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Laurel Circle’s Art Galley Features Works From Entire Community

Yvonne standing with artwork
COVID and renovations lead to exhibit showcasing works by residents, staff, family


At Laurel Circle, a lifeplan community in Bridgewater, NJ, a challenge presented by COVID led to a wonderful new way for residents, staff, and their families to connect — through the sharing of their artistic talents and perspectives.

For 18 years, independent living resident Joan Bloomer has curated exhibits in the community’s revolving art gallery space. With a background in both commercial art and fine art, she was a perfect fit to take on the challenge of finding interesting pieces to adorn the gallery’s 60-foot wall.

“We featured works by many accomplished local artists in the gallery over the years,” she explains. “Usually switching out exhibitions every eight weeks. But then when COVID came, we had to change our plans.”

Laurel Circle resident and Exhibition Curator Joan Bloomer works on a still life in Doris Doku’s weekly Painting with Doris Class.

For much of 2020, bringing in a new artist’s works wasn’t feasible because of the community’s pandemic safety restrictions.

And even when the community began to open up, Laurel Circle’s massive $8 million renovation project made dropping off and picking up outside art complicated.

First, Bloomer created an exhibit from pieces she found in the storage that had accumulated over the years. And then she had an even better idea: ask her fellow artists — both seasoned creatives and new talents —  in the Laurel Circle family to contribute to a special art show featuring their own work.

The resulting exhibition boasts eye-catching pieces from 14 residents, team members, and family members. Work by a 96-year-old resident is displayed alongside a piece by his 6-year-old great-granddaughter.

Yvonne Walk, who works in the community’s transportation department, contributed stunning drawings of an eagle and a tiger, and paintings of a stream and a bird to the exhibit.

Food and Beverage team member Doris Doku, who also is teaching a weekly art class to residents as part of an internship with the Community Life department, contributed two powerful self portraits and a painting of a tree trunk to the exhibition. Doku attended Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of Fine Arts.

Resident Anne Russo’s warm and placid renderings of a boat and cattails are displayed next to her grandson’s photographs of snowy trees and dark clouds over New York Harbor.

Laurel Circle Resident Anne Russo’s “The Boat” and “Peace Morning” are hung next to her grandson’s photography.

“People notice new things about the pieces each time they walk by,” Bloomer explains. “They are taking the time to stop and read the labels about the works and the artists. They are seeking the artists out and engaging each other in conversations about the art. It’s become a real way to connect.”

Bloomer hopes that the exhibition will inspire more residents to visit the art studio to explore their creativity or work with new media.

“While I have always been creative and have tried many different disciplines, I didn’t work in oils until I came here,” she says. “And now I’m learning a new technique: sponge painting. Change isn’t a dirty word. You have to keep moving and growing or you get stuck — so try something new and amaze yourself.”