UNION — Every Thursday afternoon for the past two years, some residents of the Oakmont Resident Care Center spend two hours exercising their creativity and honing their artistic skills during an art class taught by the daughter of one of the students.
As they have for most of the last two years, eight of the nine women who attend the art class taught by Carmen Jeter, gathered around a table in the front room of the center on Thursday, picked up their paint brushes, and began painting sketches of Christmas ornaments provided by Jeter.
“I draw out a sketch for them to paint,” Jeter said Thursday. “Then I take them step by step for each object in the painting. Today we’re painting a Christmas ornament and everybody does a different color.”
Jeter began teaching the class shortly after her mother, Vivian Johnson, moved in at Oakmont. She said she did it at the suggestion of Virginia Babb, the center’s supervisor and admissions coordinator.
“My mother came here to live two years ago,” Jeter said. “I was here every day and Virginia wanted to start an art class.”
Jeter agreed, even though she’d never taught an art class. Art, however, was in her family background as her mother had been a painter.
“My mother is a very creative person,” Jeter said. “She always painted and wrote. They were her hobbies.”
Despite this, Jeter still had no experience teaching art and, with the exception of her mother and one other member of the class, her students had no experience painting. She learned quickly, however, and began to assess the skill levels of her students and adapted the materials they used accordingly.
“I had never taught an art class before and so it was trial and error,” Jeter said. “I started first with watercolor and very simple designs and that gave me an idea of what everybody was capable of. I gradually learned everybody’s ability with paint.
“Then I switched to acrylics because acrylics are much more forgiving than watercolor,” she said. “Acrylic mistakes can be corrected easily but correcting watercolor mistakes is much more difficult.”
While most of her students had never painted before, Jeter said they took to it quickly and have continuously improved.
“As time went on, the ladies learned and got better and better,” Jeter said. “They enjoy this so much because it builds your self-esteem to create something that everybody admires. When they’ve finished their paintings they can hardly believe they did it and they are so pleased with themselves.”
Johnson said she enjoys her daughter’s classes.
“I think it’s great, it great for the ladies here, it’s something for them to do,” Johnson said. “I just love to draw.”
Peggy Vaughan said she’d never painted before but really enjoys it now.
“I love it, I have never done anything before like this in my life,” Vaughan said. “I really love it and I love the teacher and the others here. It’s just a joy.”
Betty Byrd said she also loves the class.
“I love it, it has been the most enjoyable thing I have ever done,” Byrd said. “I would come here every day if she (Jeter) would come and she’ll tell you I would.”
Louise Patrick said she looks forward to the class.
“It’s the most fun thing I do all week,” Patrick said. “I look forward to it.”
The paintings the class produces are displayed in all three of the resident center’s halls and are available for sale with the funds used to purchase art supplies for the class. They were also featured in the center’s first Art Exhibit last Saturday which Babb said attracted a large turnout and raised $320 that will also be used to buy art supplies.
In addition, Babb said some of the paintings produced by the class have been included in a calendar published by HCR ManorCare, the company that owns Oakmont. She said some of the class’ paintings were included in the 2012 and 2013 calendars which are distributed to ManorCare facilities throughout the country.
Jeter said she’s delighted at the recognition her students are getting and plans to continue teaching the class. She does, however, wish she’d been an art teacher from the beginning.
“I love it,” Jeter said. “I missed my calling. I should have been doing this a long, long time ago.”