“If you are breathing, then you have a purpose.”

In honor of National Minority Health Month (April) and Mental Health Awareness Month (May), I sat down with artist and musician Carol James to talk about art, identity and aging.

carolCarol discovered her passion for creative arts at the age of nine, and at 67 years old she continues to create and inspire others. She completed courses at the Art Institute of Chicago and received a fine arts degree from Columbia College. She currently facilitates the Creative Arts Healing Circle at Affinity Community Services, where she regularly volunteers her time and talent. Carol teaches a variety of painting techniques for self expression and healing through art.

With a growing love and appreciation of music, she picked up the flute later in life and is a self-taught musician. Carol is a dedicated musician and now plays with a senior ensemble at a local park district. Carol describes her passion for the arts as both purposeful and necessary. She often tells others that “if you are breathing, then you have a purpose.”

Carol lives as an out lesbian, and her artwork shows her life journey through childhood, marriage, divorce, motherhood, addiction and recovery. She is a social justice advocate for LGBTQ people, and she shares her story of survival with anyone who will listen. Carol embraces positive self talk and regular exercise. She practices a strong Buddhist faith and continues to be a true inspiration and example of successful aging in our community. “There is life after 50, 60, and 70,” Carol reminds me. “It is important to share my gifts, but I also have to stay focused on what I need to do for me.”

If you live in the Chicago area, you can take a class with Carol at Affinity Community Services. Check out their community calendar for more information! You can also visit www.sageusa.org to find a SAGE Center in your area where arts, employment, and social programming is available for LGBT older adults and their allies.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.