New exhibit features artwork by Vt. nuns - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New exhibit features artwork by Vt. nuns

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The folks at the Our Lady of Providence residential care facility in Winooski celebrate mass every morning. It's something these nuns have been doing for decades. But Friday there was something new to celebrate.

"I was offered a chance to follow an art course. I thought, I am not sure at my age, but it is always a challenge. I believe in challenges, so I said let me try, I'll see what I can do," Sister Arlene Gates said.

Six women, ranging in age from 80 to over 90, including five nuns, participated in a 12-week long art course. Sister Germaine Richer painted posies.

"I love flowers," she said.

Reporter Judy Simpson: Are you an artist?

Sister Germaine Richer: Not really, but I think I could have been... I think I would have liked to be. It is something that, nature talks to me.

Friday they got the chance to see their paintings for the very first time in frames on the wall.

None of these nuns have ever taken a formal art class before. But all of them picked a photograph to paint, with their own interpretation. Sister Marie Heintz's is called "Lily Pond Fantasy."

"We had a group of pictures to choose from and we each chose a picture. So I was very attracted to that. It did not have a fish and a frog, but I thought somehow it needed something else, so I added that," Heintz explained.

Gates and Pierette Roy picked the same photo of a cottage by the shore.

"There is a little shanty on the island, this dream island, and the ocean and the beach and an overturned boat ready to go out again," Roy said. "My friend Sister Arlene painted the same scene, but this one is hers down here and this one she used a sort of monochromatic shades of blue, different shades of blues. Same setting, different interpretation. I think hers is superior to mine because it just strikes you so beautifully, that nice white frame around there."

Sister Doris Gastonguay was born in Maine, but as a nun she spent more than 30 years in Malawi, Africa. Her painting, "The Waterfall," reflects both worlds.

"So I am transported from Maine, the Pine Tree State, to Malawi, the warm heart of Africa," Gastonguay said. "Life has to be nourished by water or you have nothing. So this is 'The Waterfall' telling its story. Which is the story of my life."

The inspiration behind all this artwork is Pam Favreau, who volunteered her time and materials to teach the class. She had a lot of help from Sister Mary Bridget.

"Knowing them as well as I do now, I think if I picked a word to describe the whole group it would be humble. This is a group of women that has just lead exceptional lives of service and giving, but as you talk to them I am sure you wouldn't find one that would blow their own horn," Favreau said. "I just wanted to give them a little chance to shine and they have far exceeded my expectations."

And these students say they plan to continue to work on their craft, and want to create more works of art.

The paintings will be on display at the O'Brien Community Center until Sept. 26. There will be a reception and a chance to meet the artists Saturday afternoon. The nuns came up with a name for their exhibit. It's called "Who Says Oldies Can't Paint."

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