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Artists’ paradise

Living at Ann’s Choice inspires creative passions, pursuits

Created date

December 15th, 2016
This painting by Ann’s Choice resident and art club member Florence Welsh displays her abundant artistic talents. Titled The Wave, it hangs in her living room.

This painting by Ann’s Choice resident and art club member Florence Welsh displays her abundant artistic talents. Titled The Wave, it hangs in her living room.

When people move to Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., the only things they retire from are the unending responsibilities of home ownership.

Showered with enviable amenities like an on-site fitness and aquatics center, hair salons, and a full-service medical center, plus more than 150 special interest groups and activities, community members now have time to do things they really want to do or never had time to do before.

Art life

A number of residents pursue art. Every Thursday morning some of them, veterans and neophytes alike, attend art club meetings in the Liberty Commons creative arts center. 

The club doesn’t offer classes; members work on individual paintings or share their creativity in occasional group projects.

Resident Florence Welsh handles the club’s logistics. 

“My art life began in childhood with Saturday art lessons at Gimbels Department Store,” Florence says. But marriage, children, and two decades as a loving caregiver for her mother and mother-in-law kept her from pursuing her passion.

In fact, Florence moved to Ann’s Choice from her home of 28 years in Churchville, Pa., because of her caregiving experiences. She wanted to spare her children that burden.

Moving also gave her freedom to return to art. Besides pursuing their own art projects, Florence and other club members have shared their talents by designing posters, signage, backdrops, and scenery for Ann’s Choice’s special gala events and its Players group theater productions. 

Each year, club members and some of their Ann’s Choice neighbors board an Ann’s Choice bus and travel in comfort and safety to the Philadelphia Watercolor Show. 

Weekly club meetings give members ample opportunities to learn from one another and from the club’s facilitator and mentor, Charles Lester. He doesn’t live at Ann’s Choice, but he’s there every week to impart his extensive knowledge. 

“There isn’t anything he doesn’t know about art,” says Florence, “and he’s very helpful to our beginners.”

She says the group’s camaraderie knits it together. “That’s the idea behind all of our clubs,” she says, “to get people together to enjoy one another’s company in a shared purpose.” 

Florence is involved in several other campus activities, but she says that art is number one.

Time to thrive

Similar to Florence, Bob Altman set aside an interest in watercolor to focus on family and career. Then he moved from a four-level house in Abington to a spacious and maintenance-free, one-level living apartment home at Ann’s Choice.

“I’m really happy here,” Bob says. 

He didn’t know about the art club until he moved. “It was a delightful surprise,” he says. 

A regular attendee, Bob paints his watercolors there or in his eat-in kitchen, working from photos he’s taken in the nearby countryside. But he’s not tethered to Bucks County locations.

Bob occasionally attends weeklong Road Scholar watercolor workshops. His most recent took place in Ventura, Calif., and Sedona, Ariz. 

“You get different viewpoints, and every instructor has a different technique,” he says. “The more artists you meet, the more you learn.” 

It’s the same at club meetings, he adds. “You want to do your own thing, but you get a lot of ideas from other members.”

Bob does have a non-art life. He works out at the campus fitness center, walks at adjacent Warminster Community Park, and plays bridge.

He also volunteers in the arts and crafts program at Ann’s Choice’s on-site rehabilitation and continuing care neighborhood. “I help one woman in particular with watercolor, and she’s been thrilled with my guidance,” Bob says. “I get a lot of pleasure by helping this way.”

Artistic excellence

Club member Beth Garofalo favors watercolor too. A relative newbie to painting, she had read a number of books about the principles of art, but “I’d never gotten around to taking lessons,” she says.

She investigated the art club when she and her husband Fred moved to Ann’s Choice four years ago. Although disappointed that the club didn’t give lessons, Beth joined anyway. “I decided I’d just wing it, and I’m so glad I did,” she says. “It’s opened a whole new chapter in my life.”

She thinks the art club’s mentor possesses a level of expertise she wouldn’t find anywhere else. “This is unique,” she says. 

She also applauds dining services’ Signature Dining program of cook-to-order entrees and extensive menus offered at Ann’s Choice’s five campus restaurants. 

“Now, for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve retired,” Beth says. “Having dinner served to me every night is wonderful.”

She also loves the Garofalos’ large and light-filled one-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath corner apartment home. “I’d like to paint there,” Beth says, “but I don’t have large enough blocks of time. I always seem to be on the run.”

Beth and Fred moved to Ann’s Choice after living in other parts of Pennsylvania and then in Florida. 

When she expressed a yearning to return to Bucks County, but to a home without homeowner association restrictions or constant maintenance, daughter Marty, who lives in Langhorne, suggested Ann’s Choice. 

They liked Ann’s Choice so much, in fact, that within a few months Beth encouraged Marty to apply for a job there. Marty did, was hired, and now manages Ann’s Choice’s Garden Restaurant. 

The Garofalos couldn’t be happier. “We get to see her every night,” Beth says.