Residents at Sienna's Villa Leonardo Gambin take pride in expressing themselves through arts and crafts

The needle slides up and down through the fabric, pulling thread with it. Its rhythmic hum is a sound most of the residents are used to, having listened to it most of their lives.

“We’re a majority of an Italian home here, so [sewing is] one of these things that these ladies are used to and they did it in their home,” said Alexandra Gordon, manager of recreation and volunteer services at Villa Leonardo Gambin in Toronto. “That they’re still able to do it is really amazing.”

blankets and wheelchair cushions that were made by residents are on display
Villa Leonardo Gambin has a sewing station on one of their floors. Residents have been using it to develop wheelchair pillows and sensory blankets for other residents. 

“Residents can walk down the hall and see another resident with the wheelchair cushion they made on their wheel chair and be proud of that work they did,” Alexandra said. “They’ve also been working on cushions for the bazar. So they’re producing things that they like to do and that helps them reminisce about what they did previously.”

Recently, Villa Leonardo Gambin had an art show to showcase work residents have been doing in the weekly art classes. Over 100 family and friends of residents were welcomed into the home where they enjoyed wine and harp music. They also had a chance to purchase artwork completed by the residents. The art was sold by donation, with all proceeds going back into the art program.

“We know how important it is to really have those different aspects of your loved one, so we had discussed what we would like if they were our family,” Alexandra said. “I said ‘you know what, if someone had given me the opportunity to purchase something that my grandmother had made I would do it in a heartbeat.’”

A resident and her daughter pose, holding up a painting made by a residentColourful paintings, imaginative crafts, beautiful quilts and knitting designs were on display at the art show. 

“I am proud to show my work to others,” said Maria, a resident at Villa Leonardo Gambin who had several knit pieces in the art show. “Knitting is a pastime and a passion for me. I used to knit for my family and friends, and now I knit for my grandchildren.”

A photographer was at the show, and residents were asked to choose one of their pieces to be photographed with.

“That sense of pride is really there,” Alexandra said. “To be able to exemplify that was really nice.”

There was also a slide show of residents putting together some of their works – which included painting and building a Muskoka chair.

“We’ve been working closely with our art therapist as well as our recreation therapy assistants to create different pieces of art work,” Alexandra said. “Residents use different mediums, sewing materials, paint, crayons, tinfoil – really anything you can think of."

A resident and a staff member work together to put together a Muskoka chairOn top of weekly art sessions, Villa Leonardo Gambin also has an art therapist come in twice a month. The residents’ love of these programs is what inspired the art expose. 

“We just saw the way that our residents responded to art, the impact that it was having on their social wellbeing … the happiness that it brings them. We decided that it would be really important for us to share that with their family and friends and for them to be able to show off their skills and what they’re doing,” Alexandra said.

“It was a beautiful night, and I am so proud of the residents, as well as my team, for completing such a beautiful event,” Alexandra said.