Inside the front doors of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, running the length of the main hall, the "Creative Aging" exhibit tells tales of the past and of imagination.
Jon Kay, the director of Traditional Arts Indiana, curates the exhibit, which consists of rag dolls with stories, model homes built from memory and rugs never meant to touch the floor. Kay said he assembled the exhibit, which will run until July 27, to inspire museum goers of all ages to create, view and share art.
“I wanted it to be inspiring, both for students and for older adults,” he said. “What this exhibit tries to bring out is the fact that people will spend time researching and planning. They’ll spend time making, and then they’ll spend the rest of their life sharing.”
The exhibit, based on Kay’s book “Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers,” shares works by Jenny Kander, Bill Root, Marian Sykes and other southern Indiana artists. These artists create pieces that tell stories of their past, and even stories from their imagination.
Root constructed a model of his childhood home from memory with the aid of only a few pictures, and Sykes hooked rugs that depict memories from her childhood and the childhoods of her children.
“Each rug carries her memories back to 'happier times' when her children were young and needed her,” a sign next to her rugs read.
Kander’s pieces, which are four different rag dolls, differ from the rest. Her “prims," short for primitives, each have their own personality and story.
Kay said Kander grew up receiving these rag dolls from her aunt, but after a hospital stay, she began crafting her own. Now, the dolls act as a vehicle for socialization.
“These dolls each have their own stories to tell” Kay said. “She spends a lot of her alone time crafting these stories that then she’s able to tell to other people, but she uses these dolls as ways to of telling those stories.”
Caroline Duchette, who came to the exhibit because of a friend’s recommendation, said she found hope in the artists’ stories.
“I think usually we see elders as helpless and lonely, and this project shed some light on the fact that aging doesn't mean you have to give up what you love,” Duchette said.
Kay said this exhibit tends to raise the same question among young people.
“One of the things I hear from students is ‘What am I going to do when I’m older?’” he said. “Really think about ‘What are the things I’m going to remember? How am I going to express that?’”