Art is a new lifestyle for these ladies

By John Lewis

Art has opened up a whole new social world for a group of Shepparton retirement village residents who will see their work exhibited in Melbourne for the first time this month.

About 20 female residents from Lifestyle Shepparton have been meeting once a week for more than two years to draw, paint and chat about their lives.

After an exhibition of their work at the Channel Rd village, residents voted to send eight of the group's artworks to the inaugural Simpson Arts Prize in Melbourne.

The exhibition showcases the art skills of Lifestyle Communities residents from across Victoria and comes with a top prize of $1000 to be judged by a panel including Channel Nine weather presenter Livinia Nixon.

Shepparton's art group co-ordinator and village resident Marcia Greig said for many of the group's members it was the first time they had ever used a paintbrush.

"The beauty of this is that many of these ladies have never painted before — now they come together and create art for themselves and to support other people who are sick and groups such as army veterans," Mrs Greig said.

"We had one lady who entered a painting into the Shepparton Show and she won a prize — and she cried and cried because it was the first time she had ever painted anything," she said.

She said the group uses space in a men's shed at the Shepparton retirement facility.

"We had to work our way in — now the blokes have got used to us," Mrs Greig said.

Cathy van den Hurk said art had opened up a whole new world of expression for her.

"I'm a bit of a neat freak — but nature doesn't have straight lines so I've learned to be a bit more free and expressive. And it's a great way to make friends," she said.

The Simpson Arts Prize show will be held at the Melbourne Pavilion on Wednesday, August 28.

Mrs Greig said a $1000 winning cheque would be well spent.

"We definitely need more brushes and paints," she said.

Shepparton Lifestyle Communities resident Lorraine Twomey enjoys the artistic life.