In order to enrich the lives of senior citizens, the Carbon County Arts League (CCAL) presented its first gallery of 2013 at Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (MVNRC) this past weekend.

The gallery featured 145 works by local artists, with a predominant theme of winter's transition into spring.

However, many of the autumn-themed portraiture, still-life, and landscapes that were presented at the October 2012 gallery, were introduced to a receptive audience ranging in age from three to 101 years old.

Until 2 p.m. attendance was low. Then, MVNRC's staff wheeled the residents, en masse, to the gallery. Family members that were visiting for the afternoon also attended. Expressions of "ooh, that is pretty" and "I like this one" filled the room.

Bill Wentz, both a CCAL member and a MVNRC resident, painted a snowy homestead scene entitled "Winter on the Farm." Wentz is a distinguished member of the CCAL; he taught at the Baum School of Art and later taught many members of the CCAL in his home.

He spoke little but he praised the work of his students and the league.

"Everyone did great; my students have advanced a lot since I taught them."

Gena Greiner, a 101-year-old artist and MVNRC resident, was excited about the gallery. Her artistic expertise was evident in her assessment of everything she admired.

"This one has excellent detail. It must have taken hours to paint that level of detail. I really like it a lot," she exclaimed as she pointed to a watercolor of a barn in wintertime entitled "Goodbye Old Friend" by Gary Embich.

CCAL President Earlene Russell and MVNRC's activities department cooperated to organize the gallery. Bernadette Rodriguez, MVNRC's special events coordinator, wanted to improve the lives of the residents by bringing them a museum of community artists.

"The residents really appreciate the art gallery; we had a hard time keeping them out of the room while the art league was setting up. Earlier I had some residents tell me how much they adored the art," Rodriguez said.

"The residents see something new and different and the community shares with the residents the experiences that they may be missing," Ann Sharpley, Rodriguez's activities assistant, said.

Sharpley's remark was reinforced by many of the residents who claimed that the art had reminded them of their old leisure habits, family and friends, or a specific event from their past.

For Maria Martinez, a resident who had immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s, the art reminded her of her home country, and the restrictions on speech and artistic expression that her people still suffer today.

She said that people in Cuba have to be very careful about what they express publicly, and they cannot voice their malcontent; therefore they feel powerless to change their tyrannical government.

Martinez's story speaks volumes toward the intrinsic value of art. It serves to inspire and express. It sparks memory and tells the human story. From Neolithic cave paintings to Andy Warhol's "32 Campbell's Soup Cans," art expresses our culture through time. It can serve as both an outcry of injustice and depravity and/or an expression of bliss and peace.

"We need art to enrich our lives. Humans are creative beings, and we need art to indulge that creativity," Russell said.

For more information about the CCAL and its upcoming events or meetings please contact Russell at ccalartist@yahoo.com.