Painting together: Holland retirees work with local artist on ArtPrize entry

  • With brush strokes and a sense of humor, more than 200 residents at Holland’s Freedom Villageretirement community have worked to craft a collaborative piece of art that they’re hoping will be picked up by Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize show this fall.

    Designed and initiated by Holland artist Carolyn Stich, the work is called “Path of Wisdom” and depicts an older man leading a young boy down a path through a park.

    The 5- by 20-foot painting is comprised of 400 rectangular pieces of paper — each painted by a different resident.

    Put together, the individual paintings make a colorful, dynamic artwork — but there’s more to it: Each piece of paper also includes words of wisdom for their grandchildren from each of the residents that worked on the project.

    “We’re never too old to help and add a little beauty to life,” wrote resident Dotty Hoekstra.

    “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as you can,” wrote Peg VanGrouw.

    As they worked on the painting, residents Jean Bauer and VanGrouw joked to themselves about their artistic attempts as “rank amateurs” — but when they saw the papers they painted in the context of the larger piece, their fears were assuaged.

    “It was so fun to see their faces light up and to know that they did fine,” Stich said.

    The social part of the project was the most important, said Marcia Schrotenboer, director of resident programs at Freedom Village.

    “It’s nice to be out and see people instead of being upstairs in my studio,” said resident Bob Tucker, who makes scroll saw carvings despite being paralyzed on the dominate side of his body as a result of several strokes.

    Stich said she continually looks for ways to get Freedom Village residents involved with art projects.

    “Sometimes art can be so intimidating — especially at that age,” Stich said. “There’s a lot of wonderful, creative people that live there.”

    VandenBosch carefully mixed water with black gouache paint — an opaque kind of watercolor — to line the edge of a flower in the section she was working on.

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