Passavant Residents Take Art Seriously While Having Fun

BY: Paula Grubbs, Eagle Community Editor

ZELIENOPLE — Lorma Hill and her late husband, Geoff, moved from Butler to Passavant Community 11 years ago, but don’t expect to see her staring out the window from a rocking chair.

“I never had a drawing class until I was 83 years old,” Hill said.

Hill and several of her peers used colored pencils, erasable crayon and other media on Wednesday to create drawings in their sketchbooks under the friendly, yet masterful tutelage of Marcy Bogdanich.

Bogdanich explained the eight-week art class in Passavant’s Abundant Life Building is the result of a collaboration between the state Council on Arts’ ArtsPath program, which is operated out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Lutheran SeniorLife’s “ASPIRE” program.

The gig, teaching Passavant residents the basics of art and encouraging them to explore their artistic ability, is Bogdanich’s first with ArtsPath.

“To me, art is about community,” Bogdanich said. “I’m very active in the arts.”

She said still life, landscape, face and figure drawing were the focuses of the weekly classes, which will end Wednesday. Another ArtsPath series will start in October.

“They are learning to draw what you see and not what you think you see,” said Bogdanich, who is a retired elementary school art teacher. “I get a lot of joy out of teaching people who are willing to learn and don’t wiggle in their seats.”

She slowly circled the bright room on Wednesday at the Abundant Life Center, offering tips and tricks to the artists as they worked on their drawings.

The feeling in the room was one of calm and acceptance.

“I don’t want to pressure my students,” Bogdanich said. “I give them the information and they do with it what they wish.”

Bogdanich and her handful of students clearly enjoyed one another’s company as they interacted.

“We don’t take anything seriously here,” Bogdanich said as her students chuckled. “We have a great deal of fun.”

Hill said she took a drawing class five years ago, which opened her mind to the idea of pursuing art as a hobby.

“It developed a new skill I never thought I had,” she said. “It’s therapeutic. I forget my troubles and worries when I’m drawing.”

Hill’s favorite subjects are animals, but she also enjoys still life drawing.

She replicated an antique coffee pot in pencil on one page of her sketch book, which is the drawing of which she is most proud.

On Wednesday, Hill peered at side-by-side framed photos of her grandparents in an attempt to draw her grandmother, who was born in 1863 in Hannibal, Mo., during the Civil War.

“One thing I’ve discovered is that art is a real science,” Hill said of the observation and technical skills she has learned from Bogdanich.

Jack Herklotz, a retired landscape architect who has lived at Passavant Community for three years, said his wife encouraged him to sign up for the art sessions to keep him sharp and exercise his brain in the face of memory issues.

Herklotz’s sketches are advanced, which he puts down to his career drawing buildings, parking lots and other features in plans he created for builders.

“I guess I have more ability in this than I thought,” he said.

On Wednesday, Herklotz worked on drawing an F-16 Fighting Falcon from a photo of the military aircraft.

He said Bogdanich encourages the students to sign and date their work so their descendants can enjoy it in perpetuity.

While Herklotz has completed clay and metal sculptures in another art class and several drawings — including an amazing rendering of Yosemite Park from a post card — in the ArtsPath class at Passavant, his favorite is drawing the human figure.

“There’s more personality in that than anything else,” he said.

He has appreciated the class taught by Bogdanich, which taught him to more carefully observe the subjects he draws and paints.

“What surprised me is some of my family saw my work and asked me for it,” Herklotz said. “I’ve given away five so far.”

Cathy Reed, life enrichment coordinator at Lutheran SeniorLife’s Passavant Community, initiated the collaboration between ArtsPath and Passavant.

“There are a lot of residents who enjoy drawing and enjoy the arts,” Reed said.

She said the ASPIRE Wellness program began in 2021 at Passavant, and has included painting, quilting and other classes meant to enrich the lives of residents.

“It inspires them to do things they didn’t think they could do,” Reed said.

Brian Damaska, manager of the ASPIRE Wellness program, said each letter in “ASPIRE” represents a “dimension” of a successful senior life.

The dimensions are: Active, Spiritual, Purposeful, Intellectual, Relational and Expressive. The ArtsPath program falls under the Expressive dimension.

“ASPIRE is our approach to active aging,” Damaska said. “We just try to change the perspective of aging.”

Hill said she thoroughly enjoyed the art class.

“The teacher is very understanding and gives us positive feedback and suggests how we can improve,” she said. “It helps build confidence.”