Week 9:
Learning Something Out of Everything

Bostrom Fellow in Creative Aging

Frye Art Museum, Creative Aging Programs | Seattle, Washington

December 23, 2019

When I first began looking into doing a fellowship, I was hoping that I would be able to have four weeks in one location and then another 4 weeks in a different location.  I thought that 8 weeks in the same place would drag on and get dull.  Wow, I was so wrong.  As I look at my stuffed-to-the-gills luggage and realize that I’m going to be boarding a plane in less than 24 hours, I can’t really understand where the time went.  I’m so sad to be leaving.  I’ve really started to find my place in this city, among these incredible organizations, and especially within the Frye.  I’ve begun making truly genuine connections with people, and saying goodbye is really difficult.

On the other hand, I’ve had pockets of restlessness as I continued to narrow in on my final few days in Seattle.  I have enjoyed every moment of my internship and learned more than I ever could have dreamed of learning, but this has been undoubtedly a difficult two months.  I am exhausted and ready to be back in a space where I feel a bit more in control.  I miss my plants, I miss my bed, I miss my car, I miss my roommates, I miss my mom.  As uncomfortable as it is to leave, I can also feel that it’s time.

I found a lot of solace these past 8 weeks in walking by the water. It often leads to the finding of little sea treasures.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the course of these past two months.  I really like the Pacific Northwest and could absolutely see spending a portion of my life in this area.  I enjoy learning a new city.  There is a lot of energy and excitement in the unfolding of an unknown place.  There were times I got frazzled.  Reading a map on my phone in the moment (especially in the middle of a busy street) is difficult for me.  But, even when I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do or where to go, I always figured something out.  I love riding the bus when it isn’t too crowded.  I sometimes love riding the bus even when it is crowded, but only if there’s good people watching or if I’ve been on my feet all day and finally get to sit down.  Smiling at strangers is a total blast and often led to wonderful interactions that really added to my day.  Anonymity is fun.  Ethiopian food is AMAZING.

This is one of my favorite large pieces of street art in the city. I would pass it regularly when I rode the light rail. It says, “then out came the sun”.

When I was in the beginning of my junior year at Cornell I began feeling the pressure of graduating in just three more semesters.  What was I going to do? What was my plan? In response to these anxieties, I started to ask myself what I was good at and where my strengths were.  The answer that kept popping up in my mind over and over was that I am good at love – at loving people.  I really believe that my purpose in this life is to be a conduit for love.  Luckily for me, love can take infinite shapes.  This internship introduced to me that one of those shapes is working towards the well-being of older adults, specifically older adults living with dementia.

I love providing programming to the public.  I have so much respect for the people who have made their lives about offering services to those around them.  Work of this regard takes a particular type of passion and resiliency.  The only reason that these programs exist and continue to run is because of the people on the floor who make them happen.  Offering a not-for-profit service is no easy task, but the Frye – Mary Jane Knecht specifically – does it every single day.

My last week at the Frye was bookended with the final here:now class and an evening out with Mary Jane for a drink and carnitas tacos (yuuum).  The here:now class has been one of my absolute favorite pieces of this internship.  This is due both to the brilliance of the program itself and to the wonderful connection I was able to form with my partner Jean.  She is a phenomenal woman with so much heart and an impeccable ability to see when she looks.  Whether we were giggling over something mundane like choosing where to sit or  immersed in an art creation, we had fun together every single week!

Jean and I were deeply engrossed in our here:now projects.  Photo credit to Marlee Khastou.

I’m going to miss seeing her bold colors and red lipstick.  She was one of my hardest goodbyes, but we both agreed to stay in touch – this is a friendship I look forward to continue growing.

Jean and I were partners for six weeks throughout the here:now class. It was an absolute blast, to say the least.  In the background is artwork from one of the previous weeks in the class – I love all of the colors and lines.  Photo credit to Katie Lamar.

I’m glad that I was able to have another meal with Mary Jane.  I owe all of these past two months to her.  Mary Jane wears several hats within the Frye as well as within the dementia community.  I saw first hand how busy she is on a daily basis, with anything from providing programming to writing grants.  One year ago, a strange undergraduate student from middle-of-nowhere Iowa sent her an email wanting to know more about the Creative Aging Programs.  It would have been absolutely understandable for her to have tucked my email away and forgotten about me.  It would have been absolutely understandable for her to have decided she didn’t have the time or energy to think about bringing on an intern.  But instead she added one more thing to her plate and allowed me to step into the rich world of Creative Aging.  Mary Jane, thank you for taking a chance on me.  Thank you for connecting me with the vast community of people and organizations in Seattle who are working together for the well-being of older adults.  Thank you for being an example of what success in this field looks like.  It was an absolute pleasure to work with you and see first hand the gifts that you have provided to Seattle.

Leaving the Frye is painful.  I’ve gotten used to being surrounded by beautiful art.  I love the sound of wearing clicky shoes on a shiny museum floor.  I’ve found a little family here, from everyone to the security officers I check in with in the morning, to the manager of the cafe who I gab with every time I get lunch, to the inspiring people who work upstairs and implement programming for the public.  While this is a bittersweet goodbye, I am endlessly grateful for my experiences and I have no doubt that I will be returning to Seattle.

I spent a lot of time with this picture of Donald Byrd throughout my time at the Frye. I loved every moment in its presence.

I am so proud of myself.  I was terrified to leave and start this internship, but I did it.  I am proud that I took the chance in trying to obtain this internship.  I am proud that I summoned the courage to leave my comfort zone behind and venture into an unknown city by myself.  I am proud of the work I did while I have been here.  I am proud of how well I learned the public transit system.  I am proud of the boldness that I gave myself permission to embrace.  I am proud of my strength, I am proud of my ability to love, I am proud of my desire to learn and to help.  I know in my bones that I have an abundance of undertakings ahead of me, this is only the beginning.

To learn more about the Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging Programs, click here: https://fryemuseum.org/creative_aging/

Olivia Lohmann '20

Olivia is a psychology major and art history minor from Houghton, Michigan.