COLUMBIA — The women who attend the 50 Plus Program’s painting class every Monday gather not only to share a mutual love for art, but also consolation for their shared hardships of aging and loss.
The painting class, offered through Columbia Parks and Recreation, is a place for beginners and returning hobby artists to practice with oils, acrylics, watercolors and even colored pencils.
Not all of the women come every week, but they always meet. If the offices are closed, such as on Monday holidays, they go to someone’s house.
A few men have joined the group for brief periods, but none of them have stayed with it.
Joyce Huber has been in the group the longest, since 2003, through the deaths of other members and also the class’s former teacher, Marion Shaw, who died in January. She was 90.
Huber said Shaw came to class until a few weeks before her death. Shaw provided instruction for new students, but just comments for the veterans. Although the group members miss Shaw, they've been able to continue meeting without an instructor.
Debbie Reschly, a recreation specialist who organizes the class, said she did not know if the program would hire a new teacher for the class.
The women have always offered what member Carol Koenig termed “gentle criticism” to help one another improve.
“We just gather together because we enjoy each other’s company,” Koenig said. “We’ve become quite close friends.”