There are many different kinds of talent that hides and lies dormant among seniors and the handicap at many skilled nursing facilities throughout the country. In the south and Midwest, you may find former singers who may have rubbed elbows with the likes of Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash, perhaps painters and architects, writers of all types such as authors or columnists, former politicians and attorneys, sports athletes and high-ranking former CEOs and business owners.  

There is an New York State-wide annual competition that is sponsored by both the Foundation for Quality Care and NYSHFA (New York State Health Facilities Association) that is designed to recognize artists that live in member facilities through the state. The invitation is open for any New York State facility to submit art renderings done by a resident either in long-term care or assisted living. 

After the deadline, the state picks 13 winners and these winners will be placed in next year’s calendar, one piece representing each month and one for the cover. These are 13 that are picked out of up to more than 100 entries. Some facilities may not send in any on one given year and the next year, they may send in multiple submissions. Every year is different, which makes it exciting.

In 2017, the state received 105 submissions and our Centers Health Care facilities had four of the 13 winners. Two of them were from our Cooperstown Center. This year, the state received 94 submissions and Centers Health Care took home three of the 13 winners. One of the winners was again from Cooperstown.

Centers Health Care has about 45 nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in its family which includes New York State, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Missouri and Kansas. Thirty-six are in the state of New York, from as far south and east as New York City and Long Island, west as Buffalo and as far north as the Watertown region. All of Centers’ New York Recreation and Activity Directors are encouraged to attend the annual NYSHA Activities and Social Work conference in March, where they are treated to educational workshops and lectures designed to keep them abreast of all the newest and innovative topics available to them. 

The NYSHFA and Foundation calendar is always distributed to all who attend and it serves as a reminder of what the residents we serve are capable of creating. Following the conference, a reminder of encouragement is sent out to the local recreation directors to start collecting and preparing so that when the application is available, these directors are ready to submit. 

In addition to training, educating and providing organizational guidelines to all the recreation directors throughout Centers Health Care, I really try to encourage my team to recognize the creative abilities of the residents they care for. It is my belief that our directors are honestly invested in cultivating our residents’ interests and maintaining a vibrant art program. 

That hard work pays off when there have been multiple winners from our facilities over the past few years.  At the same time, there is so much to the phrase, “You’ve got to be in it to win it”, meaning I certainly take pride in the number of directors that take this competition seriously and keep on submitting their residents works in hopes of their resident /facility becoming a winner. 

Centers Health Care celebrates the successes at the facility level, through our relationship with local hospitals and of course through local printed articles and on social media. As a company we are proud not only of our residents but equally for the staff behind the scenes who make this all possible.

Finally, other artistic roads have opened up at various facilities due to this yearly competition. In 2018, we have encouraged our facilities to have in-house art shows and have purchased mobile art displays that are frequently changed to share the resident works with families and staff. We enjoy exposing the residents to many art mediums (paint, sculpture, ceramics, group projects and even the most popular “paint and sips” — only we sip mocktails, not cocktails! We plan to continue to support our residents’ artistic interests next year and beyond.

Gayle Kirschenbaum is the Director of Recreation at Centers Health Care.