Creativity unites artists, community

Seniors channel talents, display works at library
2010-02-07T00:00:00Z Creativity unites artists, communityBy Joyce Russell -, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222

PORTAGE | Art brought Robert Austin and Sam Smith together twice in their lifetimes.

Smith, 65, was Austin's art teacher at Lake Station's Edison High School in the 1970s.

Fast-forward 30-some years. The two came together again Saturday, this time as exhibitors at the 10th annual Senior Art Exhibit at Portage's public library sponsored by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Senior Services.

Smith said he saw Austin putting on his name tag Saturday afternoon and thought he looked familiar.

"He looked at me, and I looked at him," he said, laughing, as he described their reunion.

Smith, of Hobart, left teaching and worked until he retired from a local steel mill. Austin, 57, of Portage, still works as a switchman for a railroad company. Both continued to dabble in art. Smith put his photographs on display Saturday but particularly enjoys working in pastels.

Austin said, besides his high school years under Smith, he's primarily a self-taught painter. Saturday was the first time he publically exhibited his works.

Their pieces of art were among the 75 displayed by 40 artists during the exhibit. Media ranged from oil and watercolors to photography and wood carvings. One artist transformed turkey, chicken and ham bones into creatures.

"This is much bigger than last year," said City Councilwoman Sue Lynch, who coordinates the event. "We encourage seniors to participate with their art and show the community the talents we have. We want to develop the arts in this community."

Joseph Romanik, of Portage, has exhibited his oil paintings in the show since its beginning. He didn't start painting until about 10 years ago when he retired from a local utility company.

"Other artists suggested painting as a hobby, and I got started," Romanik said. "It is a good tension reliever if you want to relax. You concentrate on the painting and forget everything else. I like to go to art fairs in the summer to see what other people are doing. You meet a lot of nice people."

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