It's never too late to participate in the arts.

We sometimes talk here about the arts in our hearts from the very beginning of our lives, from the tiny newborn who makes “humming” sounds to the 1-year-old who delighted in marking a white paper with crayons until she got to the white crayon and burst into tears when she saw no color.

It’s important to remember how our youngest children respond to the arts and readily express themselves through them. But it’s just as vital to understand the importance of the arts as lifelines to our elders. There are no age limits on the joy the arts bring. Children are fascinated watching and joining older folks immersed in their arts. Their stories are an inspiration for everyone.

Ray Pauken might be called the godfather of lively singalong music jams in the city. By profession, he’s an educator; by avocation, he’s a banjo player. On Thursday nights all summer, he gathers musicians for a few hours of lively songs at Johnson’s Ice Cream in Bexley. Crowds of folks from babies to great-grandparents eat ice cream, sing along with old favorites and consider Thursday night the highlight of their week.

Three years ago, Ray created a new passion. To offset winter loneliness, he revived his love of doodling and sketching and combined his illustrations with lyrics of songs he enjoys. At age 85, he is now working on his 90th painting—each an illustrated song lyric.

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Michael Joel Rosen, the author of more than 100 books (novels, poems, collections and short stories), took ceramics at Ohio State University over 40 years ago. Around 2015, the teacher, consultant, editor and artist remembered how he loved ceramics. Amid all of his other artistic endeavors, he longed to feel clay in his hands again. He built a studio and has crafted mugs, bowls and plates in a wide variety of colors and designs. At age 65, he is a joy to watch in action.

If you think of West African drumming, you think of Tony West. When it comes to West African dancing, you think of Aziza West. For decades, Tony and Aziza have drummed and danced their way through schools, festivals and workshops, inviting everyone to join in, learn and share. Their exciting rhythms call to people of all ages. The Wests were recently honored with the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Community Arts Partnership Award—a well-deserved honor for all they’ve done to enrich the community.

Ask Pat Larson what she does now that she has more time for the things she loves since she retired. She’ll tell you that every week she goes to sessions on Irish step dancing, English country dancing, Israeli dancing, international folk dancing and modern dance at BalletMet, and she tries not to miss any dance concerts. She’s 76 years old and still loves to dance.

If you’d like to get involved in the arts, check out the wonderful programs at Columbus Recreation and Parks centers. Visit the Cultural Arts Center. Sign up for a chorus like the Harmony Project. No matter your age, you are an inspiration to every child when you engage in something you love and enjoy.

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld is a longtime Columbus arts educator and author who works with children of all ages and encourages them to become creative, lifelong learners.

This story is from the Spring 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.