10th Anniversary of Pomperaug Woods Art Show Celebrates Impact Across the State

seniors smiling with a painting

What started as a simple idea to showcase artwork of adults age 70+ and encourage artistic endeavors by seniors has become an annual staple across the state. Over its 10 years as Connecticut’s only senior juried art show, “The Art of Experience” at Pomperaug Woods has seen more than 500 seniors from 100+ towns submit more than 2,200 pieces of artwork.

“It’s more than tripled in size from the first year,” says Lisa Huebenthal, director of community life services at Pomperaug Woods senior living community. “It’s extraordinary and heartwarming to see how far it’s come, and level of prestige it has reached, from the entries all the way to the judges we have.”

More than 120 seniors from 45 towns submitted 229 pieces of artwork in the four categories for this year’s show: painting, drawing, photography and sculpture. Judging takes place in late August, then the exhibit open to the public from September 22-24 at Pomperaug Woods. Award-winning pieces will then be displayed at the Mattatuck Museum from October 8 – November 19.

Judges at the “The Art of Experience” 2017 include notable artists Zufar Bikbov, David Merrill, Michele Murelli and John Rohlfing.

Zufar Bikbov was born in Russia and his interest in painting came early in life. Influenced by his father, Bikbov excelled at plein air painting and landscapes. After graduating cum laude from Zelenodolsk Art School, he decided to support his love of painting and answer his calling to help people by pursuing a medical career. After earning his degree in medicine and moving to the United States, Bikbov has continued his artwork in national level competitions, winning numerous awards. Recent honors include the Founders’ Award / Best in Show at the 2017 Spring Juried Show at Kent Art Association in Kent, CT; Irvine Museum Award at the 2017 Laguna Plein Air Invitational XVIII in Laguna Beach, CA; and the Atlanta History Center Insiders Plein Air Award at Atlanta-Olmsted Plein Air 2017, in Atlanta, GA.

David Merrill was born and raised in rural Connecticut, and received his art training at the Famous Artist School in Westport, CT, and Western Connecticut State College in Danbury, CT. His paintings are inspired by his love for New England, the rapidly changing scenery and preserving links with the past. Merrill’s mural work is featured in town halls, libraries, museums, schools, historical societies and private residences, including the home of celebrity Robert Redford. Numerous awards include The Medal of Merit, Arthur Hooten Memorial Award, 7 Best in Shows, 8 First Prizes, and 5 Audience Choice Awards in exhibitions throughout New England.

Michele Murelli, a Torrington native, showed her affinity for art at an early age. Earning a B.A. in psychology from Albertus Magnus College, she went on to earn a M.A. in expressive art therapy from Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. She balances her time as an art therapist and certified teacher for the Wellspring Foundation, while working as an oil painter and mixed media artist. Her paintings express her passion for the countryside of her native Litchfield County, the Cape and travels abroad. Murelli’s mixed media reflect stories from her nine years teaching art to at-risk youth. In 2011, she received the Golden Apple Award for Teaching from the Connecticut Association of Special Education Facilities.

John Rohlfing is an art professor at Post University in Waterbury, CT, and an award-winning artist. His ceramic vessels have shown and won awards nationally and internationally, including competitions in Korea and Japan. His work has been on exhibit at dozens of notable galleries across the United States. Rohlfing’s ceramics use hand-building methods and explore the idea of the container as a metaphor. His vessels and painting express an interest in landscape, organic abstraction, Cubism and Constructivism.

“The judges are tremendous artists and have a keen eye for creative and beautiful artwork,” says Huebenthal. “It’s an honor to have them at our competition.”

Among various activities offered to residents at Pomperaug Woods, art-related classes and events are a significant part of the culture. “All the art, performing arts and engaging activities at our community are a big draw for older adults in the area to move here,” says Tara Justus, marketing director at the senior living community. “And the health benefits of art for older adults are extraordinary.”

A 2015 study from the Mayo Clinic on older adults’ involvement in social, physical and intellectual activities found that older adults involved in artistic activity had the greatest protective effect against cognitive impairment later in life.

From health benefits to the pure beauty of the artwork itself, the 10th Annual Senior Juried Art Show is sure to draw a crowd. Pomperaug Woods looks forward to seeing you and who will take home this year’s Tommie Davis Award for Best in Show.

Following a VIP reception and opening on September 22, the public exhibit will take place September 23 and 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Pomperaug Woods.

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