VITALITY: Living in colorAn increasing number of seniors in Grand Forks are embracing renewed vigor through artistic expression. “I suppose for most of my life, I wanted to be an artist, but I did not go to school at a time when art programs were available to us,” says Betty Bloomquist, 77. “There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity in my small town.”
By: Will Powell, Grand Forks Herald
An increasing number of seniors in Grand Forks are embracing renewed vigor through artistic expression. “I suppose for most of my life, I wanted to be an artist, but I did not go to school at a time when art programs were available to us,” says Betty Bloomquist, 77. “There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity in my small town.”
Bloomquist, who’s dabbled “off-and-on” in painting and drawing for many of her years, lived in Harvey, N.D., as a teacher for most of her life before retiring and relocating to Grand Forks in 2000 to be closer to her daughter. Shortly after moving to Grand Forks, a neighbor introduced Bloomquist to the River Forks Water Color Society. Since 2000, Bloomquist has gained respect within several local artistic circles for her paintings, drawings, collages and doodles. She also has served as the president for ArtWise, a local program sponsored by the North Valley Arts Council, to foster artistic talent in local youth.
“I am aware that when something new is developing, like this fascination with doodling, it’s something that’s fairly new in my life,” Bloomquist says. “It’s exciting to do.”
‘A focus of life’
Although Brian Paulsen, 72, and Dianne Paulsen, 70, have been artists for most of their lives, they find that retirement brings greater opportunities to produce artwork and to get involved with the local art community. “It gives me a focus of life … plus integrating activity with my wife, children, grandchildren,” Brian says.
The Paulsens have lived in Grand Forks for 39 years. Brian Paulsen focused on producing “childlike fantasy” paintings and photography during his career as a professional artist, and taught painting, design and art history at UND until he retired. Brian still enters his artwork in 15 to 18 competitive art shows per year, and is currently exhibiting his work in Colorado, Wisconsin, Montana and Texas. Dianne retired from the human resources field in 2004 and says her artwork schedule has picked up considerably since her retirement.
“I’ve always had some kind of craft or hobby to do and my husband has always been in the studio, working at home, too,” Dianne says. “I go through phases. I went through phases of making wheat-weaving when the kids were young … I’ve done a lot of beading, I’ve done a lot of knitting.”
Kinship through craft
Bloomquist and Dianne Paulsen think being involved in the social aspect of the Grand Forks arts scene is one of the most attractive advantages of being a local artist.
“The water color group is one of the first groups I found when I was in Grand Forks, and I have seen artists progress so much as they worked with water color painters,” Bloomquist says. “We brought teachers in; almost every summer we have a workshop. The other part of it is we’re not only introduced to new methodologies in water color painting and new materials, but it becomes a mutual support group. The group always looks at and analyzes our work. They have set up opportunities for showing work.”
“I’ve got stuff at the 3rd Street Gallery now, and I donated a pair of crystal earrings to the museum for their Mother’s Day show,” Dianne says.
As a professional artist, however, Brian Paulsen views the local arts community with unique perspective.
“It’s rather Spartan, it’s lowkey, it’s got a small population of people interested in it that are doing art,” Brian says. “Usually, artists start out on their own and kind of stay solo, myself included, but some of the crafts groups have a certain camaraderie or a social stigma.”
“In the community, that’s not included in the university, of course,” Dianne adds.
“They’re not really as serious, in the introverted way,” Brian says. “They’re more [extroverted]; they enjoy relating what they’re doing to other people, trading craft clues about materials, methods, techniques … I think I stay more to myself because I really don’t have anyone else to communicate with as far as what I’m doing.”
Brian and Dianne are often asked to donate their work. In 2012, the pair won the Art Supporters of the Year award from the North Valley Arts Council in recognition of Brian’s contributions to the North Dakota Museum of Art, and Dianne’s efforts while serving on North Valley Arts Council and her contributions to the Empire Arts Center. Brian and Dianne have bonded through art and share the bond with their three grandchildren. Their 9-year-old granddaughter even crafts things for her dolls, Dianne says.
“Our grandchildren draw really well,” Dianne says.
The Paulsens and Bloomquist now find themselves elders amidst artist circles, given their long histories of involvement. Bloomquist remembers when the River Forks Water Color Society met “in the back of a dental clinic,” but it now meets at the Parkwood Senior Living Facility. Dianne Paulsen’s knitting group meets at Caribou Coffee every Wednesday and averages 12 to 18 participants for each meeting.
“[Art] makes me rethink how I draw, rethink how I use pencils, and it’s amazing to me how going back to this simple tool that I was able to handle as a child, and continue to use it and love it,” Bloomquist says.
“I look forward to the next project,” Dianne says. “It makes me alert and interested, and I like the people, and I think that’s good for your health.”
Copyright 2013, Grand Forks Herald.