By Amy Wenk
During her professional career, Helen Kahn found success as a high-fashion illustrator in upstate New York.
Now 85 years old, Kahn once again uses her delicate technique to create beautiful works of art. As a member of The Open Studio Group, which meets every Tuesday for residents at the Jewish Tower in Buckhead, she enjoys painting portraits of her grandchildren.
“It’s very meaningful to me,” said Kahn, who has been painting with the group for five years. “I’ve done a lot of portraits of family and friends.”
The Open Studio Group began at the senior living community off Howell Mill Road in 1995. Since that time, the group has welcomed all interested residents to come and create masterpieces once a week for two hours.
“It’s open to anyone here at the Jewish Tower,” said art therapist with the Jewish Family & Career Services, Kate Fetterolf, who directs The Open Studio Group. “Anyone is welcome to the group, but on average we have about 15 to 16 people each week. A lot of people once they come a few times, keep coming because they really do feel a sense of community within the group.”
The artists of The Open Studio Group are currently preparing for their annual exhibition. On Friday, March 28, an exhibit entitled Towering Art: Still Going Strong will open at the Limelight Gallery, housed on the premise of Binders Fine Art, located at 3330 Piedmont Road.
“In our society, as people age and move into places like [the Jewish Tower], sometimes they feel less a part of the community,” Fetterolf said. “Being able to have art shows and show their work and to be able to express themselves, is a way of making them visible once again.”
Between 30 and 40 works from about 16 different artists will be on display and for sale at the show, which will run until April 4. The public can expect to see a diverse range of art at the upcoming exhibit as The Open Studio Group welcomes all skill levels.
“Most of these people were not artists when they joined the group, but they came because they were curious,” said Fetterolf. “Many older adults who had never picked up a paintbrush in their lives have tapped into the artist deep inside them. It’s a thrilling discovery that adds light and life to their days.”
Fetterolf helped establish the Open Studio Group as an intern at the Jewish Tower, while earning her master’s degree in art therapy.
“I was real interested in trying an open studio format,” she said. “In other words, a format where people came and did whatever they wanted to do. They had lots of choices in terms of material, in terms of style, in terms of direction they wanted to go in.”
These choices are certainly one of the best aspects of The Open Studio Group. Some of the artists work with traditional paints like watercolor or acrylics, while others venture outside the box, using crepe paper or even fabric to create three-dimensional pieces.
“We do what we want, when we want,” said Libby Orlansky, a 90-year-old who enjoys working in pastels.
It is certainly this freedom that has allowed Jerry Goldoff, 75, to discover his artistic medium.
“I do not use a brush,” said Goldoff, who suffers from arthritis. “I can’t hold the brushes, but I can hold the palette knife.”
Using six types of palette knifes, Goldoff creates texture-rich landscapes with acrylic paints. Often creating pieces in as little 15 minutes, he said art takes away the pain he often feels. His wife of 53 years, Phyllis, accompanies him each week and also commented on the rehabilitating effect of producing art.
“This is something to distract me,” said Mrs. Goldoff, a retired florist who enjoys painting flower scenes. “For two hours, we get lost in our art. It’s very therapeutic.”
For more information on the upcoming exhibit, call Binders Fine Art at (404) 237-6331.