Not many artists can boast that the work created the first time they picked up a paintbrush was exhibited in a show.
Gerald Allen can.
The 82-year-old Corner Brook man is one of the city’s 25 long-term care residents whose artwork is now on display at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre.
The showing of art is produced by folks participating in the creative art program offered as part of recreation therapy at the Corner Brook long-term care centre and protective community residences.
Some of the works involve designs — such as birdhouses or flowers — suggested by program facilitators, but there are differences between each artist’s custom rendition of the image.
The residents were encouraged to create their own unique images if they wanted to. That’s what Allen did when he painted an image he titled “Newfoundland Railway.”
His work shows an empty railway petering out into the distance. He was hoping to add a train to it, but now finds the emptiness of the track symbolic of the fact the railway is no more in Newfoundland.
“I’m quite happy with it,” he said of his work. “It shows the railway is gone because the railway starts off large and, as it goes to the mountains, it goes to nothing. And there is nothing on it.”
For Allen, doing the art is more important than the images he has created.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and I find it very relaxing,” he said of the art program he joined only three months ago. “It takes up your time. You can show people what you paint and you can learn from others.”
Allen has four pieces in the exhibit, including ones in the series of birdhouses and flowers done by several of the residents. He also has one of the images of an ocean wave crashing on a sandy beach.
The artists who painted the ocean wave scene were asked to write a name in the sand as part of the work. Most wrote their own names.
When he was asked to write a name, Allen never had to think twice about what it would be.
“I wrote my wife Shirley’s name in the sand, of course,” he said. “She passed away nine years ago.”
During the opening reception, it was mentioned that some of the participating artists have been working on their pieces since last July. Allen is eager to have a full year to see what he will make for next year’s show.
“I can’t wait for July to come to start working on the next one,” he said. “I don’t have any ideas for it yet. We’ll see what happens when the time comes.”
While he may be new to the visual arts, Allen is no stranger to artistic expression. The retired counsellor with the John Howard Society is well known for his singing voice, which he has used in his church choir and at numerous weddings, funerals and baptisms.
It is something he still does. In fact, he is planning to sing at his great-granddaughter’s baptism coming up in a couple of weeks.
The long-term care resident art exhibition will be on public display at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre during business hours until June 29.