Creative expression

Former Bergen County art teacher explores theater at Seabrook

Created date

June 20th, 2019
Artist Dennis Carroll has explored painting, photography, and now, theater at Seabrook in Tinton Falls, N.J., where he lives.

Artist Dennis Carroll has explored painting, photography, and now, theater at Seabrook in Tinton Falls, N.J., where he lives.

“As an artist, there’s a constant impulse to explore and make art. It doesn’t stop, although it may change form.”—Dennis Carroll

Like paint on a canvas, Dennis Carroll’s medium of choice has been a series of fluid transitions, depending on life’s circumstances.

Moving mediums

“For half of my adult life, I concentrated on painting,” says the former high school art teacher for Bergen County schools. 

All but two pieces in his modern, minimalistic apartment home in Tinton Falls, N.J., are his own. Two colorful abstract canvases hang above his bed. Complimentary green and yellow compositions fill the wall across from his couch. And a large piece anchors his den above a pullout sofa. 

Then there’s his photography, which fills up the remaining wall space in his apartment home. That came after his painting period when his Vermont studio and summer home became too expensive to maintain and photography “moved from a messy darkroom activity” to clean, convenient digital form. 

“The arrival of digital photography and the ability to print from your computer made the transition to photography very doable in an apartment or small house,” says Dennis, who lived in Asbury Park for 16 years until moving to Seabrook last June. 

To someone from Asbury Park, many of the framed photographs in his Seabrook apartment home will strike a chord—the Carousel House, the Casino Building, the beach and boardwalk.

Until recently, he pursued juried exhibitions in local Asbury Park galleries. He even opened an art gallery during Asbury Park’s renaissance with two other art teachers. “But at a certain point, you’ve done all that, and I don’t feel the need to have it out there anymore,” he says.

Instead, he’s moved his mode of creative expression to the stage. 

As codirector of the successful theater program at Ridgewood High School for 16 years, Dennis says theater has always played a part in his life, but he’s never had much opportunity to be on stage. 

“Most of my work in theater was in school as a set designer and director. Now, I have an opportunity to be on stage,” he says.

Upon moving to Seabrook, he immediately joined the Seabrook Players, directed by fellow neighbor Lindo Meli. The group performs two plays a year in the community’s large auditorium with stage, professional lighting, and theater seating.

“That provides another artistic outlet for me, more so as a performer,” Dennis says. “It’s another way for me to meet people and become engaged in the community. I enjoy the theater. It’s a very dynamic interaction.”

Social space

The theater isn’t the only place Dennis interacts with new friends and neighbors, which has been a positive change from living solo. He’s also the newest member of the Resident Advisory Council.

“At a certain age, a house becomes problematic to maintain, and I was feeling a little isolated. To get out to social life, you have to get in the car and drive,” he says. “Here, I met people immediately. I like the immediacy of the social life. I don’t have to go far to meet people and to be engaged in activities. Everything is here.”

By everything, he’s referring to restaurants, a newly renovated fitness center, a beautiful glass-enclosed aquatics center, medical center, pharmacy, classrooms and art rooms, bocce courts, and an outdoor amphitheater. 

Considering all the amenities and services included in his monthly service package—which also covers property taxes, heating and air conditioning, trash and recycling at his door, a dining plan, regularly scheduled transportation, and 24/7 security and emergency response services—Dennis says, “I feel I’m getting value for my money. I don’t feel that it’s overpriced; I feel I’m living as well as I did in my house with a lot less worry and a lot less bill paying, all on a teacher’s salary and state pension.”

Plus, he doesn’t have to cook. “Having a good meal a day as a single person is very comforting,” he adds. “And the food is good. It’s much better than what I’d cook for myself.”

Yet if he wants to host a dinner party, his apartment entertains well. “I love my apartment. It's just the right size—not as big as my house but not as small as a typical apartment,” he says. “I feel I have enough space to be comfortable.”

He uses the smaller bedroom of his two-bedroom, one-bath, Frederick-style apartment home as a study and office where he spends more of his time. He outfitted the room with an iMac that sits on a corner desk, large-format Epson printer for his photography, large flat-screen TV, pullout sofa, rocking chair, and contemporary coffee table.

“It’s less formal than the living room,” he says of the space.

When it came to his furniture plan and décor, Dennis knew exactly what he had in mind. “Seabrook provides assistance, but I had very strong ideas, so I knew exactly what I wanted to do with what I had,” he says.

For those who don’t, Seabrook Personal Moving Consultant Laurie Williamson provides complimentary assistance with creating a furniture layout and a downsizing and moving plan. 

Dennis encourages anyone of retirement age to come take a look at Seabrook. “There are so many opportunities for a variety of apartment sizes and living conditions, and the public spaces are very inviting,” he says. “The opportunity to meet people quickly, develop meaningful friendships, and become engaged in activities that interest you is broad.”