Good Neighbors: Mark Campbell

Each year, our Good Neighbor Awards honor some of the dedicated neighbors who volunteer their time to help seniors and people with disabilities get the resources and support they need to age and thrive in their own homes and neighborhoods. We are delighted to honor Mark as our 2017 Good Neighbor Honoree for the Laguna Honda Computer Club.

Mark Campbell at Laguna Honda Hospital

“Mark treats residents as equals. He creates community by encouraging everyone to cultivate their own abilities to contribute back.”

Mark Campbell is a Good Neighbor Honoree from the Computer Club at Laguna Honda Hospital. But he’s not a member of the club. He’s an artist, a teacher and executive director of the Art With Elders, a program he teaches at the hospital.

Yet, it was through his effort and the energy of patients and volunteers that the Community Living Campaign was able to start a computer club at the hospital. Laguna Honda Hospital residents started the computer club together with the Community Living Campaign. It is part of the SF Connected program funded by the San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services. For computer classes in other neighborhoods, see the CLC Calendar

“Mark treats residents as equals,” Jennifer Walsh, who nominated him on behalf of the club, wrote. “He creates community by encouraging everyone to cultivate their own abilities to contribute back. He shares his time enthusiastically with everyone. He uses art to befriend and help residents see past their current situation to perceive a new future.”

Mark is a practicing artist who has taught at Laguna Honda for 20 years. “It’s really satisfying, gratifying, extraordinarily rewarding. It’s challenging: You’re in the ring with them. They’re not crying; they’re trying.”

Bringing Art With Elders to Students Throughout the Bay Area

Art With Elders is now offered in 40 Bay Area communities from San Jose to North Bay. The program offers 2,000 classes a year, all taught by professional artists. Some of the 20 artists involved in the program are paid. Others volunteer. Art With Elders reached almost 500 students last year.

In “Look Again,” a 2012 book on Art With Elders, Mark writes in the introduction: “In my experience, it is the natural inclination of folks facing challenges, no matter how chronic or intransigent, to forge on and continue to live their lives to the fullest – whatever shape that may take. Elders are empowered if they are given a chance to define, describe and create themselves, shaking off the fetters of society’s relatively limited vision of their wholeness.”  

Before rebuilding Laguna Honda, the hospital’s executive director asked Mark what he wanted. He got what he asked for: a light-filled art studio – a 1,500 square-foot space with large windows in a well-traveled area easily visited by patients and staff, a central location on the hospital’s main street, the esplanade that links the residential buildings. And also, a kiln and an office.

Many of his students have been attending classes since Mark first began teaching 20 years ago. Even with new students, Mark said, the goal is to engage them and create relationships. When one of the long-timers stopped attending, Mark found her in her room, crying. She was rapidly losing her sight and ready to give up. Mark spoke with the occupational therapist, who arranged for special glasses. Today she’s back in class and much happier.

“There’s good energy here,” Mark said. “I love my time here. It’s a blast.”

These days, he divides his time between teaching at Laguna Honda and growing the organization. “When seniors in long-term environments are offered safe, supported and frequent opportunities to just explore their greater “selves” through art, something special happens. Friendships evolve, trust is built, barriers are reduced, meaningful and heartfelt relationships are established between and among teachers, volunteers and students alike.”

The next art show at Laguna Honda will be held in the auditorium on Oct. 22. The show is open to the public.

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