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Art's Unlikely Home: Retirement Communities


A look at Horiuchi's rare work on display at Aljoya tonight

You don’t have to visit a museum to see works from the world famous artist Paul Horiuchi this afternoon. Instead, a jaunt over to Mercer Island’s retirement community Aljoya will do the trick. Desiring a little Chihuly? The University House in Wallingford has some of his work on display as part of its permanent collection. Retirement community art exhibits are growing fast, popping up in neighborhoods across Seattle that offer glances at works by renowned masters of the art world minus a museum admission fee.

It used to be that art was a matter of circumstance at retirement communities, such as at the University House where resident and former director at the Bellevue Art Museum, LaMar Harrington, used to stage art shows for the residents. When Harrington died, it was impossible for the remaining residents to think of their walls being bare without art. So exhibit curator Charlotte Beall was hired by the senior living company, Era Living, nearly six years ago, to keep the process rolling.

Era Living considers the exhibits as a great opportunity to reach out to the public as well as enhance resident life. Beall recalls a moment last night, while she hung Horiuchi’s work, that touched her.“I heard a couple say to one another ‘shall we stroll through the art now?’ and you realize it’s this whole energizing thing.”

While many retirement communities cannot afford to hire a curator such as Beall, places like the Horizon House downtown contain valuable collections from Katy Stone, Mark Tobey and work from Chihuly’s early days. Stuart Williamson, in charge of Horizon's art, is proud of his group of Northwest masters. “There’s not a lot of money for acquisition right now, but we hope to pick up a couple more this year.”

As for the turnout for Beall’s opening nights, the numbers are growing each year. Tomorrow’s University House opening, Inspired by the West, could easily attract three hundred viewers. Five thousand invites were mailed out for the Aljoya’s Horiuchi exhibit.

During warmer weather, Beall hosts the reception outside accompanied by generous appetizers and music. Until then, she likes to envision the exhibits to be inside what she refers to as "an elegant setting.

Check out more upcoming Seattle exhibits here.


Photo courtesy of Aljoya