Art Contest Asks Students 'How Do You See Aging'?

Gerontology art
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A photo of a rusted shovel with a broken handle, aged by years of harsh Appalachian weather and hard work, sat on display in UNC Charlotte’s Atkins Library through much of the month of November. The piece is a creation of senior and gerontology minor Seth Flynn, who submitted it as part of a contest hosted by the Gerontology Program, with the support of the Gerontology Club and the J. Murrey Atkins Library, that asked students to answer the question, “How do you see aging?” The work and the touching story behind it earned Flynn first place in the competition.

With a can of spray paint, a pen and a bit of creativity, Flynn painted the worn gardening tool and wrote a poem along the blade, giving the old shovel new life and purpose to serve as a heartwarming tribute to its owner.

Flynn drew inspiration for the piece from his relationship with his grandmother and the time they spent together in her garden during his childhood. His poem references the nurturing, traditions, values, and healing that took root in her garden.

“My grandmother has played an influential role in every step of my life,” Flynn wrote in the description of his piece. “From teaching me her gardening techniques and time-tested recipes, to encouraging me to be the first in my family to obtain an undergraduate degree, her legacy and love of Appalachian culture live on within me.”

Contestants in the competition Flynn won submitted original artwork and a short description of their piece, detailing how they captured their perception of aging. Many students depicted age through photos of the strength, serenity, and peace of nature; the life cycle of flowers; and the images of loved ones such as contrasting hands, faces depicting strength and resilience, and a multigenerational family.

“When I heard about the contest, I wanted to take a different approach than just a picture,” Flynn said. “I wanted to write something and exercise that creativity too.”

Flynn says that his grandmother, who never completed her education, has been his main support system and the person that has pushed him to go every step of the way in his education and career. He expects to graduate in May 2019 with majors in biology and chemistry and minors in sociology and gerontology. Flynn plans to attend medical school next fall, where he will specialize in geriatrics.

“The Gerontology Program tries to create this image of aging, that this is successful aging. We draw from many disciplines and we bring them together to educate our students on how to address the issues of the person who is aging. The competition has helped to extend the thought of diversity within the prospect of aging,” said Dr. Julian Montoro-Rodriguez, director of the UNC Charlotte gerontology program.

Flynn’s artwork, along with the others submitted in the contest, is currently on display on the first floor of the College of Health and Human Services building.

Full Contest Results:

Merit Awards: April Crumpler, Alexandra Glass, Anastasia Schmidt

3rd Runner Up: Bethany Hyder

2nd Runner Up: Amanda Kuykendall

1st Runner Up: Nidia Bermudez

1st Place: Seth Flynn

by: Anna Henderson

About the UNC Charlotte Gerontology Program: Gerontology is the study of the aging processes and individuals as they grow from middle age through later life. It includes: the study of physical, mental, and social changes in people as they age; the investigation of the changes in society resulting from our aging population; and the application of this knowledge to policies and programs. The Gerontology Program at UNC Charlotte began in 1990. As an interdisciplinary program we encompass students and faculty from many disciplines.  We offer an undergraduate Gerontology Minor, a graduate Certificate in Gerontology and a Master of Arts in Gerontology. At all levels of study experiential learning and research opportunities are offered and form an important component of our program. The interdisciplinary nature of the program prepares students for careers in the field of Gerontology such as direct or indirect service, education and training, program planning and evaluation, administration and policy, and research. As the population continues to age, jobs in gerontology-related fields will also increase. For more information please visit: