Arts as we age: Wild Mushrooms collaborative of five older women artists will showcase work in weekend program

  • The members of the Wild Mushrooms will host two exhibitions of their artistic creations this weekend. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2022 2:11:13 PM
Modified: 6/2/2022 2:09:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Aging, and how to go about it, is a subject that occupies many. And for the Wild Mushrooms, a collaborative of five older women, this stage of their lives represents a great opportunity to make art.

“Making art is a way of staying vital,” said Ellen Wittlinger, a member of the collaborative. “I think it is the thing that really keeps you functioning and happy as you age.”

The Wild Mushrooms will put on two events this weekend to showcase their work. The first event will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, while the second is at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Both events take place at the Northampton Center for the Arts at 33 Hawley St., and are set to be the first events that the collaborative has put on. Tickets will cost $15 at the door if paid for with cash or check, with an additional $2 charge to pay by card. There’s also a service fee for tickets if purchased online.

The program will feature the work of each of the five women, which will range from a musical performance to an animated film.

After each of the programs have been completed, the audience will be invited to do a talkback with the Wild Mushrooms about the work, as well engage in a dialogue on making art as one gets older.

“A lot of people after retirement are leading productive lives,” said Madelyn Farr.

Farr, 70, of Williamsburg, came up with the idea for the Wild Mushrooms in the fall of 2019. A journalist, dance instructor, choreographer and dancer, Farr said that she “fell in love with the movement” of Egyptian belly dance, and decided to try and learn it.

“I ended up teaching myself,” she said.

This journey with belly dance began two years ago for Farr, and in the June events she will perform a dance piece called “Sampling the Divine.”

Farr said that presenting this piece is a thrill, and that she is interested in working in this form of dance with other people.

Farr isn’t alone in her enthusiasm for the upcoming events.

“I think we’re all pretty excited,” said Lilin Tseng. “Nervous also.”

When Tseng, 63, was approached by Farr about joining the group, she was working on her memoir. She has since finished the memoir and has adapted one of its chapters into a five-minute animated film that will be shown this weekend.

The adapted chapter tells a story from when Tseng was growing up in Taiwan, when corporal punishment was common in schools there, and deals with the first teacher that showed kindness to her.

“She really turned my life around,” Tseng said, who now lives in Granby.

A teacher, as well as a freelance artist of more than 20 years, Tseng taught herself animation in order to bring the chapter to life. She plans on animating a chapter of her memoir every summer, and is currently searching for a literary agent for it.

Tseng also designed the website for the group, as well as its flyers.

Wittlinger, 73, of Williamsburg, is a retired novelist who has returned to playwriting. She will perform her play “Four Daughters” this weekend. The play is about two women, one elderly and another entering that stage of life, who meet in front of a painting at a Boston museum. It has been performed several times around the country.

Wittlinger said that she hopes that other older people can connect with the Wild Mushrooms and put on their own events.

Also this weekend, Carol Smith will present a music performance entitled “Swinging Into Summer.” A local jazz singer, Smith, 75, will sing a pair of jazz standards for “Swinging Into Summer”: “Up Jumped Spring” and “Yesterdays.”

“For me, music keeps me going,” Smith said.

A resident of Easthampton, Smith said it’s nice to see other women in her age range being passionate about their art. She said that for musicians and dancers it’s especially important to practice their art, as ones changing body affects this.

Smith also noted that she took up the saxophone about five years ago, and plays the instrument in the New Horizons Band and the Holyoke Senior Band.

The final participant, Susan Waltner will present her dance piece “Mourning Suite,” which will feature multiple dancers.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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