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Since the beginning of time, creative expression has brought joy to both its creators and those who experience their art.

Last month the Art is Ageless program at Farmington Presbyterian Manor (FPM) offered senior artists the opportunity to share and display their artwork and reaffirm. the agelessness of human creativity.

After the competition, their works were placed on display at the retirement and assisted living facility.

“It was inspiring to see the beautiful pieces these seniors created,” said Anne Allen, marketing director for FPM. “The joy it brings to them and others is wonderful, and that’s something we want to celebrate and share with the entire Farmington community.

“Our Art is Ageless program is really cool. Presbyterian Manor has it on all its 17 campuses in Missouri and Kansas. Years ago, we started this program, actually copyrighting ‘Art is Ageless.’ It was basically born out of the belief that, no matter what age, creating an artwork should be celebrated.

Allen offered details on the Art is Ageless program at FPM.

“Art is Ageless is for area seniors 65 and older,” she said. “At our art show, the exhibit was up February 20-22. Then we had a reception on the 22nd where we announced all the winners. I actually have a bunch of the leftover stuff in my office because all of the first-place winners — like Best in Show and Judge’s Choice — are kept, specially photographed and then go on our next level of competition.

“The first-place pieces from every campus are in competition with each other. Then the winners from that are featured in our calendar and we make greeting cards — so we’ll have Christmas cards, greeting cards, sympathy cards — that kind of thing. The talent is just out of this world! The detail and the work are absolutely incredible.”

Since 1980, Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America has been hosting the Art is Ageless competition and exhibit at each community for residents and area artists who meet the age requirement. The contest and exhibits are open to both amateur and professional artists.

The first Art is Ageless calendar was a fundraiser for Presbyterian Manor’s Good Samaritan Program, which provides funding to assist residents who outlive their resources through no fault of their own. The calendar featured artworks completed by residents.

Notecards were added in 1987. The calendar featured works were all selected from resident entries in the Art is Ageless competition. In 1990, Christmas cards were added to the offerings. Birthday cards followed in 1993, and a sympathy card was added in 1995.

In 2002, local juried competitions became the preliminary judging phase and first-place winners were submitted to the Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America corporate office to be judged for calendars and cards. In 2006, on the 25th anniversary, the competition was opened to all senior artists to celebrate.

In 2009, the original categories were expanded to include Christmas. According to Allen, any medium may be entered in the category as long as the theme of the piece is Christmas.

“The 30th anniversary calendar in 2011 featured art from all three decades of the calendar, and in 2012, the competition was separated into amateur and professional divisions and a quilting category was added,” Allen said. “We’ll have winners from both sides. This year was really exciting because we had our biggest show ever with 90 pieces entered.

“We do have residents that enter but we’ve been doing this for a while now, so this isn’t our first couple of years. We have art guilds — most of the art community is aware — and they kind of wait until they turn 65 and they’re really excited to start entering.

“We’re really proud of the program. We’re proud to be in a position where we can help celebrate the achievements. We have residents who enter who have never picked up a paintbrush before. They started doing crafts and activities and different art classes here. They picked it up and now their winning.”

Allen explained that artists may enter up to three pieces in the nine categories, but no more than two in a single category — Christmas or winter holiday, drawing, fiber arts, mixed media and crafts, needlework, painting, photography, quilting and sculpture/3-D work.

One of the award-winning artists at last year’s FPM competition was Anita Alsup, 83, of Ste. Genevieve who took home the top prize in the professional division for her painting, “Grateful.” The painting, which depicts a friend and local restaurant owner, was selected not only because of the high degree of technical ability it exhibits, but the warmth and humanity revealed in its subject matter — something the artist said she strives for in all of her work.

“I want to capture the spirit within that shows their personality, Alsup said. “That’s what I look for. That’s what inspires me. I’m always looking for the muse that inspires a painting.”

For “Grateful,” that muse actually ended up being a photograph that was taken of the subject before heading out to a special event.

“She has this free spirit personality, and I had looked at different photographs to find the one that most portrayed that spirit,” Alsup said. “When I saw that one, I knew this was it. It’s so her. I know she was grateful for that day and that memory — sometimes I like to connect a special memory, a day that’s special that you’ll never forget.”

This wasn’t the first time Anita has been recognized through the Art is Ageless competition. She has previously been awarded “Best of Show” in the Farmington competition along with the “Judge’s Choice” award and another “First Place” award, however she is especially thankful for this year’s recognition.

“I’m very appreciative. It’s wonderful,” Alsup said. “I’m grateful to Presbyterian Manor for giving artists over 65 an incentive to pursue art or hobbies.”

Anita revealed that she is currently working on a new project — a painting commissioned by her son that’s based on a favorite photograph of the two of them standing in front of the Fox Theatre prior to attending a performance of “Jersey Boys.”

“There’s so much background so it’s very labor intensive,” Alsup said. “I’ve finally gotten to the point where it’s developing and I’m so excited about it. It’s challenging, and we need challenges.”

Based on past experience, Anita is undoubtedly up for the challenge.

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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