Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Art Show Turns Spotlight on Seniors; Lifelong Artists, Novices Enjoy Class

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Art Show Turns Spotlight on Seniors; Lifelong Artists, Novices Enjoy Class

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

As they deal with the frailties of age, many residents of the Carriage Club are finding inspiration in snow-capped mountains, crystalline mountain lakes, quaint farm houses and blazing sunsets.

Painting them, that is.

Since 1990, Virginia West has been teaching a weekly art class at the Southside retirement community on Southbrook Drive. The dozen or so students, who are in their 70s and 80s, say it is the highlight of their week.

And the highlight of their year is their annual art show, which was held this month in the club's lounge and featured about 75 works, including watercolors, pastels, acrylics, oils and needlecraft.

"I'm pretty amazed at the quality of the art," said activities director Dennis Del Rosario. "It's inspiring for their grandkids, family, friends and other residents."

"This show makes us feel very important," said Emily Stork, citing the festive balloons, gold and rust metallic tablecloths and fresh floral centerpieces. "Dennis presented us with a rose and made such a production of it. We had wonderful hors d'oeuvres, a jazz musician and a big crowd. It makes living in a retirement community so much nicer."

Each year, the class loses one or two members. But new ones join to replace those who die, said West, who has a degree in art from the University of North Florida.

"I feel like I'm contributing something to their lives," she said. "They are excellent students. What I strive to do is have each person express their own individuality. I try to bring out their own natural abilities. That's why the paintings don't always look alike."

Most paint from a picture, photograph, magazine or calendar, West said.

Some, like Phyllis Sheldon, had never taken up the brush before. Sheldon, who has Parkinson's disease, said it's good therapy.

Stork said she bought some paints 30 years ago but never had the opportunity to use them. Stork, who also sings and plays the violin, said she walked into the class five years ago and asked to join. It's now become her favorite morning of the week.

Lillian Gingrich, on the other hand, has been painting at least 35 years, though she had stopped to do stained glass. …

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