Mary Gallant calls her art students at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center her “children.”
“The students … they became sisters,” she said at the opening of the center’s second-ever art show last Thursday.
Gallant has been teaching and facilitating art classes at the Senior Center since 2012 using DVD instructional materials from artists around the world. Gallant watches the DVDs and takes notes, learning the technique so she can help her students.
“It’s a very successful way to do it,” she said, and it keeps the classes affordable for seniors.
Gallant is 92 and has been volunteering at the Senior Center for more than 20 years. She’s recently been under the weather but was determined to make it to the show Thursday.
“I’m here – that was my goal,” she said.
The show presented the work of 12 student artists, as well as Gallant’s own work. Each student, and Gallant, donated one piece of art for which the sale proceeds would go directly into the Senior Center’s fund for its new facility.
Gallant’s piece, “The Chess Men,” was the first donated piece to sell.
Gallant herself didn’t take up painting until she was 85.
“I never stopped once I started,” she said.
And though she’s not sure if her health will allow her to keep teaching, her students are determined to keep painting.
“The students come here thinking they’re going to learn a skill, but they get much more than that,” said Robin Clough, the center’s volunteer and recreation coordinator. “The students are committed to continuing her legacy.”
Judy “Bartona” Strong has been taking classes at the Senior Center since Gallant began teaching them. She’s not sure in what form classes will continue without Gallant at the helm, but said she and her fellow students will keep going. After all, they’re family now.
“We decided we’re no longer students – we’re sisters,” she said.