PHOTOS: Virtual gallery showcases inspirations of Semiahmoo Peninsula seniors

White Rock’s Joan Bywater shows the setup she uses when participating in online paint parties hosted by the Seniors Come Share Society. (Contributed photo)White Rock’s Joan Bywater shows the setup she uses when participating in online paint parties hosted by the Seniors Come Share Society. (Contributed photo)
Clara Yervis and her grandson Daniel work on a painting together, during a ‘Seniors Inspired’ class. (Contributed photo)Clara Yervis and her grandson Daniel work on a painting together, during a ‘Seniors Inspired’ class. (Contributed photo)
This painting by Sheree is among those to be featured in the 'Seniors Inspired' virtual art show. (Contributed photo)
Joan Bywater’s emulation of work by Georgia O’Keeffe will be featured in the ‘Seniors Inspired’ virtual art show. (Contributed photo)Joan Bywater’s emulation of work by Georgia O’Keeffe will be featured in the ‘Seniors Inspired’ virtual art show. (Contributed photo)

A virtual art show that’s set to launch on the online stage May 21 is all about inspiration.

‘Seniors Inspired’ is the culmination of an effort to spark some excitement and imagination in seniors who were feeling the weight of the pandemic.

It’s “just to show that seniors are so – what’s the word? – they’re just so able to take something that is a struggle and turn it into something that’s beautiful, and right now, during the pandemic, when we’re all so tired of this… they’ve been resilient,” said Shannen Kealy, volunteer co-ordinator for Seniors Come Share Society.

“They’re coming with resiliency and passion for something, and inspiring others.”

Kealy said the society received a grant last year that enabled them to offer free supply kits to seniors who were interested in trying their hand at painting. Paint parties got underway in September, with two-hour classes held once a month via Zoom.

Over the months that followed, participants explored the work of a spectrum of artists, from Monet and Van Gogh to Emily Carr and Alma Thomas, and finished each class with their own masterpiece.

“We started with Van Gogh and I just taught the different techniques; some of the things Van Gogh did to make his work really special,” Kealy explained. “We talked about the artist as well, and everybody ended up with very different pictures.

“We’ve just been having such a great time being inspired by the work of others. Some of the seniors, they’ve taken a couple of classes and then they’ve gone on to make their own work, which is exactly what we wanted, for them to just feel comfortable enough saying, ‘what can I try on my own?’”

For Joan Bywater, the art classes were a welcome way to return to an activity she thoroughly enjoys. The White Rock senior had been attending Tiggy’s in Crescent Beach prior to its closure in January due to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Crescent Beach art studio, viewed by some as a community centre, closes its doors after 26 years

“When I saw that (Come Share) were going to do a program for painting, I was immediately interested,” Bywater said. “I’m no artist, by the way, but I like to paint, so I thought, oh, this is perfect.”

Emulating the work of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe – described on as “renowned for her contribution to modern art” and known for her paintings of flowers and New York skyscrapers – was particularly satisfying, said Bywater.

“I found I could really let myself go with that one, it was just lovely.”

For Clara Yervis, the classes have been “a really amazing experience,” and provided another activity she could do with her 11-year-old grandson, Daniel.

“I really enjoy sharing with my grandson the passion for painting,” Yervis said. “He’s learning, but he loves it.”

The opportunity to get even closer to Daniel was too good to pass up, she said.

“Life is short and… we don’t know what we can expect. Why not enjoy the time with our kids and grandkids?”

Kealy said the ‘Seniors Inspired’ show will feature a virtual gallery of the participants’ art works, open to the public through to June 4 at Featured artists will also include others in the community who didn’t participate in the Come Share program but wanted to share what the pandemic has inspired them to create, she said.

The opportunity was offered to a wider audience after hearing one participant share the impact that painting had for her, Kealy explained.

“She told me about how sad she was by what was happening down in the States with the storming of the Capitol, and it inspired her to start painting. And then when she was, it brought her joy and brightened her mood. That inspiration kind of helped her move forward with her life and have a little bit of hope and joy,” Kealy said.

READ MORE: VIDEO: World leaders are appalled by storming of U.S. Capitol

“Her telling me that made me think, well, maybe there’s other seniors out there who are finding ways to be inspired and creative at this time.”

One example Kealy is hoping to include is that of driftwood sculptures created by a seniors walking group. Members, at the end of their walks along Crescent Beach, make a sculpture out of driftwood, she explained, noting the pieces have caught the eyes of many, and been a focus of countless photos.

“What is art if not something that motivates more art?” Kealy said.

Bywater described being invited to participate in the art show as “quite an honour,” and expressed appreciation for “all the things Come Share and other agencies are doing” for seniors.

Kealy said additional senior artists are sought for the online show, however, she needs to hear from them before May 12 in order to include them. Those interested can reach her at 604-531-9400, ext. 203.

Art classes are planned to resume in September, and Kealy noted that those who aren’t comfortable with Zoom classes may request the materials covered and any instructions in writing.

In the meantime, seniors who want to dabble over the summer are welcome to contact her for an art-supply kit.
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