Granny Takes an Art Class
My Journey with Elizabeth Layton
Then, I learned from her art teacher at Ottawa University that Elizabeth Layton was 68 years old and taking her first art course. This, I realized, would be a good story for my newspaper, "Granny Takes Art Class." Meeting her, however, I realized that this was more than a one-time story for the Ottawa Herald. It would be my life.
When the story appeared in The Herald, I had also arranged for a dozen of her drawings to be shown at the local library. Visiting her weekly, I learned more of the story. She had been depressed half her life and undergone shock treatments. Learning to draw helped to cure her depression. It was gone six months after she began drawing by looking at herself in a mirror and drawing not only what she saw but what she felt.
I was able to arrange for one-person exhibitions of her work in about 160 museums across the country, including the Smithsonian. And I was able to get coverage of her in Life, People and Parade magazines, as well as NPR and Good Morning America.
She and I had an understanding and a mission. We knew that viewing her drawings could and has helped people – people dealing with their own aging, their own depression, their own families. And the drawings could help people better understand the social issues around them – racial injustice, homosexuality, the environment, homeless, and on and on.
Elizabeth had to draw and I had to get those drawings "out there." It was my therapy during the last 16 years of her life and the 22 years since.
By Don Lambert, Curator