LIVINGSTON, NJ — Some of Livingston’s senior citizens participated in “An Afternoon of Art in June” this week. The free art-gallery event displayed the paintings of seniors who regularly gather at the Livingston Gallery frame shop to express their emotions through art and to enjoy each other’s company.
Each week, the frame shop, located on S. Livingston Ave., invites residents of all ages to come express themselves through the art of painting. Paintings that Livingston seniors like John Greco, Angelo Sena and Grace Baker had accomplished over time were displayed at the West Essex YMCA Wednesday for the public to enjoy as a guitarist strolled the room and filled it with old classics.
“What brings me so much joy is that our very talented seniors proudly shared their artwork with our community,” said West Essex YMCA Associate Executive Director Cheryl Francione. “They have so many skills and the world needs to know about them."
Francione said the West Essex YMCA was proud and delighted to provide a venue for the community’s seniors to display their many talents. In January, Francione initiated a fitness program designated to senior citizens and noticed that seniors like Greco, Sena and Baker became quick friends. Once Francione realized that many of them also enjoyed painting together outside the YMCA, she insisted they share their other talents with the community.
According to Greco, who never in his special education and consulting career thought he would pursue painting as a hobby, Francione often goes out of her way to make sure seniors feel involved in the community. As a teacher to elementary school-aged children, Greco has taught art alongside a professional supervisor but never considered the fact that he was an artist himself. Now he calls himself and his gallery colleagues “late-bloomers” when it comes to their artistic abilities.
Many seniors like Sheila McGuire, who graduated Caldwell College as a business major, have become enthusiastic about the weekly painting sessions. She couldn’t wait to display their hard work in public. Greco, who also regularly attends the senior fitness program at the YMCA, spoke highly of McGuire’s enthusiasm and said the experience means more to the group of seniors than just the artistic aspect of it.
“It’s interaction too,” said Greco. “Seniors have a tendency when they get older to pull away, but you’re really interacting with other people. It’s very rewarding and I find it very relaxing.”
Greco and his colleagues encourage aspiring artists of all ages, genders and abilities to join them at the weekly Livingston Gallery meetings for the sole reason that the experience is self-satisfying. Greco said the group often spends hours at the studio painting expressions of their choice, receiving constructive feedback and enjoying the company of fellow artists.
“I find it to be very therapeutic,” said Greco. “It really helps me relax and it brings me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Francione said it is uncanny how a group of seniors can become such a close-knit group of friends. Even during their weekly fitness classes, Francione says it is much more than exercise — it is an opportunity to constantly learn from each other and simply enjoy each other’s company.
“I just adore interacting with our ‘supersonic seniors,’” said Francione. “They are truly the highlight of my day.”