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Artistic friends reunite at St. Catharine College

Painting and a mutual friendship with St. Catharine College art professor Bettye Brookfield has resulted in an annual reunion of artists at the college campus.

Ann Liggett from Lebanon and Theresa Wheatley, Betty Ann Mattingly and Susan Simpson from Springfield gathered recently for a week in Brookfield’s studio space on the campus to work on their own pieces and to catch up.

The banter is lively and there is a common response from each of the artists: they all thought (or still think) they can’t paint but Brookfield’s encouragement and instruction has proven them otherwise.

The group has had several members over the last eight years, but the four friends and Brookfield were faithful in their painting during the week they set aside.

Each met Brookfield in a unique way.

Wheatley’s son wanted to get her a nice gift, so he asked Brookfield if she would give painting lessons.

“When he told me, I about died,” Wheatley said. “I said, ‘I can’t paint.’”

Everyone in the room quickly chimed in to say how often they’ve heard Wheatley say that.

Wheatley painted ‘The Last Supper’ during a previous session with Brookfield. It’s framed and hangs in her home.

Liggett said she met Brookfield when the professor still owned The Starving Artist Café in downtown Springfield. Liggett helped with painting a mural on the side of the building. Brookfield later sold the building and it was painted over. Liggett said the mural was always the first thing she looked for when she drove through downtown.

Simpson met Brookfield through a seminar the professor held in the building that house The Starving Artist Café.

Brookfield asked Simpson, a former English teacher, to proofread a flyer advertising the seminar.

Simpson said she wished she could paint and Brookfield encouraged her to sign up for the seminar and try.

“Of course I had always loved art but I had never, ever tried making it,” Simpson said.

Simpson stayed for the weekend-long seminar and said she was always the last to bed because it took her longer than the other seminar participants.

At the end of the seminar, Simpson said, she took home three large pieces that she had painted.

A year later, she and Brookfield went to France, which became a tradition.

“When we go to France, we paint almost every day,” Simpson said.

In fact, Simpson said, she still has paintings that she started from the last trip to France that she needs to finish.

Every member of the group was hard at work on at least one piece during their week with Brookfield.

Liggett and Brookfield added that St. Catharine College President William D. Huston was very supportive of the program.

“He’s very supportive of this and often asks about them and he comes in sometimes and say hello,” Brookfield said. “It’s a really sweet, heartfelt part of the college.”

After a week of painting, the banter died down and the pieces were packed up to be admired home. Until next year for this group of artists.

Founded in the Dominican tradition in 1931 and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, St. Catharine College, a Catholic, Dominican college inspired by its founders, welcomes all to the challenging pursuit of truth, preparing them to become critical thinkers, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.

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