Any given time during the week, you’re likely to find Sharon Balm out somewhere in the community teaching art to those in assisted living or with disabilities.
On one recent Friday, Balm brought her art supplies to the Fort Dodge Villa Care Center, where she encouraged residents to paint flowers onto small canvases.
They were working on Georgia O’Keefe-style paintings.
Balm is a volunteer with the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, and visits places including Villa Care and Lifeworks to host art classes.
“I’ve always had a love of art,” she said. “My great-grandma, of course, was an artist, taught art and music and everything. I said, ‘This is what I do when I get older.'”
Balm has been volunteering with the Blanden for about 20 years or so, starting in the mid-90s.
The classes she teachers include a variety of art styles.
“Arts and crafts,” she said. “We do a lot of craftwork, too. We work with jewelry and clay, we paint, we work with metals, plastics. Just about everything and most every form of art there is.”
Balm’s lifelong interest in art included her being an art major when she was in college. For 35 years, she even owned an art studio in Fort Dodge.
“My shop was called Sharon’s Ceramics and Crafts,” she said. “We did just about everything, but mostly ceramics.”
There is so much that Balm enjoys about art.
“I like working with hands-on things,” she said. “And I love being around people, and this is a wonderful program.”
She said other places have expressed interest in having the program come to their facilities, and Balm said she would love to see it spread out more.
On this particular Friday, Balm had the Villa Care residents paint a small wooden canvas. Once the paint dried, Balm took an outline of a flower and traced it over the canvas.
“I’ve kind fo made patterns and they’re going to trace around the pattern and paint their flowers any colors they want,” she said. “It’s very simple.”
Balm began teaching art classes back in 1986 when she began visiting the Deer Creek Apartments. She joined the Blanden’s program in the 1990s after it began.
“I first started with watercolor classes,” she said. “And then it progressed into more classes. Life drawing, of course I’ve done a lot of clay.”
As an artist, Balm said there’s not just one form of art that she loves.
“I love all forms of art,” she said. “I like to paint portraits, croche — it’s a type of art, too. We’ve been doing a lot of Mexican pin art. They’re really pretty. You can make it three-dimensional.”
She also enjoys watercolor painting.
“I can’t actually say I have a favorite,” she said. “I just like to do all forms of art. But mainly, I like working with people.”
She especially enjoys teaching art and seeing people create their own art.
“I like teaching people the things I like to do, and I just like being with people,” she said. “I guess that’s important.”
What gives her the most satisfaction is seeing her students’ excitement once they finish a piece of artwork.
“I know the people at Lifeworks get so excited,” she said. “They run up and show everybody the things they’ve done.”
It’s particularly enjoyable for Balm, who loves teaching art.
“I hope that they enjoy it as much as I enjoy seeing them do it,” she said. “I know they do. It’s fun to see them create.”
What makes art special is that it’s so unique.
“Everybody’s creation is different,” she said, referring to colors and styles. “Everybody has their own style of painting.”
Balm added that art can even help with mental health.
“It takes their mind off their problems,” she said. “It’s therapy.”