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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

National Museum Of Mexican Art’s Virtual Workshops Help Older People Find Community During Isolating Winter

From drawing to folkloric dance classes, the museum is creating virtual opportunities to connect with older people during the coronavirus pandemic.

For nearly a year, Martha Dominguez, 62, has been taking free art classes as part of the National Museum of Mexican Art's Viva La Vida programs for seniors.
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PILSEN — The National Museum of Mexican Art is trying to keep older people engaged with creative virtual workshops.

Since the start of the pandemic, Martha Dominguez has taken free, online art classes through the museum, 1852 W. 19th St. It’s something the 62-year-old Garfield Ridge residents has wanted to do for decades.

“This is fulfilling one of my dreams to go into art and experience the different mediums we are being exposed to,” Dominguez said. “I’m really happy.”

Martha Dominguez paintings from Viva La Vida still life painting class.

For nearly a year, the museum’s initiative, Vida la Vida, has offered free creative classes for people 55 and older. The museum’s leaders wanted to focus on older people who are often overlooked or secluded, said Antonio Pazaran, director of education at the museum. 

About 140 people have participated in the nine sessions, Pazaran said.

First, the museum offered drawing, collage and mask-making classes where folks could use items from home, Pazaran said.

“The idea behind the class was to give our participants some much-needed community where they can talk to one another and take them out of the mundane or repetition they may have been dealing with,” Pazaran said.

Along with creating community virtually, the organizers wanted to help participants with new skills to “activate their mind, body and hands,” Pazaran said.

Minneapolis-based Aroha Philanthropies provided a mini-grant to expand the program, allowing the museum to provide older people with materials for printmaking and painting, Pazaran said.

With the pandemic limiting social gatherings and classes, the virtual programs have allowed the museum to reach a broad audience from across the city and country, Pazaran said.

Museum leaders plan to launch two classes over the next few weeks: Recetas de la Vida, or recipes of life, and a dance class that incorporates the history of folkloric dancing from Mexico. 

Recetas de la Vida will be a creative writing class where participants are prompted to tell stories from a recipe. As part of the class, the instructors hope to create a book from the collection of recipes, personal narratives and accompanying illustrations, Pazaran said. 

“We are trying to think of ways to interact and create opportunities for people to enjoy this moment in a virtual platform where they get to see familiar faces or new faces while learning something new,” Pazaran said.

Pazaran said technology has been a barrier for some participants, but for those who have signed up have learned quickly. 

Dominguez, an avid visitor of the museum, said the program has been a bit of art therapy.

“With this pandemic, we are not able to go out like we are used to. It’s been helping a lot. I’m under less stress,” Dominguez said.  “It’s been wonderful.”

People interested in signing up for a class can email the museum at Gabriela@NationalMuseumOfMexicanArt.org or call 312-433-3941.

Martha Dominguez paintings from Viva La Vida still life painting class.
Martha Dominguez paintings from Viva La Vida still life painting class.

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