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Residents at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living receive special art

Published in the Portland Tribune, Thursday, August 27, 2020

Seniors at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living in Beaverton have received a special surprise from some talented artists.

Back in May, residents in lockdown were interviewed and asked what brought them joy, their favorite thing to do outside and their favorite place to visit.

Kera Magarill, an older-adult behavioral specialist with Washington County, said the answers ranged from "my dog" to "my garden" or "my family sitting at the dinner table."

Photographers from the local area and abroad then used those answers to capture images based on individual interviews to create a unique piece of personalized art as a gift for each resident. Magarill said the goal was to bring the seniors some joy from the outside while they continue to isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was kind of thinking outside of the box and working with a lot of people who were willing to try something different and shift how they usually did their work," she said. "It ended up being a cool project."

Magarill initially reached out to the assisted living facility to see whether it would be up for the challenge. Raleigh Hills Assisted Living activities director Zoe Wilson said she was happy to conduct the interviews and spend more time getting to know her residents on a one-on-one basis.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Zoe Wilson, left, activities director at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living, looks at the artwork created by artists for the residents at the facility presented by Kera Magarill, older adult behavior specialist with Washington County.

"They were excited for it," said Wilson, recalling residents' reactions to the project. "It felt kind of like a surprise for them."

She added, "The biggest thing for them is just the gesture. It's the fact that someone has thought about them and went out of their way to do something nice for them."

Wilson remembers jumping on board with the project because of the limited activities available to seniors during this time. It was also special to have photographers capture unique images from around the globe, she said.

"I know a couple of photographers were from out of the country and one was even from Australia," Wilson said. "It's kind of neat that this whole thing is kind of reaching beyond America — that was pretty cool."

Emily Fitzgerald, a local artist in the area, was in charge of recruiting the photographers. Fitzgerald enjoys working with seniors on projects because "working with people of different generations is very important."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - -An artist wrote a message attached to their artwork that was made for a resident at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living

At the beginning of the pandemic, she remembers feeling hopeless about working with people in person again but was happy to hear Washington County wanted to collaborate to benefit seniors in the community.

"My art practice is about building a foundation for connecting people or creating some sort of bridge or making it possible for people who wouldn't normally be in relationship with each other to somehow have to have some sort of connection," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald later found a mix of 15 friends and colleagues to join in. The artists' ages range from 16 to 50 years old, which the PSU instructor says is "another intergenerational mix, even within the artists."

The photographers went far and beyond their calling. Fitzgerald recalls one artist asking to send a letter to the senior he or she was paired up with, stating their inspiration for the photo.

"The letters actually turned out to be the sweetest part," she said.

As for funding, Magarill says the county paid to print the artwork, but the photographers all donated their time and talents for the project.

She hopes the residents feel heard and listened to once they receive the personalized photographs.

"I hope they know that their stories are important, valuable and meaningful," Magarill said. "The art is just a bonus because really the connection between these artists who have never met anybody in this assisted living (facility) and vice-versa — just knowing that there's this connection over distance is really meaningful.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A scenic photograph was made for a resident at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living from a local artist.

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