Artist Irena Petre, 96, was reluctant to join the art class at Allity’s Greenwood aged care facility at New South Wales’ Normanhurst, but was eventually persuaded by a friend to take up a brush.
Now, Irena has played an integral role in the facility winning a group-wide art competition and is planning a portfolio of work.
With a connection to Europe and a long career in the fashion industry, Irena’s rich history inspired her newly-found love for painting. Irena grew up in Romania before ending up in Austria with her parents as displaced people during WWII.
She then met her husband and at the end of the war, the couple decided to move to Australia in 1955.
“I used drawing from my work in fashion, so I was used to everything being precise and perfect.”
After some convincing from a friend, Irena joined the weekly art classes at Greenwood as a way to meet new people after moving into the facility seven months ago. While she didn’t see the point in painting at first and didn’t like what she created for the first few weeks, the art form grew on Irena and now uses the works of famous French painters as practise.
“Now, if you ask me, all I want to do is paint and now I have a whole portfolio of work,” she said.
“I love painting landscapes and buildings – I wanted to become an architect but my father didn’t think it was very ladylike to climb over building sites.”
Irena’s work was among other artworks displayed in the Bolton Clarke Group’s first annual residential aged care art competition this year, contributing to Greenwood’s first-place position at the recent judging.
“We ran our art exhibition over four days so that family and friends had the opportunity to come and see so many of the great artworks our residents have created,” said Ainsley Hodgson, Greenwood Lifestyle Services Coordinator.
“We have a very vibrant art community here at Greenwood, so we had roughly 1200 paintings to go through and decide which to display.”
The competition invited residents at each of the group’s 87 facilities to develop a creative exhibition of resident work.
“We took photos of all of pieces and displayed them on the projector so residents, family and friends could come and look through the work easily,” Ms Ainsley explained.
“During our exhibition, Irena made a speech about her newly found passion for art and how it has helped her learn and grow again.”
She said Irena’s passion had helped make the facility a winner despite tough competition, with residents now preparing for next year.