EDMOND — As he paints in the art room at the Edmond Senior Center, John Lawton isn't shy about using every color he can think of, something he said reflects his own life's journey.
Lawton, 82, is painting a story box as part of a project in conjunction with University of Central Oklahoma art students. The students interview the participants about their lives and then help them turn the answers to those questions into a decorated box that will hold items significant in their life journeys.
“Every color in the rainbow is there. It's menagerie of a life that has been lived for 82 years, and no color is left out,” Lawton said.
The idea for the classes came from UCO art instructor Joana Hyatt, who wanted her students to do a project involving the community.
“We talked about what's important to them, whether it be a particular place and time that was meaningful or a special hobby,” Hyatt said. “Everyone has a story to tell, and this is a creative and fun way to do it.”
The benefits go beyond time well spent and a nice piece of art as a souvenir. UCO senior Amy Griffin has worked with Lawton on his story box but said getting to know him has been the best part.
“His mind is so alive, and he thinks about things that are expansive that I don't tend to think about,” Griffin said. “He's just an interesting person.”
Nell Francis, 89, of Edmond, lined the inside of her story box with a map of Oklahoma with her hometown of Kiefer circled. She also included a clothespin, some pearls and newspaper clippings.
“We're doing things that I relate to back when I was a kid,” she said. “I've been reading newspapers ever since I could read. I started out with the comics and gradually worked my way up. Now I read it cover to cover every day.”
Edmond resident Jerri Garlett adorned her story box with crosses and other religious symbols. Inside she's placing a coffee cup, prayer books and CDs, a Bible and some costume jewelry.
“I like bling, so I have few things in there,” Garlett said. “I was raised going to church and I still go, so that is a big part of it. I have a church steeple on each side. Jesus is very important to me. He's brought me through a lot of things, and when I look at this box, it reminds me of Him.”
Hyatt said the short time working with seniors has been beneficial to her students, and vice versa.
“One of my students got a letter from the person she was working with, telling her how much she appreciated the student listening to her stories,” Hyatt said.