MIDDLEBURY-Residents of the Lodge at Otter Creek in Middlebury are displaying sides of their lives rarely seen in public-their artistic sides. And judging by the resident art on display in this upscale retirement facility, the Lodge seems to have an abundant resource of dynamic talent-all in their 80s and 90s.
Paige Larson, director of activities at the Lodge, thought a resident and staff art exhibit was a good idea when it was first proposed by resident and artist Jo Birnbaum.
The idea was to approach various artists living at the Lodge and ask them to donate (or create) artwork for the public display. Next, display areas were set up in the lobby, common room and social areas to permit easy access; walker- and wheelchair-bound residents can get in close and enjoy the art.
"The response to this community exhibit turned out to be overwhelming," said Larson.
Residents entered a variety of work in the exhibit, which has all the appearances of an upscale urban gallery-from paintings to photography, sculpture to woodware, and needlepoint to stained glass-and everything in between.
One Lodge staffer, medical technician Daniel Hamilton, entered an unusual piece-a finely detailed nature scene etched on the underside of a cap of a giant tree mushroom.
See ARTISTS, page 9
from page 1
"I was pleasantly surprised by all the entries," said Larson. "We're very proud of the residents. Their work is accomplished, beautiful. These Lodge resident are true artists in every sense of the word."
Larson said the display opened two weeks ago and was scheduled to close last week, but now there's a good chance it will be extended-and the public is invited to view it.
For younger artists living around AddisonCounty, it's worth a visit to the Lodge exhibit if only to study the rich legacy of this local group of "Greatest Generation" artists.
Television news broadcaster Tom Brokaw coined the phrase "Greatest Generation" applying it to the Great Depression-World War II generation; certainly the word "greatest" fits when it comes to the artists and other residents of Middlebury's Lodge.
Clearly, there's a lot to learn from this group of men and women that has endured an economic depression and a world war.
At the Lodge, you'll see original works by several area artists such as Prindle Whistler, Elsia Waller, Virginia Folino, among others.
"You should see Prindle Whistler's room at the Lodge," said Larson. "It is alive with her Vermont work." Whistler has been painting sought-after Middlebury scenes for over 40 years.
Also joining Jo Birnbaum in creating the display was Lodge resident Jim Borden.
Like Birnbaum, Borden is an accomplished artist; he also teaches a drawing class at the Lodge.
"We have so much talent living under one roof,"Birnbaum said. "And that's why we wanted to put it all on display for everyone to admire."
Birnbaum, in her 80s, is an accomplished former New York City sculptress. Having spent several years living in Cuba before Castro's revolution, her works showing lovers in embrace-and created in exquisite woods-display a Latin American sensuous and near-eroticism that shouldn't be surprising. After all, a person's artistic vision, even if it's on the sensuous side, can often remain ageless throughout life.
In the end, having residents' artwork on display at the Lodge was an inspiring idea.
Here's a brief sampling of the 48 entries on display at the Lodge:
-Elaine Kaufman, needlepoint
-Jim Borden, drawings
-Dick Saunders, handmade rugs
-Nancy Diamond, stained glass window art
-Joyce Heath, handmade baskets
-Lois Hunsdorfer, paintings
-Rich Locher, paintings
-Nancy Niebuhr, handsewn children's clothing-
Peg Condon, photography
-Elisabeth Boeke, art
Replacing the facility's "corporate art" with original work created by the retirement community has had a surprising effect. After talking with several residents (both artists and non artists), it was clear that the display created an internal buzz that was uplifting to all residents and staff. Several of the resident artists even found themselves becoming local "celebrities" overnight. The attention, it appears, was worth the effort.
Consider resident Elsia Waller.
She suffers from multiple sclerosis, yet her sculptural work is an expression of a far ranging creative mind and sensitive spirit.
For many seniors at the Lodge, and elsewhere for that matter, age doesn't blunt what the heart sings. And art is often the channel for expressing voices and longings long hidden.
Check It Out: For more details about art created by the residents of the Lodge at Otter Creek, contact Paige Larson at 802-458-3275. The lodge is located at 350 Lodge Rd. in Middlebury, Vt.