By Erica Satten
Carrboro Commons Public Relations Coordinator
Talented Orange County senior citizens have transformed the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center, located at 2551 Homestead Road, into an art gallery that will captivate visitors from April 6 to May 28. These Orange County artists are competing in SilverArts.
Orange County SilverArts is a local art competition that is part of Orange County Senior Games, a health promotion during April and May for adults 55 years of age and older. All participants must have lived in Orange County for at least three consecutive months of the year.
The games include diverse athletic competitions, and many participants train throughout the year for their events. SilverArts balances the athletic aspect of the competition.
“The concept is to have a venue for expressing yourself as we age,” said Lisa Berley, co-coordinator of Orange County Senior Games. “There are lots of people who can’t be involved in sports or choose not to, so they added SilverArts.”
Orange County Senior Games began in 1988. It is one of many local games that developed after North Carolina Senior Games was created in 1983. Orange County Senior Games is organized by The Orange County Department on Aging, The Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department, The Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department and The Orange County Parks and Recreation Department.
SilverArts also first existed at the state level. It became part of Orange County Senior Games in 1997.
“Orange County has a wealth of creativity, and SilverArts allows people to showcase this,” said Cyndee Sims, co-coordinator of SilverArts and operations manager of the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center.
The competition is divided into heritage and visual art. Overall, it includes more than 20 specific categories of art. Heritage art is crafts such as jewelry, needlework, pottery and quilts. Visual art includes works such as acrylics, pastels, photographs, watercolor paintings and mixed media.
“It’s a great opportunity to show your work,” said Chris Berndt, a Chapel Hill resident who has participated in SilverArts for three years.
SilverArts also includes the Orange County Jammers, a five-person cheerleading team. In addition to cheering competitively at the state games, the squad brings pep to Orange County Senior Games sports and SilverArts.
According to Berley, many people participate in both SilverArts and Senior Games sports. “Sometimes the people who do SilverArts start there and get involved in the sports part later,” Berley said. “It flows both ways.”
People who want to compete in sports have many options. Golf, swimming, horseshoes, tennis, badminton and bowling are just a few of many events. The activities are held in different locations in Orange County. Athletes who place first, second or third receive medals and advance to North Carolina Senior Games.
SilverArts is just as competitive as the athletic side of the games. Instead of medals, award-winning artists receive rosettes. In every category, artists who receive first and second place progress to the state level of SilverArts.
“I think the social part is as important as the competition, but I don’t think you should ever underestimate what competition means to people at every age,” said Berley.
SilverArts winners were recognized during an afternoon tea at the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center on Monday, April 6. This event also marked the opening of the art display in the center.
This year SilverArts was judged by Nerys Levy and Sara Gress, two local artists who have evaluated the competition’s pieces for more than four years. Levy, a painter and Carrboro resident, manages the Carrboro Branch Library Art Program. Gress owns the North Carolina Crafts Gallery in Carrboro, located at 212 W. Main St.
“I basically look for talent and creativity,” Levy said. “I also look for something a little adventurous. I’m always looking for innovation.”
Like the judges of SilverArts, many of the competitors have been serious about art for years. They create art in the community throughout the year.
“I would definitely say that art is a passion for every person who participates,” Sims said. “They’re very heavily involved in a lot of venues and the art and craft industry. A lot of them participate in various shows outside of here.”
Herb Slapo, an 82-year-old Chapel Hill resident, has participated in SilverArts four times. This year he placed second in the pastel category of visual arts for his entry “Aunt Fanny’s Angel.”
Slapo teaches pastel painting and portrait drawing at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. He also helped to found the Pastel Society of North Carolina and is a member of the Pastel Society of America.
Chris Berndt takes lessons from Slapo at the ArtsCenter. She won second place in the watercolor category for her painting “A Study in Burnt Sienna.” Her work explores the different tones of the color sienna.
Both participants look forward to bringing their art to the state competition. “We want the whole world to know us,” Slapo said.