You don’t need to be an artist to live in one of United’s two communities, but with professional artists on staff, you might find your hidden talent!
“I started painting as a child, working with pastels, but eventually began working with water colours and oils,” said Sheila Brinsmead, who moved into United’s Fish Creek two years ago. Sheila was attracted to the community because of its extensive creative programs including a full art studio and art gallery. She is a semi-professional painter and currently has an art show downtown and some of her works are displayed in the United art gallery as part of a show and sale by a group of painters known as the Painted Ladies, who are students of Sheila’s daughter, Mary-Leigh Doyle. They put on shows every year, and have partnered with United for the past two years.
Mary-Leigh, who has painted regularly with her mom for 20 years, comes to Fish Creek twice a week and has become close friends with others who come to the art studio.
“My first sale never really happened!” laughs Sheila. “One of my instructors had a show at Chinook Centre and I got a call from someone who wanted to buy one of mine. I was thrilled, but I turned him down.” She put her paint brushes aside to raise her seven children, and resumed painting after her husband died in his 50s. “When something like that happens, all of your plans for life after retirement change. I decided that if I’m ever going to paint, it has to be now. Don’t think about doing something 10 years from now, think about doing it now. Time is so fragile.”
Sheila and Mary-Leigh have had two art shows at United and one outside the community. “When we looked for a place for mom we were very attracted to the art studio. It is marvellous. The staff are professionals in painting, ceramics and other creative areas. The residents paint at all levels from beginner to professional.”
“Sheila has encouraged so many people to come to the art studio,” said creative facilitator Chantel Traub. “One of Sheila’s friends, Joan Patterson, who is an amazing quilter, has been coming into the studio to try her hand. Sheila is a big inspiration for others.”
“There must have been some very creative minds when United was founded that wanted to see creative interests represented in an older adult community,” said Sheila. “The programs are excellent. Absolutely A1!”
Mary-Leigh has seen a positive change in Sheila since coming to Fish Creek. Sheila broke her shoulder – twice – while living at home. She and her family thought a move to a community would be the best option for her. “It was difficult at first,” said Mary-Leigh. “She had to give up her home and the familiar part of her life there, but her painting and the art studio are what brought her back to her old self. This is where she thrives and comes alive, by participating in all of the various programs.”
“I’m so surprised by the calibre of the artwork being produced by the residents,” said Mary-Leigh. “The camaraderie is really something. People are trying new things. The residents all have different interests and skills. The staff here are the most patient and nurturing people that I’ve ever seen. This place really is heaven for artists!”
Sheila and Mary-Leigh also host an art history club. During one of those meetings they came to Fish Creek to see the work of artist John Snow, part of a larger collection of art called the United Collection, which hangs on the walls and sits in the courtyard of the community. Snow’s work is also displayed at the National Gallery of Canada and the Governor-General’s home in Ottawa.
The Painted Ladies work, including work by Sheila and Mary-Leigh, are on display in the Fish Creek art gallery. They are having a show and sale June 1. The public is welcome to attend between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The address is United Active Living Fish Creek, 51 Providence Blvd. S.E. T2X 0X2. United will have staff on hand to answer any questions you may have about living at a United community.
Photos and video by Sherana Productions.
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.