Perham seniors flex their artistic abilities in Briarwood art show

On the evening of Monday, Oct. 4 Briarwood hosted an art show to display acrylic paintings recently created by residents.

Pat Ahlfs sits next to the paintings she completed over the past few months. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
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Who says you can't learn new things once you reach a certain age? Residents at Briarwood — a senior assisted living facility on the Perham Living campus — are proving that old stereotype wrong.

For the past few months, artist Anna Lassonde, of Jollybird Studio in Detroit Lakes, has been visiting Briarwood to lead acrylic painting classes with a group of residents there. The classes were offered twice a month before recently wrapping up, leaving Briarwood seniors with some finished art pieces to show off.

So, on the evening of Oct. 4, Briarwood — located at 630 Fifth St. S.W. — hosted an art show.

One resident, Pat Ahlfs, talked about the painting classes and how much she loved them. She had painted earlier in life, too, when she was still in school, and she enjoys it quite a bit. The classes gave her a chance to flex her creativity and give her something to do.


This loon was one of several acrylic paintings Ahlfs completed. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

When Lassonde would visit, Ahlfs said, she'd bring a few painting samples along with her, such as an American flag or a loon, so students could be inspired by those and reference them as they created their own paintings.

Another resident, Violet Zitzow, commented that learning to paint was a fun process for her.

Violet Zitzow sits next to her own paintings at Briarwood's art show. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

She had never painted prior to the recent classes, but found the classes so engaging that she didn't find herself thinking about the difficulties behind learning a new skill -- she simply had a good time.

Zitzow had a lot of fun completing this piece as well as all her other paintings. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)


Darlene Mackner seconded that. Despite also having never painted before, the Briarwood resident said she had an amazing amount of fun.

"It was really fun (to learn a new skill)," she said with a smile in her eyes. "(Lassonde) was a really good teacher."

Darlene Mackner sits next to her acrylic paintings, including her original work. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Mackner followed some of Lassonde's examples of what to paint, but also took it a step further by making some of her own original pieces, including one of a poppy and another one of an apple.

The hardest piece for her to paint, she said, was of a silhouette of a horse standing in a field during sunset. She took her own spin on that one, adding the sunset background all on her own (Lassonde had provided the horse for students to paint).

Lassonde helped the students when needed, but often let them work independently so they could learn on their own.


Mackner, who painted this work, said it was the hardest of her collection to complete. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

In addition to the individual pieces created by Briarwood residents, the class members are all collaborating on a currently-unfinished 48x48" painting that will hang on a wall at Briarwood, high above the facility's dining room, displaying residents' brand new skills to all those who enter.

"It was all just a fun time," Zitzow said, reflecting on the class.

Briarwood can be reached at 218-347-1865, and Lassonde's studio can be reached at 701-261-4023.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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