A lifelong artist who had her own studio for 20 years and a complete newcomer to the form are coming together for a shared gallery.

The vision behind the Rumriver Art Center’s artist mentorship program for older adults ages 55-plus is now on display, with the works from the pairing of mentor Angie Renee and mentee Lora Snyder. The program began last October, matching experienced mentors with older adults who didn’t have a chance to find their artistic voice earlier in life.

Renee had a studio at Northern Clay Center for 20 years and has taught for 18 years, using clay for most of her life.

“I’ve been a ceramic artist for about 20 some years, and when we started the ceramics at Rumriver Art Center it was kind of fun getting people going there,” Renee said. “When some of the artists got serious, I wanted to help guide them through their passions and to help them go out on their own. When we started the mentor program, Lora applied. She had been in one of my classes and she showed some natural talent that showed she could go off and do it on her own.”

“I really had no art background,” Snyder said. “My daughter is an art teacher. She invited me to a one-day class at Rumriver, but I had to cancel at the last minute. Susan at the Art Center told me about the eight-week throwing class for 55 and older adults, so I thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’

“After the class I was searching for more information on continuing with throwing. Looking for a used wheel, trying to build one myself and going to the open studio as much as I could. Angie encouraged me to apply, since she knew I was looking for a way to continue with my art.”

The partnership began, with weekly meetings over the past nine months, collaborating and discovering along the way.

“It was good because she would want to know things that I didn’t necessarily know, so I would have to do some exploring to help find answers for that, and that improved my knowledge and helped me think a little differently about my own art,” Renee said. “It was really good for me to find new ways to encourage her. That always opens up creative challenges.”

“It’s hard to pick just one thing since the whole experience was awesome – the most valuable part was the wealth of knowledge that Angie, Larry and the rest of the staff there shared with me,” Snyder said. “If I had to choose what was most enjoyable, I would say it was having the access to the studio. As a wheel throwing potter, it’s not an easy thing to just jump into without a bit of a financial commitment. The access gave me the opportunity to discover if that spark I felt the first day of class was going to turn into a full-blown fire.”

The passion was lit for Snyder, learning about artistry, herself in it, and her love of clay, all leading to her show titled “Functional Pottery: Using Art Everyday.”

“One of the things I learned was I’m a wheel potter,” Snyder said. “My preference is to make all my art on the wheel. I feel a door was opened into a world that is so vast that it will take the rest of my life to start to explore. The possibilities are endless with different clay bodies, glazes, temperatures and forms. The only boundaries are the ones I set in my mind. It really did help me to see that art is a very individual thing that speaks to us all in different ways. Angie helped me to hear my voice.

“It still feels a bit unreal to have it be in a gallery show with people telling me they like my work. I struggle with perfectionism. The show has helped me to see that what I perceive as a flaw someone else sees as beauty. I don’t feel like I chose clay, but rather it chose me.”

The title of Renee’s show is “Transformation: My Life with Birds,” a healing story that is part clay, part painting and part words.

“My work changed a lot,” Renee said. “It became intermixed clay paintings and word pieces, so it was kind of fun to do a show where I was doing other things. It was very organic in how it came together. Things would pop up and I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to do that, and oh, I’m going to try that.’ It was good to have the goal of a show to kind of inspire my creativity.”

The gallery began July 11 and runs through Aug. 7 at the Rumriver Art Center in Anoka.

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