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Creating the Good: Art with a Purpose

Creating the Good - La Brocha.jpg

The following is a part of a series of stories which will run in conjunction with an exciting new weekly radio program by AARP Illinois. The weekly program, called "Creating the Good," showcases the stories of inspiring older adults in Illinois, and can be heard statewide on affiliates of the Illinois Radio Network.

When Connie Saldivar’s husband started forgetting recipes he used to remember by heart, she started looking for resources to help him remain active and engaged. Her husband, Álvaro, a former cake decorator known for creating beautiful and intricate flowers from frosting, had always been a creative person with a love for art. So, when Connie found La BROCHA (Latinos Buscando Refugio y Optimismo Cuando Hacen Arte), a program that offers art workshops to older Latina/os, specifically those living with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or dementia-related diseases, she thought it would be a great fit.

“When I told Álvaro we would be painting, he was very excited,” says Saldivar. “And then every [time] when we would go to the workshops, it was like he was transported to another world. He was so focused and happy.”

The biggest change Saldivar has seen in her husband is the sense of pride he feels when he brings home a painting.

“We have a gallery of his work set up in our house,” she says, “and every time our sons come to visit, Álvaro is so proud to show off his latest work.”

In addition to sending artwork home with participants, La BROCHA holds an annual art exhibit to showcase the participants’ work and to raise awareness about topics such as brain health and Alzheimer’s disease. The art exhibits have taken place at the National Museum of Mexican Art and Casa Michoacán in Pilsen.

“It’s so important that we showcase the hard work of our artists and make them feel that they are valued members of their communities,” says Judith Rocha, co-founder of La BROCHA and assistant professor of social work at Northeastern Illinois University.

While La BROCHA has been unable to offer in-person workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been sending coloring packets that include a coloring book, coloring pencils, and health information to participant’s homes. La BROCHA also plans to have virtual art classes up and running soon.

“We want to be able to offer our participants support and opportunities to engage in art during this time of isolation and loneliness, and we’re looking for volunteers who want to help,” Rocha says.

To learn more about La BROCHA and how you can get involved, visit

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