Group finds artistic connection
By Rita Papazian
Posted:  08/14/2009

It has been said that the attics of our homes are museums of our lives. Stepping into the Partridge Lane Road home of Alice Katz is like stepping into a museum of her art. Every room in this ranch home displays Katz's art, whether it be her paintings, photo collages, fabric wall hangings or her unique, often whimsical papier m?ché sculptures. 

"I feel as if I gave birth to all of these things," said Katz, recently, as she gave a little mini tour of her home and artwork to a few members of the Fairfield County Arts Association, for whom Katz is vice president.

Fairfielder Katz, a psychotherapist, sees a similarity between her work as an artist and working with her clients in psychotherapy. 

"A lot of my work is with found items. When I'm working with clients, I'm helping them to change the way they see the world. It helps them see alternatives because that is what I'm doing with my art work. I'm seeing alternatives," said Katz, whose work not only brings together her found objects and re-arranges them into new forms of creative expression, but also encourages the viewer to see new perspectives through the art, especially with her paintings and sculptors..

In essence, this is what Katz and other members of the Fairfield County Arts Association (FCAA) do when they come together for their monthly meetings. They offer each other input about their art work. At their meetings, the members encourage each other to take risks with their creativity. They encourage each other to promote themselves. "This is exactly what I do when I counsel people," Katz said. 

Following the tour of her home, Katz joined four other members of the FCAA in a discussion of the organization and the rewards artists gain through membership. While all five members are over 65, the organization is open to any artist. However, as these members noted, they have found more time to devote to their art now that they are retired from full-time jobs and other family responsibilities. Also, membership in such a supportive group like FCAA, gives them opportunity to be engaged with other people and motivated to be productive with their art. 

Al Weiner, 73, whose work has appeared in a variety of shows and local galleries says as a FCAA member, he has received feedback with his work. "Everyone has a vision of his own work. You need feedback. You need to get input on where you're at. We give a lot of encouragement," he said.

"And a little criticism on the side," added Diane Kane, who divides her time between Fairfield and Naples, Fla., where she teaches watercolor. 

"I have to say our little group helped," said Katz, a reference to the progress Weiner has demonstrated since he joined. "We are a very supportive group. He brings a new piece every time," Katz said. 

Weiner was teaching a film course at Housastonic Community College when he turned 65. At that time he said he had to make a decision about how he wanted to spend his time. Was it Texas Hold 'Em Poker, fishing or art? He chose art and took an "Art for Art" course for non-majors at the college. 

Why does he like painting?

Weiner said, "It's the idea you can really express yourself. You can be as creative and as daring. When I look on my wall and see the things I've done, I'm still amazed that I can be the vehicle for those paintings. I wrote a song called 'Octogenarian Rock Star,'" said Weiner, who will be recording a CD of his songs shortly.

Millicent Zolan, 83, is a painter and photographer. One of her photographs is in the current Fairfield Arts Council show of members' art work. She and a number of FCAA members have banners of their artwork hanging from the lampposts along the Post Road. Zolan's banner is a photograph of her grandson at age 5. Currently, Zolan, who also plans FCAA's monthly programs, is photographing a series of the fences in Fairfield. She enjoys photographing local scenes and gardens, especially close-ups of flowers, since she is an avid gardener. She enjoys the camaraderie with the FCAA members. "It motivates me because I'm very lazy. When I see others' works, I'm motivated."

Elisabeth Ohlenberg's banner is a painting of a beach scene with the Penfield Lighthouse in the background. The 77-year-old artist, who is the organization's treasurer and a former nurse with the Veterans' Administration, has painted throughout her life. Now retired, she finds more time to devote to her art. She enjoys painting botanical subjects, especially since she used to live near the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. 

Kane's banner is also of the Penfield Lighthouse and hangs at the corner of the Post Road and Ruane Street. Kane is a graphic artist who previously worked for the Famous Artists School in Westport and also co-founded a company, Publishers Graphics that provided designs and production work for major publishing houses.

Kane enjoys her membership with the group because she learns from the members' input.

While the FCAA sponsors group shows of its members, Katz acknowledges that it is difficult to find a venue in Fairfield County that can accommodate the work of so many of its members. In the past, they have sponsored shows at the Bruce S. Kershner Gallery at the Fairfield Public Library and at Independence Hall.

FCAA meets monthly. Each month, a guest speaker, usually a working artist is invited to speak. On Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., photographer Daryl Hawk is the guest speaker at the meeting at the Fairfield Public Library. In subsequent months, FCAA will meet at the Westport Public Library.

The networking club welcomes artists in all media, both professional and non-profession who want a place to learn from other artists, have their artwork critiqued in a supportive atmosphere and socialize with member artists. Membership includes monthly meetings, a monthly newsletter, exhibition opportunities and two annual parties. Monthly meetings are held the second Wednesday evening of the month, September through July. Meetings usually feature an artist speaker or demonstrator, a group critique of a recent artwork brought to the meeting by attending members; and an opportunity to talk to fellow artists. For further information call FCAA president, Eve Rogoff at 261-7982.