Montgomery Art Association

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  • 7 Apr 2019 4:10 PM | Anonymous

    All kinds of things happen as one goes through life. After years of working in clinical trials recruitment and volunteering at an Alzheimer’s facility, I now teach art workshops at several retirement communities in the Rockville area. Having left one way to study the aging brain, I am now in midst of another opportunity: to learn how people in their 80s and 90s benefit from art classes.

    Where to start … Art is so good for us. No matter what age. But … it’s is really good for us when our bodies and cognitive skills start changing beyond our control. I teach watercolor classes as the brush is easy to hold for a person post-stroke, with arthritis, or with Parkinson’s. We work within sketched templates, as decision making may be harder and coming up with inspiration for a new piece of art may be frazzling. We chat the class away because getting together is a way to connect, to feel relevant, and
    to share stories of amazing life experiences.

    And you know what is the best? No matter what age or physical state my students may be in, the human brain has an unwavering need to learn. The aging brain is, ultimately, curious.

    Hence, I get a lot of people in my classes who have never done art. They come into the room, greet their fellow residents, and get to work. You should hear the comments. “I didn’t know I could do this!” or “Wow, that’s beautiful,” as a note to the person sitting next to them.

    Painting from templates can help ease frustrations.

    My oldest student was 99 years old at the time she took a class. Fabulously put together, with a walker decorated with little items of meaning, she sketched and sketched. “This looks awful. I love it,” she would announce.

    Another student, also in mid-90s, after months of walking by the art room and refusing, yes, refusing to come in because “she didn’t know how to do it,” came in. She painted a colorful vase with tulips and teared up when she finished. Her first piece is now framed in her room. She has not missed a class and saves all of her pieces. These days she comes with a friend who repeatedly emphasizes, “I wouldn’t miss this.”

    As I mentioned, art and making art with others is a way to feel alive
    and to feed one’s curiosity. It’s not all pretty things though. The aging brain sometimes calls for a little nap in midst of a class. A student may need stop painting as her hand tires quickly. There are speech impediments that make it hard to ask for help or express an opinion. One may feel self-conscious about having to leave to take a bathroom break.

    Art sessions afford opportunities to be social.

    All in all, though, art classes at retirement communities are spaces of safety and care and relaxation. My students always want to help me clean up but an offer that always makes me smile is to “join them for the happy hour! We have great drinks!”

    So, obviously, our lives change all the time, but if we keep our curious souls busy with art, we are good. And apparently this time of life may even come with a martini!

    -Martina Sestakova

  • 31 Mar 2019 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Lives in: Germantown, MD
    Website: paintingsbysandra.com
    Instagram: @SandraFretwell

    Media and subjects:  I mostly use acrylics. I love finding obscure items to add to create mixed media. My subjects range from single subject/object, to landscapes and “full scenes” to abstracts. Unless a specific idea hits me, I usually allow the canvas to tell me what is on it. Because every canvas is different, it allows for an endless range of subject matter.

    Projects you’re currently working on: Right now I am working on a series  of paintings that are memories of a dream. I am continually surprised at how the Universe supports me. I go to my canvas, I add color where it shows up in the canvas, and when it is finished, it’s like a memory I had long forgotten or a dream I never consciously remember having. Familiar and yet not known. I have no idea where this is going to go but I am really enjoying the ride!

    Why you joined MAA:  I joined MAA as a means to show my work to the community and to meet other artists in the area.

    Something fun about you: I love almost all music but my secret music love affair is with the genres of music I grew up with at my grandparents’ house.  My current obsessions include Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Edith Piaf, Nina Simone, and Albert Collins.

    Artist Biography

    Art has always been an integral part of life for Sandra Fretwell.  Learning at an early age to express emotion through creation by watching her grandmother, mother and aunts all create beautiful things with their hands. Sewing; leather tooling, ceramics, yarn art and many other crafting expressions were a part of her daily life.  As Sandra grew up, she had ‘bursts’ of creative action, moments where art and creation became a compulsion. Once she realized she needed a serious outlet for this creative energy, she began taking art lessons with a spiritual artist named Running Bear in Marietta, GA. and then studied under renowned portrait artist, Antonia Krauss in Kennesaw, GA.

    After moving to Maryland in 2015, Sandra had vivid and expressive dreams about her own artwork and had new ideas about where to go with it.  For the first time in her life, Sandra realized she was an artist.  Once this realization took hold, Sandra created a full time studio in her home.  She paints every chance she gets.  Since then Sandra has shown her work in several different venues including, in the Maryland Hall of Delegates in the state building in Annapolis, BlackRock Center for the Arts, and the Kentlands Mansion just to name a few. She has been accepted into many juried shows and in March 2019, won her first award at the Montgomery Village Arts, Craft and Photography show. Second place in the Professional Artist Mixed Media category.

    Sandra hosts painting meditations once a month in her home. She also hosts Wise Woman Circles every full moon as part of a creative empowerment movement that encompasses both art and action.


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