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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2015

Retirement community residents display art from the heart

Mary Ellen and some of her artist friends at Westminster at Lake Ridge thought the hallway leading to the Health Services Center needed some sprucing up.

“The same art had been hanging on the walls for 20 years,” she says. It was dark and dull.

But through the efforts of the Art Committee, the hallway now shines with rotating displays of residents’ artwork. The current exhibit, featuring fabric art, is on display through September, and it’s very popular. In fact, residents go out of their way to view it.

“There’s always somebody there reading the descriptions and taking their time,” Mary Ellen says. “It’s being appreciated and enjoyed.”

With the assistance of Dee Pekruhn, Director of Resident Services, Mary Ellen started talking with several other artists last summer. They soon coalesced into the Art on Campus Committee—one of many resident-led groups that harness residents’ talents to make the retirement community a better place for everyone.

The art committee’s first project was painting a cheerful sunflower on the asphalt at the dog park to brighten it. Then the members started thinking about what they could to do to honor and celebrate the community’s artists.

“We do have some really enthusiastic artists on campus,” Mary Ellen says. “I think it’s a real treasure that we have here.”

The committee members realized the hallway was a great place for an art gallery and formed four subcommittees to work on the project. Several members came up with criteria for the exhibits; others worked on getting a hanging system. Selection and publicity subcommittees also were formed.

“They raised money for a professional hanging system and took the initiative to go through the yearbook, identify all the artists and reach out to them,” Pekruhn says. “It really took off quickly. That's how residents are here—they’re doers. They like to be in direction of things.”

In January, Mary Ellen ordered the display system for the gallery, and by March the hallway was ready for the first exhibit. The show, which opened with a wine and cheese reception March 20, featured watercolors, pen and ink drawings, acrylics and oil paintings. Residents did all of the organizing of the exhibit; Pekruhn and her staff put together the reception.

That exhibit ran for three months. It was replaced in early July by the fabric art exhibit.

“The fabric display was quite difficult to curate,” Mary Ellen says. “We had to find special hangers for the fabric, but we’re thrilled with the display system. It’s working beautifully.”

The committee’s next project will be murals in the downstairs hallway that leads to the swimming pool and locker room.

“We are going to paint outlines this summer and let residents fill in,” Mary Ellen says. “A lot of people will be involved.”

The group is also planning the next exhibit for the hallway gallery. That show may include staff members and families as well as residents, who will be asked to submit photographs for consideration by the selection committee.

The gallery “brings artists to the awareness of other residents” and in one case, has inspired a resident to take up art again.

“To know that our very own residents have created these pieces gives you a warm feeling,” Mary Ellen says. “I’m very proud of our residents and their skills.”

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