Art classes at area senior centers provide a creative, social activity

Left: Painted objects are seen during an art class at the Rotterdam Senior Center. Right: Judy Simpson holds one of her paintings at the Rotterdam center.  
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Left: Painted objects are seen during an art class at the Rotterdam Senior Center. Right: Judy Simpson holds one of her paintings at the Rotterdam center.  

Painting is good for you, especially when you get older.

“It’s extremely good for older people’s memory. It helps to keep them more alert,” said Mary Fekete, who teaches classes in watercolors at the Glenville Senior Center and at the Clifton Park Senior Community Center. “Painting uses the other side of the brain, the artistic creative part. It helps to develop more brain cells. It’s a different area of knowledge.”

But there’s more than just learning a new skill involved.

“It’s social interaction that is so enjoyable,” said Marcia Adams, who teaches tole painting classes at the Rotterdam Senior Citizens Center. “It’s to get people together, even to try something new. It enriches life and it keeps them mentally interactive. The mind is a muscle and will go dead if you don’t use it.”

While some people might resist coming to an art class thinking they don’t know how to draw, Peggy Porter, who teaches oil painting at Glenville Senior Center, said most of the pupils she gets don’t have any experience.

“There’s no experience needed. I give them a blank canvas and the supplies and give instruction on how to draw a specific object,” she said. “Some may have a gift, but everyone’s painting is unique. They’re good and always in the individual’s style.”

Like many of the art classes, everyone draws the same thing whether it’s a barn, clouds, trees or a person.

“Students are great to watch and see how they develop a painting,” Porter said. “They’re always surprised as to how well the picture comes out. “

For those students who like the experience, they learn a whole new way of looking at the world and how to bring something to life with paint.

“You learn how to use your eyes; how light to make a background and to calculate depth or the size of something; how to mix colors, especially to go from light to dark; how to use red or white, which pulls the eye into the painting for a focus,” Fekete said.

Because she works in watercolors, students come to know they take longer to dry than oils or acrylics, so they can’t redo or repair something right away.

Tole painting, however, is about painting on any object whether it’s wood, paper, ceramic or glass.

“It’s a nice form of art,” Adams said. “It’s getting past the fear of painting. It’s less formal than other art. We use stencils for tracing. We color with paint brushes.”

And experience is definitely not needed.

“We think everyone’s thing is a work of art,” Adams said. “It expresses a person. Everyone is gifted. We treasure everything we paint.”

At Niskayuna Senior Center, two workshops are being offered monthly. One is abstract art with Laurel-Le Lipski and will help students to develop a sense of a picture’s composition.

The other is using a computer to create digital art with Vince Forte, who is a sculptor. A fee and pre-registration is required. And at Glenville, Danny Morettte is giving an 8-week class in mixed media for a fee with sign up starting Jan. 31.

While most art classes are under 10 students and some provide supplies and others do not, some centers, such as Glenville or Clifton Park require students to be members of the center. Rotterdam does not and Adams said she’d welcome more students.

Most centers also don’t display the creations, but Glenville is showing some pictures, including those by Barry Finley, who at 79, returned to painting at the suggestion of his children.

So, as any of the teachers would tell you: “It’s never too late to get started.”

Seniors art classes

A sampling of art classes at local senior centers:
– Clifton Park Senior Center: Watercolors with Mary 10:30-12:30 p.m. Thursday, monthly
 Glenville Senior Center: Watercolors with Mary 10:30-12:30 p.m Monday, monthly; painting with Peggy Wednesday, monthly 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
– Niskayuna Senior Center: Abstract art with Laurel-Le Feb. 19 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; computer art with Vince March 19 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
– Rotterdam Senior Center: Tole painting with Marcia or Judy 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays
Note: Some centers require membership status for classes

Categories: Art, Life and Arts

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