“Talent” is a word that artist and teacher, Jean Downs, doesn’t like to use. “I tell my students to leave ‘the big T word’ at home,” says Jean. “Anybody can draw if they’re given the tools. If you have a desire, you can do it.”
Jean and her husband, Ray, have recently moved to The Cedars of Dexter, UMRC’s independent living community in Dexter, Michigan. When one of their new neighbors learned that Jean was an art teacher, she convinced Jean to offer a drawing class at The Cedars. Thirteen Cedars residents are now learning that they, too, can draw.
An Ohio native, Jean graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and taught art in elementary school for one year before she and Ray started their family. However, Jean says she didn’t see herself as an artist. Then, she and a friend signed up for an art class for fun. “I found that I could draw when I thought I couldn’t,” says Jean.
Later, she got the opportunity to teach art to older adults. “I saw many little miracles,” says Jean, which included a woman with a heart condition who found that drawing was a relaxing and productive pastime that she could do while resting in the afternoons. Another of her students was discouraged from drawing as a child because she was left-handed. “She told me, ‘You gave me permission to be creative,’” says Jean.
Jean enjoys helping her students “learn to see” objects in a new way as they learn to draw them. “I want my students to learn to love and appreciate the weed or fallen acorn and, in the process, learn to care about the environment.”
The couple moved a few times for Ray’s job as a chemist. Jean taught drawing and watercolors at a community college in Idaho and at an art gallery in Cumberland, Maryland where they retired sixteen years ago. Jean and Ray are happy with their decision to move to The Cedars to be closer to family. “We enjoy the fact that The Cedars feels like a rural setting, but we’re also close to lots of parks, recreation, and culture. Everyone here is gracious, welcoming, and kind.”
Making art is a source of pleasure for Jean. “It is meditative, and I get lost in the process. It’s a form of prayer,” says Jean. “That’s the part that matters, not the end product. As God is a creative God, and we are created in God’s image, we are created creative.”
For more information about The Cedars of Dexter, call 734.792.9702 or visit our website at https://umrc.com/communities/cedars-of-dexter/.