An ageless display in Portage

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Senior Living

Published on February 08, 2012 with No Comments

For the most part, there was a positive mix of art and the creators of art.

The 12th annual senior art exhibition is on the walls and in the display cases of the Portage public library through the end of the month.

At the show’s opening, the artisans mingled, first to find their own works but certainly more often to discuss the talents of their co-creators.

“She was more daring,” whispered one to another. The second shot back, “I want to be more daring.”

“I just take a piece of wood and see what you can do with it,” explained another.

Jacqueline Varing is 80. She is a painter and pencil artist.

“I started in my ’70s,” she said. “With a drawing class.”

More than 60 artisans have more than 140 pieces on display, from paintings and photographs of all kinds to intricate woodwork and unbelievable sculptures.  It is the largest show ever.

Some of the work would sell in the finest galleries, no questions asked.

Like the dragons created by Al Cernius. They look modern and goth, tinged with color but all ready to strike.

He uses rebar. “I don’t make sketches,” he said. “I just take it down to my basement, fire up my forge and go from there.”

His wife, Teresa, said, “If you like the dragons you should see the snakes.”

Walter Spuck works with bones, taking irregular natural shapes and painting them with a new identity.

He explained one of his grandchildren lives near some railroad tracks and, when he polices the area, he will find some bones and bring them to him.

“The first one I ever did was an ox tail,” he said. He’s 84. His wife of 45 years, Dolly, is a constant support, as are his children, who all came to the opening event. Dolly most recently donated bones from a holiday turkey to the cause.

Then there’s Manny Riba. At 100 years old, he is retired from U.S. Steel. But it is probably not a surprise he drifted into working with metal.

“But I have only been doing this five or six years,” he said.

His copper sculpture at this year’s exhibit honors the Chicago Blackhawks.  He also has an oil painting entered.

His son, Richard, is a big fan. He said he just likes to enjoy his dad’s work.

One of the attendees was former mayor Olga Velasquez. She was on the original advisory committee which got this project launched.

Three pieces from various shows are on permanent display in city hall.

And anyone can contact the artisans to buy or commission more work. That’s another element to the show.

There is no judging, but many artists find new fans and clients here.

For more information on the art show at the Portage Public Library, 2665 Irving St., call 219-763-1508.

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the

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