Retired teacher's art classes offer enrichment at Lombard senior residence

Retired teacher's painting, drawing classes offer enrichment at Lombard senior residence

  • Max Briggs, a retired art teacher living in Beacon Hill Senior Living Center, teaches other residents to draw and paint.

      Max Briggs, a retired art teacher living in Beacon Hill Senior Living Center, teaches other residents to draw and paint. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 10/9/2019 1:40 PM

Every Wednesday afternoon, Max Briggs of Lombard teaches beginning and advanced pencil drawing classes, as well as different levels of watercolor painting. Most recently, he added an oil painting class.

Briggs has a growing following. His students are all residents at Beacon Hill, a retirement community in Lombard -- one of two Lifespace Communities in DuPage County and 15 across the country -- where its commitment to successful aging is contagious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It was Briggs who brought the idea of offering art classes to Beacon Hill officials. He has taught high school art for the last 36 years, including stints in Springfield, Peoria and for 26 years in Indianapolis.

Max Briggs, a retired art teacher living in Beacon Hill Senior Living Center teaches other residents to draw and paint. "I draw and paint almost daily, so I guess art must be in my blood," Briggs says.
  Max Briggs, a retired art teacher living in Beacon Hill Senior Living Center teaches other residents to draw and paint. "I draw and paint almost daily, so I guess art must be in my blood," Briggs says. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

He obtained his master's degree in fine art, focusing on art curriculum at the secondary level. Now retired and living at Beacon Hill himself, Briggs enjoys getting back in the studio with his students and encouraging their creative sides.

"I draw and paint almost daily, so I guess art must be in my blood," Briggs says. "I am the son and grandson of stone sculptors who owned monument companies and carved whatever was needed on monuments."

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Briggs broke out of the sculpting background of his family and pursued painting in watercolor, concentrating primarily in transparent watercolors. His favorite subjects are florals and landscapes.

"My focus at Beacon Hill is to provide an avenue for interested residents to learn a new skill," Briggs says, "but, more importantly, to get together with other residents."

His students are encouraged to display their work in a central area of the main building, so neighbors and friends can see their accomplishments, while current projects surround their art studio.

"Residents have been very accepting of the offerings," Briggs says simply.

Officials at Beacon Hill are ardent supporters of the arts, given their proven benefits for older adults. They point to a story published in 2017 by Harvard Medical School that describes how participating in the arts can improve cognition, reduce stress and promote relaxation. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
It was Max Briggs who brought the idea of offering art classes to Beacon Hill officials. He taught high school art for the last 36 years, including stints in Springfield, Peoria and Indianapolis.
  It was Max Briggs who brought the idea of offering art classes to Beacon Hill officials. He taught high school art for the last 36 years, including stints in Springfield, Peoria and Indianapolis. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

"As a recreational therapist, I encourage our residents to continue to live life to the fullest," says Billy Blake, lifestyle director at Beacon Hill, who points to more classes for those interested in pursuing weaving, as well as card making and calligraphy.

Nearly 80% of these classes are taught by residents who get to share their passions and expertise while encouraging fellow residents to experiment. It's all part of the Beacon Hill philosophy, which is to empower residents socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually.

In December last year, Beacon Hill was named the first retirement community in Illinois to be recognized as a Center for Successful Aging (CSA).

The honor is from Masterpiece Living, an organization that partners with senior living organizations nationwide in support of successful aging initiatives.

"Successful aging isn't just a program, it's our culture here at Beacon Hill," says Bridgette Walshe, executive director at Beacon Hill. "We live and breathe it daily, and it takes everyone's full involvement and dedication for it to truly work."

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