Art history ‘road show’ makes the masters fun, meaningful, inspiring


Do you know what it means when the pharaoh’s left foot is in front of his right? Scituate seniors do!

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SCITUATE – It was the pharaoh’s feet that captivated Mary Sheehan.

“His left foot is forward, meaning he is heading towards eternity,” she said, savoring the clue that had just been pointed out to her. “And one of the pharaohs had his wife beside him. She had her arm around him and her left foot was placed slightly forward, indicating how much he thought of her.”

Sheehan, 79, has been a regular at a series of engaging programs called “Art for Your Mind” that the Scituate Senior Center has presented over the last year.

You might call it art history for the adventurous.

The creator, Jill Sanford, is a former art history major on an energetic mission to make great works of art and everyday visual opportunities more appreciated and memorable.

The tools she teaches in her hourlong programs help people to pay closer attention to what they see, from museum works to poster art and public collages. She uses selected images to explore line, color, form and texture, with an eye for the details that tell the story behind the composition. Who knew most Egyptians shaved their heads and wore wigs?

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A Mattapoisett resident, Sanford has built up a clientele at councils on aging along the South Coast and Rhode Island and is now expanding across the South Shore. Last week, she presented “The Art of Ancient Egypt” in Scituate.

In May, she was in Hingham and Norwell doing “Norman Rockwell Remembered.” In Hull she presented “Why So Famous? A Survey from Leonardo Da Vinci to Andy Warhol,” and in Hanover, “The Visionary Van Gogh.”

On TuesdayJune 14, at 1 pm, she’s bringing “JMW Turner, The Pride of Great Britain” to Marshfield. In the next few weeks, she is lined up for Duxbury, Lakeville, Norwell and Middleboro.

“The programs are very popular; we have had as many as 75 people turn out for some,” Linda Hayes, director of the Scituate Council on Aging, said. Scituate began the art programs in summer 2019, funded through the Scituate Education Foundation for 12 months for the $ 150 / month fee. Hayes said the center now uses its Joanne Papandrea Memorial funding: Papandrea, who died in 2020, was the center’s art instructor.

With a goal of making art history more accessible to older adults, in 2010 Sanford broadened her audience from schools to senior centers.

“I do a lot of research and boil it down to the basics, but I also make it light-hearted,” she said.

Her business, Art for Your Mind LLC, offers 40 slide programs under several categories: First Time Favorites; All About America; Art Styles, Stylistic Periods & General Subjects; Individual Artists; and Other Countries and Ancient Cultures.

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Sheehan enjoyed art when she was growing up, but, after high school, she went to Boston City Hospital School of Nursing, graduated in 1963 and worked at Boston Medical Center for 38 years. After she retired, she began taking watercolor classes at the South Shore Art Center and jumped at the chance for Sanford’s art history class.

“She is so well informed and speaks without any notes,” Sheehan said. “She’s animated and it’s wonderful to watch her. She gave me an awareness that, when you look at something, you can notice little things that you only glanced at before.”

Also in the Scituate class, Eugenia Kelley finds that having art in her life “gives me a lift. This program always adds a lot more information. It’s very pleasurable.”

Jennifer Young, director of Hingham Elder Services, has offered the program several times and will make it part of the senior center’s Discovery Lifelong Learning program in the fall.

“She’s engaging and energetic,” Young said. “She’s a one-man road show and comes in with her own audio, all her visuals – it takes a lot of stress off of the senior center staff in not having to set up a program. “

The Hanover Senior Center was the first on the South Shore to invite Sanford more than five years ago. Director Tammy Murray said the programs continue to draw a crowd, even when the show is a repeat.

“A lot of seniors from other towns used to come over here to see her, so it’s great now that they have their own programs,” Murray said. “The success really has to do with the instructor. She comes in with a preloaded program and explains intricate details in terms they can understand and relate to. … It’s not intimidating.”

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Sanford will present “Why So Famous?” on June 21 at 10 am at the Duxbury Senior Center; “Massachusetts’ Art Revealed” June 22 at 7 pm at the Lakeville Council on Aging; and “Visionary Van Gogh” June 23 at 1:30 pm at the Norwell Senior Center, 293 Pine St.

The Scituate programs on the Italian Renaissance, Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams stand out as having drawn the most patrons, Hayes said, but all have drawn a crowd.,

The schedule is posted on her website, artforyourmind.com, along with the 40 different choices, which also includes this Georgia O’Keeffe quote:

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

When your first car becomes an ‘antique’

Dropping by the 50th annual auto show Saturday at Heritage Museums in Sandwich, I was amused to see a model of my first car, a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle, included. There it was, parked on the lawn outside the Round Barn. Its owner had driven it on the Mass Pike from Holliston and told me it goes 80 mph.

“I bet people wave and call out a lot,” I said.

“They do,” he replied.

Many people have an affection for their first car and several others stopped to chuckle at achieving “antique” or “classic” auto status. I had forgotten that in some 1960s Beetles, you had to pop open the front hood to get to the gasoline tank. The owner demonstrated.

I do remember that when it wouldn’t start, friends and I would push it down the street in Rochester, New York, and then the ignition would often kick on. It was light enough that, if you got stuck in snow, you’d lift the rear end and move it free. Good memories!

The 18th annual Nantasket Beach Car Show will be held Sunday, Sept. 18, from 8 am to noon. State Police rescheduled it due to summer traffic concerns. The event is organized and hosted by the Rotary Club of Nantasket Hull, with the Hull Police Department, the Town of Hull, the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. Part of the proceeds will benefit Cops for Kids with Cancer.

Betty Beecher, of Weymouth, read, with special interest, last week’s story about the 100th anniversary of South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and three generations of Emerson doctors who served there.

Betty is 98 and a retired nurse. She was born at the hospital on April 15, 1924. She volunteered as a “candy striper,” assisting nurses there in her teenage years, walking more than 2 miles each way from Rockland. She especially remembers the first Dr. George Emerson, one of the hospital founders.

“Everyone adored the senior Dr. Emerson,” she said. “As a child, I heard his name all the time, everybody in my family saw Dr. Emerson, and it didn’t really matter if you could pay or not. If he saw financial difficulties, he’d say, ‘Oh, I was in the neighborhood anyway. ‘”

She has a newspaper clipping from The Brockton Enterprise with a photograph of the first luncheon for newborns at the hospital, held around the hospital’s fifth anniversary. She is one of the toddlers in the front row.

Reach Sue Scheible at sscheible@patriotledger.com.

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