When Nancy Toepfer arrived at Foxdale Village Retirement Community four years ago the building had recently completed a stretch of remodeling that required several pieces of art to be temporarily stripped from the walls.
Before retiring Toepfer had served as a docent at the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State. She was used to spending her days walking up and down corridors festooned with original paintings and prints.
Why should things be any different at home?
Dot Cecil, chairwoman of Foxdale Village’s Art and Acquisitions Committee, didn’t take long enlisting Toepfer’s help in locating pictures that had been misplaced during the transition.
“It was like a treasure hunt,” Toepfer said.
And she means that literally.
The Arts and Acquisitions Committee was established by the Foxdale Village board in 1991. The group, which is comprised of 12 people, screens and makes recommendations regarding the artwork that adorns the retirement community’s many, many walls.
“It’s a way to share with each other an appreciation for art or history,” Toepfer said.
Cecil and Toepfer estimate that there are about 500 pictures or paintings hanging in the halls of the building. Some of it has been donated or placed on loan by residents from their own collections.
Any given corridor could be filled with Inuit art or a work by Stuart Ian Frost, punctuated by white spaces just waiting to be filled.
All of their selections are evaluated based on the Quaker values of peace, harmony, integrity, community and simplicity — and motel art is also out of the question.
Both Cecil and Toepfer are adamant that the building’s decor reflect their community.
“What it amounts to is that this is our home,” Toepfer said.
An exhibition space has been established outside of the community’s library. Foxdale and the Arts and Acquisitions Committee typically host six exhibits each year, one by residents, two by outside artists and three by The Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania.
The group’s current show, “The Mind’s Eye,” will run through August 17 and features 48 contemporary works from 16 local artists.
Cecil said that the gallery’s growing reputation has made keeping the gallery space booked an easy task.
“We’re known in the community now so artists will call,” Cecil said.
Sometimes the committee is able to persuade local artists to donate to Foxdale’s collection. Their annual budget is determined by proceeds from an annual garage sale, a portion of which goes towards maintaining and restoring the art they already have.
“If you have something beautiful and valuable, you have to keep it up,” Toepfer said.
Last year, a large piece of screen art that hangs by the dining room was sent to Philadelphia to be repaired, the back shredded after ages of wear and tear.
“It’s late 19th century, so after a while things happen,” Cecil said.
The committee is working on a computer database to keep track of each work of art in the collection. Until then, they’re just enjoying the view.
“I can’t imagine not being able to select beautiful things to enrich lives,” Toepfer said.