Artist of the Month: Jill Swersie

We are proud to announce that oil painter and teacher Jill Swersie of Scotrun, is our May Artist of the Month at the Dunmore Activity Hub. We sat down with Jill and asked her to tell us a little about her background in the world of art:

How long have you been painting?
I loved art as a child in New Jersey and, long before I ever took the craft seriously, I was drawing and coloring. As I recall, art class was always my favorite and one in which I did very well.

Did you study art after your high school years?
No. Unfortunately, I was never able to go to art school. Most of what I have learned came from workshops I took over the years. I also watched other artists and studied those whose work I admired.

Do you have a favorite artist, one who may have influenced you?
If I was to name an artist whom I really admired, I would have to say it was John Singer Sargent. Every once in a while someone tells me that one of my pieces reminds them of his work. That’s a huge compliment.

Did you ever think you’d be teaching an art class?
No, it was never something on my radar. But about 28 years ago, a friend of mine who taught at Dunmore was quitting and I was asked if I’d like to take over the class. I was in my early 40’s at the time and the director of the center said that if I was comfortable with senior citizen students, I could have the job. I thought, what the heck, why not give it a try.

You must have been nervous. Was it hard to teach in those early years?
Oh, yes, I was nervous at first. But after a few classes I became more comfortable. All my students were so kind to me and so appreciative that I started to love going to class every Monday. But the love was not just for teaching. It was for my students as well. They all became friends, many of whom still are. Right now I have over 30 students and some of them have been in the class since day one. And what is funny…now I am as old as many of my newer students.

How have your students grown as artists?
Over the years, my students have grown tremendously, with many going on to participate in various art shows on their own. I am so proud of them.

This past year, with the pandemic, must have had an effect on your class. How have you dealt with that?
Sadly, we had to cancel our class this past year. But now, as more and more of us have been vaccinated, we are very close to starting back up and I can’t wait. Of course, we will all observe social distancing and mask wearing when we do resume the class. Staying safe and healthy is very important to all of us.

When classes do resume, what should those interested in participating know?
Our class has always been, and will always be, on Mondays between 1 and 3:30 pm. There is a $5 fee per class. When we start back up we will get the word out to everyone and new students will always be welcome. Hopefully, we will get back to normal very soon.

Artist of the Month: Lillian Banick

Lillian Banick, February Artist of the Month at the Dunmore Activity Center, is shown with three of her paintings, from left:  “Lake Scranton”, “Paris,” and “Horse Frolicking.”  

Lillian Banick is one of the most dedicated painters at the painting class at Dunmore Activity Center.  She and her sister, Lucille, were even seen stopping at the center for painting tips during the last COVID opening.

Lillian always admired art and her story is memorable.  

“I started oil painting while working with the United States Foreign Service,” Lillian explains. “I was stationed in countries around the world, but I believe I took my first art lessons while serving in India. Over the course of my career with the State Department, I painted landscapes and cityscapes of places that captured my imagination in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, etc. After retirement, I didn’t pick up a brush for many years.” 

The above quote was shared by her proud nephew, Brian Petula, Esq. who lovingly added,” I enjoy looking at my aunt’s paintings of the Taj Mahal, places she visited in the Rhine, the view from her embassy apartment in Hong Kong, etc. 

“Each painting reminds us of her many memorable stories and adventures of service around the world. For example, in India Aunt Lil worked with Mother Teresa helping place some of the most disadvantaged orphans with families in the United States. 

“I have one of Aunt Lil’s paintings of an old German village hanging in my living room. It is a daily reminder of how proud I am of her service and contributions to our country.”

When Lillian discovered that the Dunmore Senior Center was offering a painting class, she was enthused and “jumped at the opportunity.”  The benefits are many, and she says, “It’s been more rewarding than I ever expected!”  

As well as painting, Lillian enjoys the social aspect of the class and the ability to share techniques with others. 

“This class provides me the opportunity to meet many interesting people and view their paintings. Our instructor Jill Swersie is very patient and has shared invaluable artistic advice.  “We have a good time and learn a lot from each other,” she notes. 

Lucille enjoys painting with her friends, and notes, “Landscapes and animals are my favorite subjects.”  

Her niece, Linda Ross, comments, “I recently received a painting of a lion and a lioness lying together in the grasslands that my Aunt Lillian recently completed during quarantine since her art classes are currently on hold. It is something I will cherish forever and I am proud to have her expression of art adorn our home.”

Artist of the Month: Pat Orr

The Dunmore Senior painting group has been very fortunate to have Pat Orr join us from Greentown.  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” like the letter carriers, she consistently traveled to paint with our class and entertain us with her stories.

An accomplished artist, Pat started painting in high school and continued studying art throughout her life. She joined the Painting Group at the Dunmore Hub in 2016 and has so enjoyed “the comradery and support” of the group. 

Pat feels that, “Jill Swersie, our instructor is a very talented artist and wonderful teacher…Jill is a good friend to all of us.”

She enjoys painting her family, especially her grandchildren. Her featured painting: “Ocean City,” is of two of her granddaughters, who are sisters, on a family vacation.  

“The Activity Hub provides us a warm and welcoming environment to grow artistically.  We even have an art show there each year.”

The art class is saddened that Pat will soon be leaving us to move to Connecticut, closer to her family, and wish her much happiness with her move.