Painting as a group alleviates many unpleasant aspects of aging. People work together, get lost in their art, and troubles subside. In a welcoming, non-judgmental group, beginning and experienced painters have a chance to find their unique selves. A safe space appeals to their hopes instead of fears. Mistakes and experimentation are welcomed: They bring on laughter and encouragement instead of embarrassment.
Over 30 years ago, two Signal Mountain women, Jo Schoolfield and Martha Williams, now in their ’80s, started MAGI (the Mountain Art Guild) as a small painting group in a church basement. Over time, the group size grew but the initiators stayed. When their children grew up and moved away, these artists met every Thursday despite arthritic hands, hearing aids and canes. The weekly connection has led to optimism, friendship, a known routine and familiarity. If cell phones are left by the refrigerator, everyone understands. If someone has cataract surgery, the group empathizes.
With consistency of over three decades, the group now paints at the Bachman Community Center cafeteria. Bachman ceaselessly welcomies these folks, who arrive with bag lunches and tote paints, easels and canvases. And, MAGI expresses deep appreciation to Kim Rackel and Mary McEhlamey.
In many ways, MAGI is magic. The group’s art exhibit this fall at the Exum Gallery of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church celebrates this magic of longevity, creativity and support. Artists who cannot make it to the gallery will have their works delivered.
What is special about this exhibit?
Alas, you will not be confronted with challenging phallic sculptures, disturbing war scenes, frames with sputnik patterns or political propaganda. Instead, you might view landscapes that remind you of summertime at the beach, beautiful watercolors that revere nature and soothing works you might want as a calming piece over a mantle or some hand built ceramics. You might see the work of someone who was once your teacher or who watched your children at preschool.
The exhibit offers time to appreciate the works of older people who are not in downtown galleries and who haven’t the energy to attend all day shows. Many of the artists are signature members of watercolor societies, and many are award winners. It is well worth a visit to the Exum Gallery, which is free to all, has easy parking in the back and is open to all.
by Robin Howe