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Picture perfect

Cedar Crest the “perfect place” for an artist

Created date

December 15th, 2016
“I have the perfect place for an artist,” artist Winnie O’Dougherty says of her light-filled, first-floor apartment home.

“I have the perfect place for an artist,” artist Winnie O’Dougherty says of her light-filled, first-floor apartment home.

Sunlight streams through the large windows of Winnie O’Dougherty’s two-bedroom, Manchester-style apartment as she tinkers with a new technique—fashioning a rooster using oil and a painting knife. 

“I enjoy trying to create something I haven’t seen before,” says the lifelong artist who graduated from Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

All her supplies are easily within reach in her studio (the second bedroom of her apartment home). A large closet houses her canvases and an easel that she brings out from time to time. Her drawing table remains fixed under the window where it receives ample natural light. And a desk built by her late husband shelves books and keeps paints, brushes and other supplies neatly tucked away in drawers. 

“My apartment faces where the sun faces all day long. I have the perfect place for an artist,” she says. “I didn’t realize how nice it would be.”

Before moving to Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., Winnie worked as an illustrator and taught art at Hilltop Country Day School, in Sparta, as well as Brooklyn College. 

She’s shown her work in galleries in New York and northern New Jersey but now paints mostly for herself. 

“I paint in every medium— pastel, watercolor, and oil,” she says, “though I’ve painted mostly in watercolor.” 

While she’s held membership at several art societies, she only belongs to one now—the Essex Water Color Club, New Jersey’s oldest continuously active watercolor organization, founded in 1932. She meets plenty of other artists without leaving Cedar Crest. 

“Fridays I paint in the art room. There are people who do collage, watercolor; there’s a lady who hooks rugs. It’s a wonderful way to meet other artists and see their work,” she says, adding that painting isn’t the only art to be found at Cedar Crest. 

“Cedar Crest is a great place no matter what you do. Poets can write poems. Woodworkers can build furniture or craft toys. One resident does Norwegian toll painting. There are advantages for whatever you like to do,” she says.

Though they don’t have to go far to mingle with fellow creatives, residents do have opportunities to visit museums, theaters, and other local destinations. Most bus trips into New York City cost just $30.

“It would cost more to drive and park,” says Winnie, who goes often. 

Although Winnie loves tapping into her creative side at Cedar Crest, she recognizes the other, more practical, benefits of living in an Erickson Living community. 

“You feel very safe here, and staff really try to help you in any way they can. Everything is convenient—there is a post office, store, bank, beauty parlor all right here,” she says. 

With all of those benefits combined, Winnie says life is more vibrant at Cedar Crest: “You’re not just in an apartment. You have opportunities around every bend.”