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Senior Artists Show Age is No Barrier In Creating Award-Winning Masterpieces

Atlantic Shores Senior Artists Show Age is No Barrier In Creating Award-Winning Masterpieces

Art is ageless, and artists can be as well! At least, in the case of a group of talented artisans at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Some, like Atlantic Shores resident artist Margene Sullivan, have discovered their creative side later in life — becoming artists as part of their journey as perpetual students of life. After her husband passed away in 1984, Margene started taking art and dance classes as a way to keep her mind and body busy. She developed her fledgling talent, and is now one of the most talented pastel artists in the community. Her art is full of such color and vibrancy; it is hard to imagine it all started from such a sad time in her life.

Others, like 74 year-old Jeanie Drescher, are reconnecting with their artistic side now that they have time to devote to it. Her photography, which started as a hobby in 1976, now has become a full time passion, with her hand-tinted and digitally-painted photographs selling briskly to fellow residents, their friends and other art aficionados.

To support their large community of artists, Atlantic Shores offers an array of classes in the community’s sunny art studio. Classes are taught by talented residents, including 93 year-old Dorothy Stott, a retired art teacher who encourages her fellow artisans to explore their creative side in her art fundamentals class. Some residents also instructed by professionals outside the community, including classes at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Many artists are self-taught, and take inspiration from the surrounding beauty of Atlantic Shores’ 100-acre campus, some choosing to paint in an outdoor gazebo beside the community’s lake. Many of Jeanie’s photographs capture the beauty of nature and wildlife at Atlantic Shores.

Teachers and students alike are finding fulfillment through art. Blooming in her late-eighties, Margene has sometime been the oldest person in her art class, to which she commented, “that’s just fine with me. It’s never too late to learn something new, and to do something you love.”

And appreciation for the arts goes beyond creating their own masterpieces, with resident field trips to local art shows and exhibits at the Chrysler Museum, and Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. Some residents are even more involved, like Jane Webster, who has served as a Master Docent at the Chrysler Museum for 13 years. Very active in the arts, Atlantic Shores resident Barbara Fleming even has a wing named after her at MOCA.

According to Atlantic Shores Resident Services Director Kathy Parks, “I’m consistently impressed by the diverse range of talent our residents have. Each person expresses themselves with a totally different style, creating works as unique as they are. They are excited to continue developing their skills, and their optimism and energy really show in their creations.”

Just like their younger contemporaries, the work of these seasoned artists are showcased in gallery shows and exhibits, with many works sold to local area collectors. More than 70 of their beautiful pieces were also featured at a gallery display during the annual Atlantic Shores Home & Garden Tour. And a rotating selection is featured on display in one of Atlantic Shores’ busiest corridors.

And their works are capturing the attention of a national fan base as well, with many recently selected for inclusion in the 2013 VANHA online senior art show. Competing against 242 pieces of art from 17 retirement communities, Atlantic Shores artist Ruth Portner was awarded 2nd Place in the Painting and Drawing category for her “Peruvian Women” painting. Honorable Mention awards went to Frank Portner for his “Carousel Horse,” and to George Ikonen for his “Atlantic Shores Gazebo.”

Some are taking this national exposure to a new level, like 73 year-old artist George Ikonen, who’s also gained fame by being featured “in the buff” while creating one of his paintings as a model in the Pin-Up Boys of Atlantic Shores Calendar, a nearly-nude fundraising calendar featuring gentlemen from the retirement community.

And more than just a national audience, their artwork has also gone global on the web, with an online gallery shared with the community’s Facebook fans from around the world.

Camaraderie keeps the Atlantic Shores artist community moving forward, encouraging and spurring each other’s creativity.  As George Ikonen says, “I first picked up a paint brush in 1972 before heading overseas as part of the Marine Corp. It wasn’t until 2009, when I took a class with Dorothy here at Atlantic Shores, that I took up painting again. Now it is such a big part of my life, I don’t know what I’d do without it. I have my friends at Atlantic Shores to thank for that gift.”