Artist of the Month: Mary Kay Hopkins

By Mary Kay Hopkins

I have been painting at the Dunmore Senior Center for 13 years now. Where does the time go?  I was wandering around trying to decide what to do with my life after having been diagnosed with breast cancer.  

I decided to try my hand at painting, and I was welcomed with open arms by Jill Swersie, our teacher, and her students, who changed my life. The years flew by. I blossomed, as all of Jill’s students did.  

Then COVID reared its ugly head.  The Center had to shut down.  My husband of 55 years was hit by a car and died 13 days later from his injuries.  A year later, I was once again diagnosed with breast cancer.  This time, I relied on my painting ability to get me through. 

 Jill is not currently teaching at the Center due to the virus, but a few vaccinated students still get together there to paint. We miss Jill and wait for her return.  She always knows what colors to mix together or to add to a painting to make it pop!

I am proud to have some of my paintings displayed at the wonderful Mansours Restaurant in Scranton’s Hill Section.  Because there are so many in need right now, all my sales are being donated to the local food bank. 

I am now working on a portrait of one of my dogs, aptly named “Trouble.”  Happily, I am also in full remission and enjoying life.  

Note from Dolly Michalczyk:   When I joined the oil painting class at the Dunmore Senior Center, I only knew one person there, and I had never painted before.  When I saw the beautiful paintings that people were working on, I was quite intimidated.  

Mary Kay Hopkins was like a Welcome Wagon, encouraging me, giving me suggestions, and loaning me items that I didn’t have.  I was so uptight.  

She would greet me with a smile and throughout the class ask, “Are you having fun, yet?”  I would answer with a crabby, “No!”   

Because of Mary Kay and the welcoming people like her, I stuck it out, and, yes, and after 12 years, I can say that I am still painting and having fun!  In so many ways, Mary Kay is an inspiration to us all.

Artist of the Month: Joe Bartos

Joe Bartos poses with some of his unique creations,including “Hi, Toucan,” “Sweet or Dry,” “Jacarandas,” “Lemonade, Anyone?” and “Young Norma Jeane.”

This month’s Artist of the Month is Joe Bartos, a Dunmore resident. He has been painting with the group at the Dunmore Senior Center since 2008. 

Joe’s fellow students applaud him for his vision, as he is the originator of this column, after wondering aloud why “no one ever recognizes senior citizens” for their talents and artistic achievement.  

Joe says he is still learning and “experimenting with realism and impressionism.” He favors “rich and bold colors,” and explains, “nothing cold,” which he avoids.

 A lifelong learner, Joe states that he learns something new with each painting.  His biggest challenge and one that consumed a great deal of his time was “Young Norma Jeane”, a painting of which he is most proud.

Joe enjoys his friends at the Center and has even been painting there with a small group since it reopened, before official classes resumed.  

He commends Alison Boga, the director, for her innovations.  

Eagerly awaiting her return, Joe also has a great admiration for our teacher, Jill Swersie and her expertise.

Joe’s final words of wisdom to fellow artists is, “Keep on painting!”

Artist of the Month: Martha McAndrew

By Martha McAndrew

The picture is of Toby, my small seven-year-old bichon/maltese pet.  I was very fortunate to get him when he was five, because his first family could no longer care for him, and my 17-year old-poodle, McGee III, had just passed away.

I painted Toby a few months ago.  He’s pictured on my living room carpet and you may have spotted his toys in the picture.

When I retired in 2002, I filled my life with prayer, meditation, golf, and bowling. Then I decided to take a few one-hour watercolor art classes at the library. I really got hooked on art ,and as my 88-year-old bones began to reject golf and bowling, I searched for an art teacher.  

Al Ondush, a wonderful artist and great story teller agreed to give me private lessons. I studied with Al for eight years until he sadly passed away in 2019. At that time I was painting with a group near home that Joyce Harrington joined.  She invited me to join the art class at the Dunmore Senior Center where she belonged to a class of about 30 members. 

I took her up on her invitation even though I lived 10 miles from Dunmore, and I am so happy that I did because it is so much fun there.

Our great art teacher, Jill Swersie, is so helpful and positive. She is a wonderful teacher and a great artist, and she is a friend to all of us. About 25 members work in oils and there are five of us doing watercolors.

Until our class was interrupted by this terrible pandemic, we met on Mondays from 1 to 5 p.m. and we had a wonderful time. Members brought delicious treats every week and we really enjoyed seeing one another.  We had an annual Friday night art show with music and dancing and delicious teats.  

Our annual Monday afternoon Christmas party was very enjoyable, as we celebrated with a great sing-along featuring Ruth Boyles on guitar and Dee Noll on piano.  We also contributed money for presentation to a worthy charity each year. Our class recently reconvened on a small basis, but because of the pandemic I have not been there since last spring. I hope that everyone will be vaccinated soon so that our class can get back to normal.

Art has become a really big part of my life. I have one of my paintings printed for my annual Christmas card that I send out to 130 relatives and friends. I fashion other cards to use as birthday greetings, get well cards, and just friendly messages.  

I am so grateful that I joined the art class at the Dunmore Senior Center because I have made so many new friends there and I have also benefited from Jill’s great instruction.

 I have isolated myself because of the virus, and since I have no teacher, I decided to copy Saturday Evening Post covers of the fantastic artist, Norman Rockwell. This endeavor has provided me with hundreds of joyful hours, trying to learn from the master.

I’m almost a Dunmorean because I grew up in Scranton on the 900 block of Monroe Avenue, only five blocks from the Dunmore Senior Center.  In addition, my father was one of 10 siblings who were born and grew up at 152 E. Pine Street in Dunmore. My brother Jim and his wife Mary later lived in that family homestead, where they raised their six children. 

 I also arranged to have a Hometown Hero poster of my father, Eugene McAndrew, a World War I veteran, displayed at the Turkey Hill Market on Blakely Street for two years. Dunmore is a wonderful town!