The Hippo


Jun 3, 2020








Peg Beard at her home studio. Kelly Sennott photo.

Art by Peg Beard

Where: Leach Public Library, 276 Mammoth Road, Londonderry

When: On view through Aug. 31

Discovering Creativity
Peg Beard proves you're never too old to start

By Kelly Sennott

Three years ago, 89-year-old Peg Beard couldn’t have cared less about art.
Whenever she attend outdoor art shows or festivals, she was far more captivated by the nature surrounding them — the river that cut through the park or the rolling mountains in the backdrop.
“My mind was interested in everywhere else but the art,” Beard said at her Derry home last week. She sat in her bedroom-turned-art-studio, where light poured in multiple windows and collections of acrylic and multi-media paintings coated the walls. 
Her perception changed when, after a cardiac arrest in April 2012, she moved into her daughter’s Derry house and discovered she was actually pretty good at painting — and that she liked it.
It took a bit of coaxing to get her started, but she eventually picked up a paintbrush at Here on Earth, an elderly care business that a woman named Stacy Thrall ran out of her Londonderry home.
“You could do whatever you wanted there,” Beard said matter-of-factly. “I could have gone into another room if I wanted to. … But Stacy said, ‘Why don’t you try it?’ Well, I tried it, and the first picture I ever painted is over there.”
She gestured to the wall next to her window, covered in art, where in the center stood a beach landscape at sunset. She’d painted it with guidance from Teri Trosone, the art teacher at Here on Earth who still works with Beard every Tuesday.
“The day she brought that home, we were like, ‘You didn’t do that,’” said her daughter, Donna Fleming. 
But she had. And she liked it, so she kept at it, continuing to surprise her family and herself. She can hardly remember why she chooses a certain color or why she makes a certain brush stroke. She can hardly even say why she still likes painting — only that she does. Currently, she has 65 paintings to her name.
Thrall closed her business, but Beard kept taking lessons from Trosone. She had a painting displayed at an art show at Elliot Hospital, and starting at the beginning of August, she had her first full exhibition at the Leach Public Library in Londonderry, where quaint pieces of art inspired by New Hampshire stand along the building’s indoor perimeter. “Country Cottage” depicts a stone farmhouse on a blue-skyed day, and “Peggy’s Cove, Canada” is a lighthouse painted on a water-washed rocky shore. 
Fleming said the art goes to show how someone’s outlook on life can change after a diagnosis — or two diagnoses, as was the case for Beard after the cardiac arrest.
“The doctors said I had Alzheimer’s, but I don’t believe it,” Beard said. “I say, they’re crazy.”
At the interview, Beard zoomed about the house with ease and enthusiasm to show off a couple more paintings: a palm tree at sunset, and a multi-media cottage set at the edge of a mountain. Later, she and Trosone would take a shopping trip for new supplies and scour the woods for twigs, stones and pieces of slate for their next piece, which would depict a church.
Fleming said she’s seen a remarkable change in her mother. Beard was always independent — she lived in Keene nearly all her life, and co-owned and ran Inkwell Gift Shop there until 2007. Even at 89, she makes an effort to walk at least 2 miles every day, 4 if she’s at the beach with a friend. But she wasn’t always so open to new ideas, or new people.
“She has a totally new enthusiasm,” Fleming said. “Now she’s a social butterfly. … It gives her something to look forward to, something she really enjoys doing. I think it opens up her mind to all kinds of new ideas.”
For people in the health profession, Beard’s reaction to painting shouldn’t be too surprising; art and music have been known to help not only with Alzheimer’s and dementia but in all sorts of therapy. It helps instill a feeling of accomplishment, and it provides an outlet for self-expression. Locally, it’s been demonstrated to help with addiction, too, celebrated in an event Sept. 19 at the New Hampshire Institute of Art called Inspired Recovery.
Beard hopes her success will provide encouragement for others.
“I hope that maybe, after seeing what I’ve done, people will have the energy to try it,” Beard said. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu