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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Retirement-community seniors test skills in art, writing contest

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Frank Schermerhorn saw a green ribbon hooked near the miniature wooden furniture it took him about a month to create, tears of joy started to well up in his eyes.

"I was surprised. I didn't expect it," he said of placing third in the woodworking category of the northwest region of the AOPHA Art and Writing Show.

For his entry, Mr. Schermerhorn, 81, used Styrofoam to create the walls in his mini-house separating a tiny bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen complete with chairs, a bed, a couch, and dressers made of wooden Popsicle sticks and clothes pins.

"If it didn't come out good, I took it apart and started all over again until it looked nice," said the Toledo resident who participates in senior independence adult day care at Swan Creek Retirement Village of Toledo.

Mr. Schermerhorn joined about 70 other senior citizens who submitted entries in the art and writing regional competition sponsored by AOPHA, which stands for the Association of Ohio Philanthropic Homes, Housing, and Services for the Aging.

His wooden art sat alongside quilts bursting with color, paintings of flowers, ceramic lambs, needlepoint depicting Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, a pink knitted dress, and other works of art that made up all the entries of the regional competition.

AOPHA assists not-for-profit providers of senior services in caring for their residents and clients. Since 1995, the organization has sponsored an art and writing competition for several regions throughout the state.

The local competition is open to senior citizens living in nonprofit retirement communities throughout northwest Ohio.

Anyone can enter, even those who have never picked up a paintbrush or written a poem, said Sara Bishop, area AOPHA art contest representative and director of programming and social services for Otterbein Portage Valley Retirement Living Community.

Otterbein hosted this year's regional competition last week on its campus in Troy Township just north of Pemberville.

Those living in other retirement communities boarded buses to tour the exhibit that changes location every two years.

"I'm so enthused with all of it," said Otterbein resident Audrey Connelly, 82, of the displayed artwork. "It's so gorgeous."

Each entrant could have only one entry per category, and those who enter must be currently residing in or receiving services from an AOPHA member.

Some of the categories include paintings, drawings, 3D art, woodworking, needle arts, woven arts, quilted works, photography, computer art, nonfiction prose, fiction prose, and poetry.

Winners of the regional competition will show their work at the statewide exhibition in Columbus in September.

Otterbein resident Wilma Ablett, 80, will see three of her creations at the state show, including an oil painting of a gray barn, her photograph titled "Spring Snow," and a colorful papier-mache vase.

"I was pleased to get ribbons," said the self-proclaimed local artist who has shown several of her creations at local art exhibits.

And those with very little artistic experience were awarded ribbons for their fresh creations.

"I'm not a real artist, so I was shocked that I got a ribbon," said Otterbein resident Mary LaPointe, 82, who transformed a black-and-white outline of a vase of flowers into a work of art bursting with oranges, yellows, and greens.

Ms. Bishop said she loves seeing the creativity beaming from the Otterbein residents and other local senior citizens before the annual competition.

"The connection you feel when you are involved in art improves wellness and health," she said.

"I look at it as being holistic with wellness."



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