Members of the Laguna Honda Hospital Computer Club are eager to share their digital art with other Hospital residents, visitors and hospital staff. The Computer Club has been a fixture at Laguna Honda for the past several years- exploring new software programs technologies and slowly recruiting new members.
While the group’s focus varies over the year, for several months this winter, Molly Hankwitz from the Community Living Campaign, led workshops on the MS Paint application. In February, the Hospital mounted an exhibition of their work.
In May, 14 artworks from that exhibit, as well as work from the Photovoice class offered by the Community Technology Network, migrated to the San Francisco Public Library as part of the Library’s show, Life Got Wider: Meanings Associated with Computer Use of Older Adults. The Library exhibit will on view in the Cafe Display Case (lower level) in the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street.
Laguna Honda Computer Club
Paul, a Hospital resident, founded the Laguna Honda Computer Club. He is an accomplished cartoonist and has made dozens of cartoons with his signature character, the “Wheelchair Quarterback.” Prior to his stroke in 2003, Paul kept busy on his home computer, but “after the stroke, after I moved into the Hospital, I had nothing to do.”
A sympathetic case manager gave Paul an old desktop computer and a VCR. “The computer gives me something to do; it’s how I access freedom,” he explained. “As long as there’s Google, I’m free. I’ve gone to the moon with Fred Flintstone. I can be in a petri dish. There’s no limit to what I can do with a computer.”
Paul wanted to share this sense of freedom with the other residents, and asked Marie Jobling from the Community Living Campaign to supply free laptops and an instructor for the new computer club. Marie agreed, and with the help of Judy Auda, also from CLC, they joined Paul in recruiting members.
They had hoped to attract 100 members, but a disappointed Paul explained, “The interest was just not there. Even when I told them to tell us what you enjoy and we’ll set up the apps on your computer, people just didn’t want to try something out of their comfort zone.”
Renewed Purpose through Digital Art
One of the newer members, Linda, attended her first Club meeting two years ago. Linda studied conceptual art design at San Francisco State University before she suffered a severe stroke. “I didn’t touch a computer for five years,” she said. “I spent a long time in my room by myself; a long time before I could do anything.”
Linda had always enjoyed collage and her great eye and appreciation for color found a natural outlet in Paint. Several months ago, Linda began repurposing an Ansel Adams calendar from 2010, adding a bright bird, a person or monument to the black and white images on her calendar.
Although her renewed sense of purpose cannot only be attributed to the computer class, Linda said, “I feel hopeful. I’m really blessed, I came back from a severe stroke and I can do things. Someday I may even walk.”
In addition to the Computer Club, CLC also sponsors an open computer lab. Judy Auda, who coordinates the SF Connected program for CLC, explained, “They come for learning and it’s a social thing. We bring out the computers; people stop by and ask questions. Sometimes they just come by to socialize, and that’s good too.” CLC Community Connectors Jennifer Walsh and Elizabeth Dunlap provide computer expertise and coordinate both the Club and the computer lab.