The Canvas and Stage Offer Creative Outlets to Eglinton Hill Centre Members
I am sharing a profile of a community artist who teaches acting and painting at Eglinton Hill Centre (EHC), the newest of St. Clair West Services for Seniors’ Community Development locations in Toronto. At EHC seniors and older adults can enjoy programs and activities suited to various levels and abilities.
Volunteer Eliud Cruz has taught painting at Eglinton Hill Centre for over a year. Now he is sharing another set of his skills by introducing an acting group on Friday afternoons. Eliud approaches both of these art mediums with passion and a belief that the process is as important as the product.
When Eliud first started working with the students in painting class he observed, “Students were painting very small paintings and now they are working in a larger scale. Seniors feel more confident with the brush and are more engaged in the process of creating their paintings.” In one year, participation in the class increased over 30% and a second “beginners” class has been added on Thursday afternoon. “So far they are happy,” he says. “This is very affirmative stuff. Solving problems in acting or painting classes, helps solve problems in life,” he muses.
Eliud has ambitious goals for the new acting group. Eliud’s long-term goal is to formally stage a play in a small theatre for the general public. “I want the participants to be confident as actors on the stage. Some members are more into drama and some are more into comedy or action theatre,” he notes. I will give them the tools to perform different types of theatre, he says. Eliud’s short-term goal is to stage a play at the Centre and at schools and other seniors’ programs. He wants the plays to speak to audiences of all ages. Some of the plays may also be used as an advocacy tool to help address issues important to seniors.
For many members of Eglinton Hill Centre, who are older adults and seniors, English is not their native language. “Through acting people can overcome language barriers by learning to express emotions and ideas though physical action,” Eliud states. In one of the warm-up exercises for the class, Eliud instructs participants to making conversation by making sounds without any language. The sounds and gestures alone are very expressive.
Art for seniors also provides tools that can help with health, he says. The acting classes explore breathing techniques, aid memory, and provide social interaction in and out of the theatre. Seniors become more aware about how they express emotions. The also gain confidence public speaking, he notes.
Eliud is a bit of renaissance man, he has been painting most of his life and has earned a BA in Visual Arts at the Ontario College of Art & Design. He earned a BA in Psychology in his native Mexico. When he was studying psychology, he learned acting techniques from the actors in school and noticed how he could apply psychology in arts. Eliud has been acting for 8 years and he starred in a one-person play in November called “A Report to an Academy,” by Franz Kafka.
Eglinton Hill Centre (EHC) is the newest of St. Clair West Services for Seniors’ Community Development locations. At EHC seniors and older adults can enjoy programs and activities suited to various levels and abilities. EHC is funded in part by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.