Covenant Place residents get their moment at St. Louis Art Museum

Covenant Place resident Bernie Rosenberg said he “traveled through his imagination” while painting to a place he had visited when he was younger.

By Ellen Futterman

If you’ve been to the St. Louis Art Museum recently, you may have noticed a display of colorful paintings by the museum’s gift shop. Entitled “Covenant Place: Family, Culture, Traditions,” this Student Gallery exhibition features works by Covenant Place residents depicting their families, culture and traditions.

The paintings are part of Art With Us, a community outreach program that provides arts experiences for youth and adults in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Teaching artist Sarah Paulsen instructed roughly 15 Covenant Place residents during the 10-week program in color mixing, layering paint and color harmonies so that participants could learn to make personal connections through storytelling, memory and the arts. The classes were conducted at Covenant Place.

Bernie Rosenberg, a Covenant Place resident in his 90s, painted the red rocks in Arizona, where he hiked in his youth. “He told me that while he can’t go there anymore, he was able to travel there in his mind when he was painting,” said Joan Denison, executive director of Covenant Place.  

Another Covenant Place resident who had grown up in Russia painted her mother sewing at a table, seated alongside the artist and her sister. A map covers much of the table. 

“She explained that as her mother sewed, the three would dream about the places they might go when they were able to leave Russia,” Denison explained. “She said that this was the first time in 30 years she had painted and felt that she was rediscovering herself.”

SLAM Community Engagement Coordinator, Lisa Stelling-Jockisch, said what made this residency extra special was the willingness of the participants “to be a little vulnerable and open to a new experience.”

“Some had never painted or hadn’t painted in many years,” she said. “They all opened up and shared with each other. In some cases, English wasn’t their first language but that never created a barrier.”

The exhibition will be on view in the Student Gallery through Jan. 5.