The mission at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Senior Living community in Hingham, Mass., is to "share our gifts to create a community that celebrates life." From the moment resident Martha "Marty" Saunders moved in, she has exemplified that mission. Her many artistic talents - including oil painting, sculpture, and landscaping - have even helped launch a number of new clubs and groups at the community.
As a "pioneer" resident who moved to Linden Ponds as soon as it opened, Marty says, “It was great being here at the beginning. My neighbors and I had a lot of fun and influence.”
A reflection of that influence was recently on display, as the Linden Ponds Art Council exhibited more than 70 portraits Marty had painted as part of a workshop she began shortly after her 2005 move.
“Marty is a gift to all of us,” says Fran Charles, a neighbor who coordinated the exhibit. “She is very modest, but her gifts are tremendous and her paintings are exceptional. Her talent is special.”
The journey begins
When she moved in, Marty quickly joined her new neighbors in setting the groundwork for activities that would foster rich community spirit at Linden Ponds.
“We were all in the right place at the right time,” she says. “Together, we initiated many clubs and activities. And the staff made it so easy to do so! If there was an interest, we were encouraged to start a group.”
As a professional portrait painter, Marty first began sharing her gifts through the creation of the Linden Ponds’ portrait painting group.
“Most people paint from photos,” she notes. “I wanted to introduce my neighbors to the experience of painting from a live model. Having a live model provides unmatched opportunities to capture expression and personality.”
With the assistance of neighbors and staff, who volunteer as live models, the group meets every Sunday. Marty paints alongside workshop participants, offering her finished painting to the model at the end of each workshop.
However, “Not everyone wants a portrait of themselves, and for those who do not, I keep the portraits in my home studio,” she says. Over the last fifteen years, Marty has collected more than 100 of these portraits.
“When I look at all these marvelous people - all with different, inspiring backgrounds - it’s fascinating to me,” she says. “They were all so generous to sit and let us paint them.”
Creativity on display
It is from this fascinating collection of portraits that the idea for the recent exhibition took root.
“It’s quite an experience to look through the years of paintings and see how people have or have not changed,” she says. “There is one couple I painted in 2006 - I swear they haven’t changed an iota.”
The exhibit, Marty Saunders Painting Our Community, earned rave reviews, and attendees had the chance to talk with Marty at a reception. The portraits were available for purchase, with proceeds donated to the Benevolent Care Fund, which provides residents with a “home for life” - assistance is given to those whose personal, financial resources have been depleted.
More gifts to share
In addition to leading portrait painting workshops, Marty also teaches a sculpture class, taking advantage of the community’s kiln.
“I did sculpture professionally for years,” she says. “Soon after my move, I scheduled our first sculpture class. It’s a very active group, one that lends itself to lots of creativity and variety.”
Encouraging the class to create sculptures from their hearts, Marty teaches the basic principles of working with clay, and then steps back, allowing students to explore.
“When people sculpt from the heart, you can really see spirit in their work,” she says. “I encourage people to go explore in their own direction.”
Caring for the landscape
Marty’s artistic gifts aren’t confined to the indoors, though.
“When I moved to Linden Ponds, the new landscaping and plantings really piqued my interest,” she says. “We are very blessed with these beautiful surroundings.”
Marty created a landscape committee that assists staff in the care of the community’s extensive grounds. She also formed the Weeders and Groomers group that weeds and plants annuals around Rose Court and works with neighbors on the annual flower show.
Marty’s enthusiasm for contributing to community life shows no sign of easing up. In addition to her art classes and committee responsibilities, she gives lectures on art through the Linden Ponds Lifelong Learning program and conducts bus tours of Hingham to help acquaint residents with the history of their town.
“Life at Linden Ponds is wonderful,” she says. “I’m grateful for the many ways I am able to share my passions with my neighbors.”
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