Learning is Golden

Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community unveils garden and art spaces
SumpterLutheranRetirement10a

Photos by Julia Sumpter

Tucked away adjacent to residences at Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community is a shiny new space for seniors to play. The project is spearheaded by a $1 million gift from Bill and Joyce Edwards of Tacoma (owners of William Edwards Construction). Paul Opgrande, president and CEO of TLRC, estimated the project was funded by 150-200 donors, including local artist Dale Chihuly, who has a family member at TLRC; the family of Inez Ellingson (Bargreen Ellingson); and businesses like Gray Lumber. The result is the sprawling Edwards Plaza, an outdoor space full of garden beds, art and quiet places for relaxation and reflection, and Chihuly Family Art Center, a multi-use art space for residents.

SumpterLutheranRetirement4“This whole project was made possible through donation dollars. With the beauty of this place, it really says people cared about it and wanted to make it special,” said Robby Lanouette, development specialist for the TLRC Foundation. Edwards Plaza is more than two years in the making, and started as a simple garden relocation to accommodate the construction of a new state-of-the-art memory care unit, which is slated to begin construction in April. But vocal resident feedback helped the project grow into what it is today. “It really shows that this is a place of life. People want to be involved, they want to be active and have outlets to do that,” Lanouette said.

Edwards Plaza is full of color and whimsy — a water feature with fun umbrella fixtures anchors the outdoor space, but it’s abundantly clear that gardening is the focal point of the space. A greenhouse and garden beds of varying heights to accommodate differing physical abilities will be a highlight for residents during growing season. A meandering walkway lined with different art installations is perfect for a morning stroll. One of the more impressive installations is a living table created by Jim Honold of Home and Garden Art — the custom table is accented with plants and has a water feature running through the middle of it. Residents can reserve the table for special events and dinners.

A painting studio is housed in The Chihuly Family Arts Studio. Participants vary in experience — some started learning to paint only since retiring. Painters have access to one-on-one instructing as well as materials in the studio.

A painting studio is housed in The Chihuly Family Arts Studio. Participants vary in experience — some started learning to paint only since retiring. Painters have access to one-on-one instructing as well as materials in the studio.

The Chihuly Family Arts Center houses a textiles room, a ceramic studio with kiln, a woodworking shop and a painting studio. The residents curate exhibitions and participate in classes. Diane Schurr, president of the resident board at TLRC, explained that there’s always something of note going on in the art center. “We have ladies next door in the textiles room rolling bandages or making quilts for international refuge relief; we have ceramics classes here every Wednesday, painting classes. We like to stay busy,” she said. Schurr explained that many residents who take classes have never painted before, or never considered themselves artistic, but are more eager to learn than people half their age. One of the ladies next door wrapping bandages was Genevieve Hedman, a 100-year-old woman who spent time as a missionary in Tanzania. She was instrumental in getting the bandage-wrapping committee started.

“This cultivates so much emotion for these people — so much joy comes from this place when you’re doing something creative and fun with your hands. The dexterity it takes to do these activities has such a positive effect on our residents. Whether they’re doing things that they used to do in the past, or embarking on new activities, something special blossoms there,” said Kristine Grant, LPN and community relations director at TLRC.

“You’re never too old to learn something new,” added Opgrand. “This place is giving people an opportunity to grow, even if they’re 90.”

Details: Tacoma Lutheran
The facilities are open to residents and family members. For questions, or to take a tour, call 253.752.7112

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