It may have been raining outside, but the carefully decorated walls inside the art gallery provided a stark contrast to the dreary weather.
On Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 17, in Art 3300, a closing reception party was held for the “Intimate Views” art showcase presented by the ENCORE program. Five ENCORE students had a chance to display the pieces they had worked so hard on in Pierce College’s art gallery.
For the past four months, these five students, all aged 50 or older, had prepared a series of paintings to share with friends, family members, and classmates of all ages.
Among the five artists was 67-year-old ENCORE student Marilyn Weiner. She stood next to her paintings, all of which depicted groups of smiling people with similar facial features.
Weiner only paints her family as is it is her personal artistic philosophy.
“A lot of us don’t know who our great grandparents were, what they looked like, or what their names are,” Weiner said. “I want to stop that and make it so that people know about their relatives. I want to leave behind more than my crystal and my china.”
Weiner is proud of how far she has come as a painter since starting the program. She had never practiced art until enrolling at Pierce College six years ago. With hard work and patience Weiner developed a style that was all her own.
Weiner “feels very lucky” to have found the ENCORE program and the sense of community it provides her with.
“I can’t even put it into words without almost being emotional about it,” Weiner said grinning. “It’s so important to all of us because we want to keep experiencing life and learning new things.”
The ENCORE program offers 64 classes for over 2,000 returning students this semester alone. For many of the students, it is an opportunity to start a new chapter in their lives.
Bill Dowgiallo, 72, showcased two portraits at the “Intimate Views” exhibition. Dowgiallo has been part of ENCORE program since 2010. Before enrolling, Dowgiallo worked in computer designing. He has since retired.
Dowgiallo has taken his retirement as a chance to reclaim the time he missed during his days spent as an enlisted man. Taking up to four art classes a week, Dowgiallo sees this as a welcomed opportunity.
“I had never taken an art class before. [So now] I take as many classes as I can,” Dowgiallo said.
The ENCORE program gives students like Dowgiallo a chance to come back and pursue their passions without being limited by prerequisites or the need to fulfill transfer requirements.
The students enrolled in the art courses are provided with an environment that encourages their creativity. They are part of a group of like-minded individuals, all there with the aim to learn more about how to make art.
ENCORE Program Director, Ida Blaine, was among the other Pierce faculty members in attendance at the closing reception. This will be Blaine’s fourteenth year as program director. For Blaine, the work is “extremely rewarding.”
“One thing about the ENCORE program is that students recognize that the instructors really care, not only about them, but about the subject they’re teaching,” Blaine said. “We have a good reputation in the community for having such good instructors.”
One such instructor is John Paul Thornton, who has been teaching art through the ENCORE program for the past five years. Thornton explained that the process leading up to the presentation of a gallery is “a long one and that the students that ultimately get showcased are those who find their own stylistic niche.”
“Some of these students have been artists from the time that they were young and some have only picked it up in the last few years,” Thornton said. “But all of them ask the question ‘what is worth painting?’”
Alongside his colleagues in the department, Thornton monitors the creative processes of each student. Then, selected students are notified months in advance so that they may select the pieces they are most proud of.
Professor Melody Cooper of Pierce’s art department, went to support the exhibition as well as some former students. As an instructor of ceramics and sculpture, Cooper has taught many students who are now part of the ENCORE program.
Between viewing the gallery’s different art fixtures Cooper confided that she “is very pleased” with the end result.
“I’m so proud,” Cooper said. “Now is [the ENCORE student’s] chance to create artwork and they’re so happy and grateful to have time to do that and I think it shows in their artwork.”