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Let’s talk about art

Artists bond, share, create at gabfests

Created date

January 10th, 2017
Riderwood resident Betty Ford started an informal monthly get-together for fellow artists to get to known one another and discuss their art.

Riderwood resident Betty Ford started an informal monthly get-together for fellow artists to get to known one another and discuss their art.

About five years ago, Betty Ford displayed a painting she had created on a shelf outside the front door of her Riderwood apartment home. Residents often use the space to display art, flowers, funny signs, holiday decorations, and other personal items that give a glimpse into their personalities. 

Betty’s neighbor, another artist, noticed the painting. She was looking to connect with other artists living at the Silver Spring, Md., Erickson Living community and contacted Betty.

“I said, ‘Okay, no problem, I will organize a gabfest for artists,’” Betty says. 

Ever since then, Betty and her daughter have been hosting monthly gatherings for resident artists and people interested in art. Each month features some sort of art presentation, but the atmosphere is casual, affording people an opportunity to socialize, chitchat about art and life, and ultimately form lasting friendships. 

“You should see the way people talk to each other and have fun and make friends,” Betty says. “We have an amazing group of people who come—they are from all walks of life.”

A community of creatives

Many talented and accomplished artists live at Riderwood, so finding people to present at the monthly gabfests has been easy. 

Judy Brown, a botanic artist who recently displayed one of her paintings at the United States Botanic Garden on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has taught three workshops for the group. 

Another resident, Bill Heineman, did a presentation on creating art from clay. 

Delphia Dirks talked to the group about iconography, an ancient form of ornate painting that depicts religious images. 

Betty led a workshop on china painting, which is one of her artistic specialties.

“I tried to show step by step what I did and gave the history of china,” she says.  

A professor from Prince George’s County Community College attended one meeting and taught the group how to do Chinese-style painting. They’ve also done paintings and drawings of live models—an experience many residents have never had—or perhaps not since taking a college art course.

“The people who have never done it before have a ball with it,” Betty says. 

Artistic diversity

The artist gabfest is a perfect opportunity for new community members who are interested in art to connect with like-minded people in an informal environment. “It’s a great way for new people to make friends and see what is going on in the art world here at Riderwood,” Betty says. 

The group welcomes accomplished artists whose work has been shown in galleries and museums, as well as novices working on their first paintings—and everybody in between. 

Because of the group’s diversity, even experienced artists have had the chance to learn something new. For instance, Delphia, whose ornate religious paintings have been commissioned by several churches, had never made a greeting card using artwork until she came to the gabfest. 

“She said, ‘I don’t know a thing about this,’ and I said, ‘Why don’t you choose a card stock and start there?’” Betty recalls. “I came to see her later on, and she was smiling and saying how wonderful it was.”

The artist gabfest has also created a unique opportunity for Betty to spend quality time with her daughter, who has been joining in the fun ever since she stopped working. A photographer, Nancy enjoys getting to know her mother’s friends at Riderwood.

“She comes here to help me, and she always jumps in to help people on projects if she can,” Betty says.