By John A. Barry And Bill Carmel
Art as RehabilitationUploaded: Jan 19, 2016
Before he retired, Rossmoor resident Karl Livengood was a social worker. At Rossmoor he was involved in the Senior Tutors Program. That background, coupled with a love of art, brought him to one of his current avocations: A Juvenile Justice Commissioner for Contra Costa County, he also volunteers at the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation facility for boys, in Byron. In that capacity, Livengood coordinates the Fine Arts Program for the facility’s residents. Fine Arts is sponsored by the Rossmoor Art Association. “As superintendent Orin Allen lifted the program from a ‘ranch for boys’ to the rehab facility it is today,” says Livengood. He explains that all participants must volunteer for the arts program. (Another of Livengood’s avocations is writing. In 2015 he self-published Sailing a Dream to an Incredible Life.)
The Fine Arts Program has been in existence since 2012. A core group of volunteers—many of them Rossmoor residents—trek to Orin Allen Wednesday afternoons for 1.5-hour class. There are no classes during the summer and Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. Each week while the program is in session, one volunteer serves as leader for that session, which includes about eight boys. Each participant gets a sketchbook and is encouraged to draw regularly.
“Team teaching,” Livengood’s data sheet explains, “allows the boys to experience instructors with different skill sets to work in different media and to build relationships with adults committed to nurturing the boys’ interest in art.” The boys who sign up are committed, notes Livengood, in that they have to abjure allures such as basketball and baseball that occur at the same time as Fine Arts class.
The curriculum focuses progressively on drawing, color, composition, and media. Additionally, the boys go on several field trips during the program. One such trip brought them to Oakland to view and study some of that city’s murals. After lunch at the museum cafeteria, the boys and volunteers viewed works by Diego Rivera and others hanging in the gallery. Many discussions evolved as the boys’ questions were answered by the volunteer artists.
Among the volunteer teachers are Mary Lou Correia, John Hopper, Betsy Livengood (Karl’s wife), Steve Osborn, Diane Parkhill, and Tom Simms. Each has a fine arts, graphic arts, or art education background. “I’m not an artist,” says program coordinator Karl Livengood.
I have had the good fortune to join the group and attended my first class on January 13 to observe it in action. Nine boys worked on drawing. One of the instructors summed up the class: “We concentrated on line drawing using shoes and hand tools as subjects. Diane did an excellent demonstration for the boys. All of them were very involved and did really wonderful drawings in their sketchbooks. It was great to have four instructors since we could give more attention to each of the boys.”
Over time I hope to mount a trAction Painting event at the facility.