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‘I want it light and bright’

Painter gets her wish at Peabody community

Created date

January 25th, 2011

When I was in the second grade, my teacher put her arm around me and said, You do a good job, Janet Cohen says with a smile, remembering an early, telling reaction to her artwork. I ve been at it ever since. The walls of Cohen s Brooksby Village apartment home tell the story of her lifelong talent in painting. In her bedroom, one section of wall hosts an oil painting with a scene from the movie Bambi, painted by Cohen at age 12. Below it hang two smaller paintings Cohen created in high school. My feeling is you need a passion, and it helps with life if you have a passion, she says, referring to her artwork. It helps you see how lucky you are. A walk through Cohen s living room reveals more recent, prize-winning watercolors, most of which depict nature scenes. Among them is Twin Lights, a lighthouse scene of Gloucester, Mass., and the first prize watercolor at last year s Topsfield Fair. Cohen s walls also feature paintings done by friends, whose work she is quick to praise. An elementary school teacher for 27 years in Peabody, Mass., Cohen found a way to incorporate art into many of her lessons. Today she speaks often of past students with whom she remains in touch. Two former students are also her go-to resources for customizations in her home. One helped Cohen install the wooden table in front of her large kitchen window, one of two places in the apartment where Cohen paints.

Bright view

Cohen chose her particular floor plan with her love of painting in mind. The two-bedroom, Harrison-style apartment has a large bay window in the living room and large windows in the other rooms. I love my view, Cohen says. I just love to look out the window. Cohen had originally looked at Brooksby with her husband, who was a mechanical aeronautical engineer. When he died, their daughter encouraged her mother to give Brooksby another look.

Quick sale

It was November of 2009 when Cohen decided to put her ranch house of more than 50 years on the market. She was hesitant, given the wintery weather, but her real estate broker assured her that those who came out in bad weather were serious buyers. Sure enough, Cohen found her buyer shortly thereafter. Though she was able to sell the house, Cohen wanted to be sure to find a floor plan at Brooksby that was just the right fit. Cohen had help from Jane McIntire, Brooksby s retirement counselor. Jane was marvelous, she was really, really great, Cohen says. She showed me every kind of apartment. Cohen told McIntire, I want it light and bright, and McIntire delivered. With assistance from Ellen Meehan, Brooksby s personal moving consultant, Cohen chose the furniture and other items she wanted to bring to her new home. The people here are marvelous. The booklet they give you is very comprehensive and educational and extremely helpful, Cohen says of the resources given to her as an incoming Brooksby community member. She adds: I am so thrilled; I loved my house. I love it here.

Life of a painter

Since moving to Brooksby last spring, Cohen has joined one of the community s painting groups. People of varying specialties meet on Wednesday afternoons and on Saturday mornings, when they critique one another with help from another retired artist and teacher who lives at Brooksby. The painting class is marvelous, Cohen says. There is no instructor; we help each other. She continues to paint in watercolors, pastels, and oils, and is typically at work on commissioned projects, which are frequently portraits. Cohen s recent exhibits have included the North Shore Bank in Peabody. Ever energetic, Cohen also attends an aerobics class two days each week at an outside facility she has belonged to for 25 years. She also takes an Israeli dance class at her temple in Peabody and enrolls in classes with the Explorers Lifelong Learning Institute in nearby Salem. Cohen makes frequent visits to see her son and grandchildren in Carlisle, Mass., and her daughter and grandson in nearby Danvers, Mass. Everybody is pleased that I live here, Cohen says of her family and friends who encouraged her move. She adds of Brooksby: They have not left out one thing. Most people who live here could be sales people for this community.