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Community’s partnership with ESU a true work of art

They say necessity is the mother of invention and that holds true for the unique partnership between Emporia Presbyterian Manor and its neighbor Emporia State University.

It all started in 2019, when Presbyterian Manor found itself in need of some new artwork to display around the community while a professor at Emporia State was on the lookout for a new demographic of models for his students to paint.

The collaboration that transpired brought budding ESU artists to the community where they created portraits of residents that were eventually put on display.

However, while the project was a huge success—and enjoyed by all—it was unfortunately cut short by the spread of the pandemic in early 2020.

So, when Professor Derek Wilkinson found himself teaching portrait painting again this past summer, he decided to give it another try.

“I thought it was a good time to see if folks at the Manor would be ready to do a collaboration like this again, and luckily, it all worked out,” said Derek.

This time around, 13 Presbyterian Manor residents were paired up with ESU students who got started by simply sitting down together to get to know each other—providing not only a sense of familiarity and comfort, but a chance for each artist to get to know their subject’s unique personality.

From there, the residents sat in pose for most of the afternoon while the students painted.

While sitting for that long of a time can get a little boring, Barbara Freerksen and some of her fellow resident models took it upon themselves to keep the mood light and fun.  

“I’d sit there in the middle of the room and make funny faces to make them smile. Then when I went up there, they were doing that to me,” said Barbara.

In the end, the collaboration was once again deemed a huge success by both those at the community and the college.

“The students learned a lot about what they would need to do if they were to become professional portrait painters, by interacting with strangers and having to conduct themselves in a professional manner,” said Derek. “The paintings turned out really well, and the residents seemed to enjoy the experience as well.”

Once the paintings were completed, they were first put on display at the community. Last month an exhibit of the art was featured on the ESU campus during the Emporia First Friday Art Walk.

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