At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, Causeway u3a developed a “Covid Stay Safe Plan” because we were determined not to let the virus stop all our activities. The core of the plan was to support groups wanting to operate online. We ran training programmes in the use of Zoom for all members and provided an on-going support service. In the month of January 2021 we hosted 63 Zoom meetings involving 716 members.
One of the most challenging activities to run on Zoom was the Painting class. There are usually two painting groups and both group convenors were unfamiliar with technology, but were highly motivated and willing to give it a go. They worked with our Zoom Co-ordinator to devise a novel system for relaying their painting classes. This involved the use of both their computer, their mobile phone and a wonderful device called a “goose neck mount”. While the computer showed the group leader , the mobile phone on the goose neck mount relayed the painting they were working on and using to demonstrate techniques. They covered pencil drawing, oil and watercolour paintings.
Many of our Painters were reluctant to try it, but about half of them agreed to try the Zoom version, and some members who were not in the “real” group, joined the Zoom group. Many participants were new to technology and new to Zoom and were quite nervous at first.
A member of the group recently commented “It was a huge learning experience for all of us, helping and teaching each other as we went along. There was a lot of laughter until we all learnt more about the IT together”.
All members agreed the art classes were lots of fun, with patient leaders who helped everyone and dealt with technical issues. Over the six weeks of the programme, many art techniques were covered, beautiful paintings were created and new friendships were built.
This came to the attention of a local organisation who supported us to run the Painting classes, through a grant for materials and other expenses.
While everyone in Causeway u3a looks forward to being able to meet in person for painting classes in the not-too-distant future, they will consider an additional Zoom Painting class which would facilitate members with health and transportation issues, to continue to enjoy their hobby and meet their friends.