Art of Aging: Woman, 94, helps people through art therapy

BLUE BELL, Pa. (WPVI) -- Meet a 94-year-old woman who is still giving back.

She's teaching classes on two things she knows a whole lot about, art and aging.

Myra Levick, a resident, and instructor at Blue Bell Place always wanted to study art, but she never imagined the deal she made with her husband, Len, would set her on a trailblazing path.

"I would work while he was in medical school on condition that he would send me to art school, so 17 years later I went to Moore College of Art.

But, instead of teaching art students, Levick took a job working with mentally disturbed patients after seeing an ad posted by a young psychiatrist.

"I was really intrigued. Art therapy in this country was not known in 1963," she said.

Levick became a pioneer in the field, earning her Ph.D. and helping to found the American Art Therapy Association in 1969 serving as its first president.

"The art therapist does not interpret. The important thing is for someone to appreciate their own artwork and understand it," said Levick.

Levick has written several books on art therapy, however, her most recent, Dear Myra, Dear Max" is a personal project with her friend and colleague Dr. Maxine Borowsky Junge.

"And it's not chapters, it is all letters. Putting down on paper what we were feeling as we were getting older, so for us actually, this was an adventure, just writing the book." She said.

Their living situations were different, but the message they wanted to convey in the book was the same.

"We may not walk so well, but we can still think and plan for ourselves, and that we should be treated with dignity, added Levick.

Levick hopes the book will help younger people better understand their aging parents.

She said, "But I confess after five years here I am still adjusting."

She shared excerpts of her book at a Watermark University class where she resides at Blue Bell Place.

She also leads art classes there using cray-pas.

"Oil pastels and they are wonderful. They are like crayons but they do everything that you can do with oil paint without any of the mess. I'll just do some of those flowers," said Levick.

Colby Forman, Community Life Director of Blue Bell Place said, "And she's very creative and engaging and so intelligent. And it's just lovely to have someone like that in our community."

"You just use art to express whatever you're feeling," said Levick.

Rose Poplawsky, Blue Bell Place resident said, "She gives you inspiration, really."

Her daughters call her an original feminist for all of her accomplishments.

"It was everything I wanted to do and everything people let me do and I just had a lot of support," said Levick.
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