Finding Their Tribe: Lakeview Village Artists Come Together to Create
Lakeview Village has long been a community rich with talented residents. One of the greatest benefits of living in this community is the ability to find, sometimes through formal events, but often by accident, friends who share your interests, passions and points of view.
In 1965, Grace Love organized a formal coterie of artists dubbed “The Painter’s Union,” which met regularly to paint in a community room. This group of six was the first formal organization of artists at Lakeview Village, and art has been a mainstay of our community ever since, whether through the oil painting classes commonplace from 1970 to 2005, or the art shows that began in late 2001.
As the new millennium dawned, residents driven to create art started a committee to showcase resident art in the administrative hallway at Heritage Place. The original committee included Jo Neff, Shirley Pirnie, Rosanna Thompson, Ginny Levy and Sue Hamilton.
Where once was a mashup of disparate artworks by previous Lakeview residents, these five women saw only potential. Their vision: to curate resident art shows, showcasing pieces centered on a common theme or idea. Out came the nails and hangers, the frames and the labels. Every two months there was a “hanging party” as new pieces were arranged and fussed over. Each placement of a painting was carefully considered.
The first show, Free Choice, opened in October 2001. Subsequent themes were Landscapes, Fabric Art and Birds, Beasts and Bugs.
“We viewed each theme as a challenge to create something new and grow as artists,” Hamilton said of the early shows. “The five of us used to go to local art shows and meet together once a month, and we would take turns planning something to paint.”
She said the original five met serendipitously after arriving at Lakeview, and discovered they all shared a desire not only to create art, but also to grow in their art and push themselves outside of their comfort zones.
When Eastside Terrace opened in 2010, it included a lower level art gallery so the resident art shows could expand. The original committee continued to stage shows until December 2013. In total, the nascent art committee presented 47 shows between October 2001 and December 2013, displaying art from approximately 125 resident artists.
When Colleen Thebo arrived at Lakeview Village in 2014, as an accomplished watercolorist and member of the Johnson County Senior Arts Council, she often heard people describe the location of the computer lab as, “across from the art gallery.” But at that time, she said, there was no art gallery.
After a bit of investigating, Colleen reached out to Shirley Pirnie, one of the original five, to begin the process of curating new resident art shows, with the help of Shellie Sullivan from Community Life. By this time, Lakeview Village was home to quite a few artists working in various mediums, and an art studio had been set up in the lower level of Northpointe overlooking Fountain Lake.
“The art space is probably the best in Kansas City,” according to resident Maura Conry. “There are north-facing windows; artists love north-facing windows because you get diffused light. The floor is concrete, so it can be splattered, and there is plenty of space.”
Penny Dillon moved to Lakeview Village in 2016 so she could take advantage of the space. She said there is plenty of room for artists, and she likes creating with other artists nearby.
“There’s nothing more exciting for an artist, than to talk to another artist,” Dillon said. “It’s validating.”
Stan Meyer, who builds doll houses in the shared studio space at Northpointe, agrees.
“Everyone was very welcoming,” he said. “There are so many talented people here of all kinds; teachers, artists, musicians. As you get older you have more time to express yourself.”
The collaborative, artistic environment is not limited to the studio space. Anna Mae Greiner and Laura Peterson were neighbors in a garden cottage on Cottonwood for several years, and they are both painters. They would carry their latest works down the hall to receive feedback and advice for improvements.
“We had our paintings hanging down the hallway,” Greiner said. “Art is a way for me to release my energy and get better acquainted with people. I’m a stay-at-home person, so art is my social outlet.”
Ellen Rangel was riding the bus one day when she met Peterson, who has since taken her under her wing.
“I always, in the back of my mind, wanted to learn to paint,” Rangel said. “I was on the bus when I met Laura, and I asked if she was willing to take on a novice.”
As a new painter, Rangel is appreciative of the warm and welcoming community of artists at Lakeview.
“If I were living somewhere else, I think I would be too scared to show my work [in the gallery] alongside accomplished artists,” she said. “But people here have been so nice; they’ve made me feel comfortable showing my work.”
The circle of artists continues to grow. Jack Miller moved to Lakeview Village in 2016.
“I was aware of some of the art stuff going on – the studio, the art gallery. But I was not aware that it was as significant as it is,” Miller said of the strong art community. “It’s surprising to me that there are so many good artists all living here.”
Not only do our artists feel supported by fellow artists; they are encouraged by the rest of the community.
“Many people really appreciate what we do – that we have an art show,” said Christa Finger. “People get together and get to know each other, then see one of your pieces in the art show, and it opens up a whole new topic of conversation.”
Thebo is looking forward to future art shows in the gallery at Eastside Terrace, and she encourages any artist at Lakeview Village to submit art.
“I hope as [the art shows] continue, we will get more people involved,” Thebo said. “There is plenty of room for more exhibitors.”