Beyond the bucolic surroundings and past the portico has been hiding a well-kept artistic surprise that, thanks to Dick Meehan, has now been revealed.
Meehan, 81, a five-year resident of on Bridgeboro Road, has unveiled a booklet, Focus on the Arts at The Evergreens, which chronicles the striking and stunning works in 350 photographs of artists-in-residence of the facility. The collection is the upshot of fieldwork Meehan arranged, after recognizing that many of the folks living at The Evergreens were accomplished artists.
What reverberates while viewing the many collected works is the awe-inspiring knowledge that most of the artists were born in the days when gas cost 10 cents. The 37 artists, most between ages 80 and 100, detail their long-lived lives and their artistic aptitudes in biographies.
When he began the retrospective, Meehan, a retired partner from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, discovered most of the residents began their hobbies after retirement.
“Many attended formal classes in their chosen hobby earning college degrees,” says Meehan, who is married to Marianne and the father of three sons. He is also a member of the board of trustees and a resident ambassador of The Evergreens. “Most of the artists found their activity to be relaxing and therapeutic.”
Chuck Perry, 94, graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta with an electrical engineering degree. He worked for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Camden until entering the Army during the Second World War, spending five years in Europe with the Allied forces. After leaving the Army, he moved to California, where he worked as a vice president of guided missiles for Boeing Aircraft.
Needing another outlet and “tired of the politics” of corporations, Perry retired at age 61 and went back to college.
“After I retired, I studied art at California State University because I always liked to work with my hands,” says the twice-married Perry, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with two degrees in the fine arts: painting and sculpture.
Many of Perry’s paintings are vivid portraitures of coy women with mysterious expressions of wonder. His sculptures are intensely defined human busts; the one of himself is an uncanny resemblance. Most of his works were done up until five years ago, when he had to discontinue his hobby because of stiff legs.
“A good artist needs to step back sometimes and look at their work,” says Perry, who has lived at The Evergreens for 16 years. “I can’t do that anymore.”
After graduating from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan with a fine arts and fashion degree, Giovanna Wenderhorst set up window displays for H.E. Brown and Company, which had upscale stores in Garden City, NY. Wenderhorst, an octogenarian, started the chicken-wire sculpture props, used as backdrops with fashionably-dressed mannequins.
While raising her two kids, Wenderhorst did drawings and sketches for the Sunday New York Times and Newsday, but it’s her action-oriented paintings of ballet dancers that are most dramatic and dazzling.
Allergic to the linseed oil, a common particle of oil paint, Wenderhorst works with watercolors.
“I have to feel what I paint,” explains Wenderhorst.
Years before, she would assume the awkward positions of the ballerinas so she could play up on canvas the graphic shapes of the dancers. Among her other unique works is her painting series on the four natural elements—air, fire, water and earth—which have faces obscurely drawn within each composition.
“I find myself moving into different expressions during different periods of my life,” says Wenderhorst, a widow, who moved to Moorestown in 1994.
Centenarian Stuart Younkin began woodworking by assembling furniture after duplicating reproductions from Bartley Classic Reproductions catalogs.
“He still works in the woodworking room every morning,” says Meehan.
The spirited fellow has crafted more than 50 jewelry boxes, candle stands and tilt-top tables, using mahogany, cherry, maple and Spanish cedar woods.
Focus on the Arts at The Evergreens isn’t Meehan’s first book. A Korean War veteran, in 2007 Meehan learned there were 67 other veterans in-residence at The Evergreens and authored the booklet, Veterans Briefs, summarizing the veterans’ emotions and experiences that come with serving in the military.
Recently, Meehan hosted a PowerPoint presentation detailing the Focus on the Arts at The Evergreens booklet in the facility’s conference center. Visitors were touched and inspired by the creativity, so Meehan is planning another presentation.
“I put this project to bed without improving my personal skills in the arts,” says Meehan. “However, I am richer for the experience and salute all the artists who helped me put this booklet together.”