Finding Their Creative Spirit

Nursing home residents
find new outlet through art

The Vevay, Ind., gallery brings artists,
residents together

(February 2014) – Even people whom you have known for a lifetime can prove to be full of surprises. An exhibition of artwork created by residents of Swiss Villa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center shows that it is never too late to pick up a paint brush and create something beautiful.
“Family members are coming in and looking at their work and they’re just amazed,” said Community Art Center Board President Teresa Bovard Lyons.
The show draws from works created during the Creative Hour, a weekly arts program developed by artist and instructor Meredith Luhrs and Swiss Villa Director Al Molozzi about a year and a half ago.

Swiss Villa Art

Photo courtesy of Teresa Bovard Lyons

Artwork created by Swiss Villa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residents is on display at the Vevay Community Arts Center. The center offers art by other local artists.

Luhrs stresses that the program is not billed as an art class because “by the time you are 50, the one thing you have learned about art is that you are not good at it. We don’t use a classroom model, we use a cafe model.”
Art supplies are set up in the dining room, and residents are given personal attention to assist them in their projects. “Each gets the accommodations needed,” Luhrs says. She cites an example, saying, “one woman can only use her right hand, so she needs the paper taped down.”
She estimates that about 15 people a week stop in to take part in the art projects. The basis of many of the artworks are “very simple, but the results are breathtaking,” says Luhrs.
“Every lesson developed around choices,” Luhrs says. She explains that the foundational importance of choice ties back to Swiss Villa’s directive to encourage residents’ sense of urgency by setting up opportunities for them to make decisions and selections throughout each day. Some of the choices made during the Creative Hour are simple – residents start off each project by selecting what color of paper they want to use that day. Others are more subtle and draw from Luhrs’ personal philosophy of instruction, which is that “an art teacher is a person who teaches you how to make your picture look the way YOU want it to look.”

Arts Center

Photo courtesy of Teresa Bovard Lyons

The Vevay Community Arts Center is a former hardware store that now gives life to the town with music, art and special events. It is located in the heart of the town.

The display of works from the Creative Hour will continue through Feb. 6. Approximately 30 works by more than 20 Swiss Villa artists are presented at the downtown Vevay Community Art Center as part of this show. During the remainder of the month, an exhibition of the mosaics of Ann Farnsley will open.
Luhrs describes the pieces created from broken bits of pottery and ceramics as being “very creative, modern.” During March and April, the gallery will present collages by Martha Bladen that incorporate postage stamps for an innovative effect. Luhrs believes that these works will prove “very engaging. We can recognize various stamps that we have used.” She reflects on the artists, saying, “They have a love and appreciation of art and are doing beautiful things.”
The Community Art Center has been a part of Vevay for about two years. Lyons explains that part of the mission of the Center is “to make people aware of the arts.” In addition to special monthly shows by individual artists, pieces by many area artists are available for show and sale at the Center, which also houses the Click Gallery of Photography. Lyons estimates that there are about 30 artists who have joined the Art Center. The Arts Center building itself is an important part of downtown and provides not only a space for art but also serves as a community gathering space for baby showers, wedding receptions and Thursday jam sessions by musicians. The 1835 Federal style building was purchased by the late Ron Hocker a few years ago who provided the space for the gallery and helped organize the Community Art Board. The building began life as a mercantile and hardware store known as the Grisard Building before becoming known as the Unwiller Hardware Store. Renovations have added modern touches while retaining the historic flavor. Lyons says that “tourists are in awe” of the beautiful site.
Luhrs serves as curator for the gallery and is eager to assist new area artists in arranging a show of their work. “The Center is a gateway opportunity for artists who may never have exhibited before,” she says. 
“We do not jury. If anyone wants to exhibit, I presume they are offering their best works. Talent is everywhere, but desire is rare.”
In addition to having an encouraging attitude toward artists, Luhrs explains that the Center also practical assistance for those seeking to display their works. For example, the Click Gallery has a number of frames available for use by photographers wishing to share their photos, saving them the expense of purchasing their own frames for a show.
Luhrs also invites visitors to explore Vevay during the town’s “First Friday” events. On the first Friday of the month, the Community Art Center typically unveils its latest show, with the exhibiting artist on hand to discuss the works. Other area artists frequently have open studio events and carriage rides provided by a beautiful black Shire horse add to the festive atmosphere.
“It’s the most energetic event in Switzerland County,” she said, laughing. 

• The Community Art Center is located on the corner of Ferry and Main streets in downtown Vevay. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by special appointment. For more information, contact Meredith Luhrs at (812) 427-2103.

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