Reaching retirement age does not necessarily mean you want to stop working. This is especially true if your work is also your passion. The Life Reimagined Institute, a division of AARP (www.lifereimagined.aarp.org), helps working seniors feel more rewarded and fulfilled by their careers. The institute’s mission is to help seniors rediscover what truly matters and focus on what they really want to do with the next chapter of their lives.
For creative seniors who are passionate about art, retirement offers advantages and opportunities to pursue their passions.
The Heights is home to many professional artists who also happen to be seniors. Among them is Mona Kolesar, a professional artist for more than 40 years. After receiving a B.S. in art education from Penn State University, she spent her early career teaching—helping others discover their creative personalities. In 1975, she struck out on her own, creating her own art while also offering art consulting services. She gave up consulting in 2000 to focus solely on her passion for creating.
Kolesar’s earlier works were large-scale sculptures made of stone and metal for commercial buildings, influenced by her childhood environment, growing up in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. Her current sculptures are smaller and lighter, made of bent wood and metal, and are inspired by the creative processes of the brain.
Asked how reaching retirement age affected her work, Kolesar said, “Art has no age boundaries. As you age you refine your own craft, and you focus on more of the things that appeal to you.”
Cleveland Heights resident Susan Squires has been a professional artist for more than 20 years. She received a B.F.A. in painting and drawing from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Shortly thereafter, she began experimenting with adding wax to her paintings. “Wax adds depth and surface to my work,” she said. Her paintings take historic writings, geometric shapes and city plans, and add layers of color and wax over them to create contemporary works.
Squires feels that retirement is a perfect time for beginning, or continuing, a creative endeavor. “I can spend a lot of time with my art now,” she said. “There is more time for discovering and learning.”
Kolesar and Squires agree that expressing oneself through art in retirement is a metaphor for life. The longer you live, the more confidence you gain—in who you are as an artist as well as who you are as a person. “After years of experimentation, I am more confident in my work, and everything flows better than ever before,” commented Squires. Said Kolesar, “Artists don’t retire, we just keep on keeping on as long as we can.”