second of it, every new connection I have made, and I hope those I have interacted with feel the same. Personally, I feel like this program has helped me gain further understanding and empathy for a community and population that I already had so much love for. The residents here challenge me every day–whether that is artistically, personally, or professionally. My art group constantly keeps me on my toes, asking me about techniques that I may not have used in years. But, even if I do not know the answer to the question, I know we can figure it out together through playing and experimenting with the different materials. I feel that is a good metaphor for this program as well; we are figuring it out together between the staff, the residents, and myself. There are constantly things that we are learning together, and I think that this helps our residents know that it is okay to keep learning and searching for knowledge as well. It’s helpful to constantly stretch and develop new perspectives and friendships. We have so much to learn from each other and with each other, and I am so thankful that I can be a part of it.”

As Kristine prepares to return to school, we would like to extend our gratitude to her for her time with us, and look forward to continuing this program in the future!