Centenarian project seeking teenage artists with heart

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It’s not often teenagers get the opportunity to spend time with a centenarian but when they do, special things happen – that’s according to Embraced, the organisers of an inspirational project which sees 100 teenage artists create portraits of 100 of South East Queensland’s oldest residents.

After successful events in Melbourne in 2017 and Sydney in 2018, the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers is now heading north and will match teenage artists with centenarians, culminating in an exhibition later this year to profile the artworks.

Embraced is calling on teenage artists in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich and Sunshine Coast to fill the remaining fifty positions to reach their goal and complete the 100 portraits.

Embraced’s Creative Director Rose Connors Dance said that the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers helps create positive intergenerational relationships while changing often negative perceptions of ageing.

“For most of our artists this is their first opportunity to meet a centenarian, while for our centenarians it’s a chance to share their stories and their history — for both generations this project provides a truly memorable and unique experience, which is helping to change society’s perception of older Australians,” Ms Connors Dance said.

“It’s a unique opportunity for both the artist and subject to gain insight into each other’s world. The stigma of ageing is lifted as the centenarians embrace the opportunity to share great stories and the artists gain empathy for those at the other end of life’s spectrum.

“While initially they may feel they have very little in common, the transformation and sense of connection by the end of the project is wonderful to experience.

“We are so thrilled to bring this project to South East Queensland, after its huge successes in Melbourne and Sydney and encourage artistic teenagers to come on board.”

Over the course of the project which runs from May to July, artists are encouraged to make at least four visits to their centenarian and during these visits amongst conversation, the artists create sketches, take photos and work out their approach to making the portrait.

With all they have gathered from the get-to-know-you sessions, the artists return to their homes to complete their portraits.

The artists also write a text including biographical facts about their subject, interesting stories and approaches to life at 100 and beyond to accompany their work at the exhibition.

Seventeen-year-old student Zaynab El-Najjar, participated in the project in 2018 and said it was an invaluable opportunity.

“Meeting my centenarian Francis was a really wonderful experience because I am a teenager and she’s somebody who is over 100 and those two colliding isn’t something that happens often,” Ms El-Najjar said.

“I’ll work with more people, especially older people, in the future – this has really inspired me to do that and chase after people’s stories and their vibrant soul.

A centenarian subject in 2018, Estia Bankstown’s Arthur Jeffery said that it was wonderful to be involved in the portrait project.

“I love portraits. Trying to create something that in a certain angle or mood that really represents the subject – it’s an art to present the very best image of them,” Mr Jeffery said.

“I was very pleased with my portrait – one day it might even be worth a lot of money!”

For more information about joining the project, please contact Rose Connors Dance on 0430 319 561 or visit www.embraced.com.au.