As a little girl growing up in Hyde Park, Esther Kane loved to draw. She carried colored pencils everywhere she went. Her mother was very proud of her, and her teachers recognized her talent.
“I loved to draw and my mother kept encouraging me to do more of it,” says Esther.
In high school, her art teacher urged her to major in art at college. Esther took her teacher’s advice and enrolled in and graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art, working in various mediums, including oil, pastels, charcoal, and watercolors.
In the decades following her graduation, Esther found herself pulled toward other interests. For years she put her art aside. “I guess I just lost interest,” she said.
When Esther moved to Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, the transition to long-term care was not as easy as she or her family had hoped. She was homesick and wasn’t interested in taking part in activities or socializing with other residents, putting her at risk for isolation. Isolation can pose a serious health risk to older adults and is associated with mortality.
Taking note of Esther’s isolation risk, the life enhancement team in the Expressive Therapy Department suggested she enroll in an art class that could help her become more socially active. The Expressive Therapy Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center includes art, music and dance therapy programming for residents of every level and physical ability.
With the support and encouragement of her art therapist, Olga Shmuylovich, Esther rediscovered her creative spark. She quickly picked up where she left off and in a brief time built a small collection of work that she wanted to show and share with others.
Outside of her room at her home at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, the walls are decorated with her paintings, giving passersby a chance to stop and enjoy the art, or chat with her about her process or the significance behind a particular piece.
With Olga’s help, Esther held her first art exhibit in the fall of 2016. Esther, wearing a colorful shirt, was surrounded by her two devoted daughters, Olga, some of her nurses, resident assistants and life enhancement staff members. Guests sampled cookies and pastries and everyone enjoyed the afternoon celebration of Esther’s work. It was a gathering of friends.
As classical music filled the air, Esther showed her guests the sketch book she now carries everywhere with her. In it were pencil drawings of other residents and staff.
“Sometimes I decide to do a pencil drawing and I give it away,” she said. “I just want others to be happy, like I am.”