Puzzling artwork: Making framed art from puzzles helps nursing home residents

Thursday, May 5, 2011
A completed piece of puzzle art. (Submitted photo)

@TBY - Body Copy:By Alma Bradshaw

It may require a stretch of one's imagination to envision hundreds of small, intricate puzzle pieces laying on a table as a piece of framed artwork decorating the walls of the southeast ground floor assisted living wing of the the Chateau Girardeau Retirement Community. Seeing is believing as one enters this particular wing to be confronted with these unusual and lovely pictures.

A casual glance will not reveal these were once scattered pieces of puzzles. But further observation will certainly show the loving labor that it took to produce this artwork. Several members of the Lynwood Baptist Church Forerunners senior citizens group participate in the church's ministry to homebound members and resident members of the city's various health and retirement centers. On my first visit to the Chateau, I discovered this interesting puzzle phenomenon, and became intrigued with it.

On subsequent visits, I never failed to look at the finished products and inspect the ongoing new one with interest. How and why did this project begin? It simply began a few years ago with Ferneita Hahn's interest in using some of her time in her room to engage in a hobby that was fun and interesting. Others became interested, and now a table in a room off the sitting area near a nurse's station has been provided for any interested participants.

Coletta Koch seems to be leading the charge in pursuing the continuation of this project, and many residents and staff members have and are participating whenever possible. In fact, some may stop for a few minutes to survey and discuss the ongoing puzzle, and add a few pertinent pieces that aid in the continuing process. Any help is appreciated.

Puzzles numbering from 500 to 2,000 pieces have been completed during the last three years. Boxes of puzzles are often donated by staff members and friends and relatives of the residents. Although each picture puzzle can present different challenges, workers may use similar methods or techniques as they work. Coletta tells me that she sorts and completes the border pieces first. Their straight outside edges makes them easier to find. Studying the colors, shapes, and positions within the puzzle can help also. I'm told that sometimes just pure old luck can play a part in locating certain elusive pieces of the puzzle. I understand that some puzzle workers may leave the puzzle for a few hours when they get stuck and see absolutely nothing forthcoming. On returning they can usually continue successfully.

After noticing a puzzle picture at another facility, Tammy Washam, one of the Chateau staff members, decided to contact Hobby Lobby to frame the completed puzzles for use in decorating. A few additional steps were necessary before framing. A larger piece of heavier paper was slid under the completed puzzle for framing and moved to another table. Kathy Graviett Snider, a Chateau activity staffer, brushed the entire puzzle with a white puzzle glue, which dries into a clear cover that eludes detection. (Kathy has now taught others to help with this task, such as former pastor and resident Dale Huff, who also works on the puzzles.) Framing completes the final step in turning these hundreds of puzzle pieces into a beautiful piece of artwork.

Several pictures by Thomas Kinkade and a lovely wedding scene now grace the hallways and sitting rooms in this particular area of the Chateau. Residents can gaze upon Leonardo da Vinci's magnificent "The Last Supper" as they dine in their dining hall. Other completed puzzles will soon be framed and hung in appropriate places.

This activity has therapeutic values as well as aesthetic viewing. It can keep the brain more stimulated and the mind active. It encourages residents to leave their rooms and mingle with others. Certain pictures may invite discussions of past travels and memories of long ago. There may be other values of which we are unaware, and the managerial staff, nurses, and all other staffers are commended for encouraging this project. A heartfelt thanks to Lynn Spriggs, CEO, and everyone whose support and information were extremely helpful. Thanks to Laura for taking the pictures.

Alma Bradshaw is an occasional contributor to TBY.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: