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This Olathe retirement community made it through the pandemic with some emerging artists

Aberdeen Village residents, and next door neighbors, share a laugh at a weekly art class.
Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
Aberdeen Village residents and next-door neighbors, Kay Ruen and Bonnie Anglewicz share a laugh at a Friday pencil art class.

After a two-year gap during COVID, residents at Aberdeen Village are taking art classes again — and some are competing in an annual art contest.

Pat Pelot says she loves art, but until recently has never created it herself.

"And so this is my attempt in trying to see what I'm capable of,” she says. “And I don't know what I'm capable of, but I’m enjoying this journey to find out.”

Pelot and her friend Judy Otey are among the residents in an art room at Aberdeen Village, a senior living community in Olathe, Kansas, where art classes, such as a pencil drawing class, began in December after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus.

Getting 98% of Aberdeen Village’s residents vaccinated was key to starting classes again.

“During the ups and downs of the pandemic, we weren’t always able to offer many of the activities and opportunities to socialize that we offered in the past,” says executive director Tim Allin.

But during the lockdown, residents like Pelot and Otey thought about trying new things.

Art instructor Barbara Krueger demonstrates shading techniques to Aberdeen Village residents Pat Pelot and Judy Otey.
Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
Art instructor Barbara Krueger demonstrates shading techniques for Aberdeen Village residents Pat Pelot and Judy Otey.

“I’m sure having fun doing this,” says Otey, who’s a quilter. “We’ve learned a lot so far.”

“The combination of colors, the combination of different colors and hues and different pressure on your pencils — all of that's new to me," Pelot says. "It’s just a nice new experience of learning something that I love.”

And a little competition never hurts.

Aberdeen Village participates in the Art is Ageless program, shared across other Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America communities. As well as art classes, musical and dramatic events and other educational opportunities, there's an annual art contest and exhibition.

Kay Ruen joined the art classes at Aberdeen four years ago, with a two-year gap during COVID. For the competition, she submitted a pencil drawing titled “Ocelet Watching.”

“It's on the endangered list,” Ruen says of her subject. “I was just quite taken by the wild cat, you know, looking like it's hunting and perched on a tree log.”

Aberdeen Village resident Bonnie tries her hand at shading an apple with colored pencils at a Friday class.
Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
Aberdeen Village resident Bonnie tries her hand at shading an apple with colored pencils at a Friday class.

The second floor, outside the dining room, features some of the residents’ artwork in this year’s competition: Drawings of butterflies, flowers, wildlife and vacation spots; a painting of the Flint Hills; a sunset photograph; a basket; a fuzzy striped cape; and a black-and-white quilt.

The exhibition is on view through April 29 for residents, with winners announced at a reception on May 2. Works will also be on view on Facebook.

“I think sometimes we don’t realize the significance and the impact of something like art,” says Allin. “You know, art just taps into what's good about who we are. It taps into beauty, creativity. You can just see people getting lost in that.”

He adds, “I see that as being a very therapeutic endeavor for all of our residents and we want to continue to support that and hopefully grow it.”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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